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I had an epiphany during a recent trip down to Florida: I really hate grocery stores.
This particular epiphany happened in the middle of The Fresh Market right some grumpy old man literally elbow-checked me to get to the beets and then threw some serious side eye at my spandex pants and raccoon makeup from last night.
And while this could have led me to the conclusion that it’s no longer appropriate to go to the grocery store in your shark pajama pants as a 30-something woman, he also went on to yell at not one but two cashiers and stomp out the doors, so I’ll assume it wasn’t just me. Maybe it was circling to find a decent parking spot. Maybe it was trying to wrestle a cart free and then ending up with a squeaky wheel. Maybe it the stress of trying to make responsible choices among a sea of excessively packaged produce destroying our environment. Or maybe he lost his wife somewhere between aisle 1 and 13, and could never find her again. Maybe he once ran into an ex in his shark pants at the Harris Teeter in West Ashley. Who knows.
Grocery stores. They’re the worst.
We’re spoiled here in Charleston.
We’re spoiled because we have a farmers market filled with locally grown, raised, and made food available nearly every day of the week - and when you count the Lowcountry Street Grocery, you can strike that “nearly”. How many towns can say that?!
I set foot in the grocery store about three times a month now, and all it does is remind me how much I love our markets. The first thing I did after I got back to Charleston was drag the boyfriend to the Sunday Brunch Farmers Market, and as we wandered the rows of booths picking out food for the week and chatting with The Chicken Lord while live music played in the background, we both reflected on how fun and relaxing the entire experience was. WHEN has anyone said that about their trip to the grocery store?
It was right then that I decided to make it to as many Charleston area farmers markets as I could in two weeks. Spoiler alert: Despite my best intentions, I couldn’t make it to EVERY market, so you’ll find some honorable mentions at the bottom of this list. My deepest apologies to any markets or vendors left out, this was a beast of a post to write and shoot.
Each of our Lowcountry farmers markets has its own flavor - har har - so check out the down and dirty breakdown below. Note: Some of these vendors are at multiple markets, and it’s impossible to highlight every single vendor in this post, and each market's roster is subject to change. It was nearly impossible to decide who to mention, this town is filled with incredible vendors. If there’s someone you specifically want to see, ask them what markets they’re doing for 2018.
Where: Behind the Charleston Pour House, 1977 Maybank Highway, Charleston 29412
When: Sundays year-round, 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
What to get: Everything. This medium-sized but dense market has an awesome selection of everything, including seasonal veggies, fresh pasta and pizza dough, locally and ethically raised meat and meat product, mushroom medicines, beautiful macrame, vegetable and herb plants for your garden, and many beautifully crafted gifts.
Vibes: Family-friendly hippie. Whether you’re nursing a hangover or a newborn, this is a feel-good, laid-back market. Make a morning of it with brunch from one of several food trucks and settle into the picnic tables to enjoy local music.
Reese’s personal faves: This is tied for my top favorite market because I’m a sucker for brunch. Snag your organic cotton candy from Arielle at Pure Fluff Co, and then immediately renew your diet vows with veggies from Spade & Clover. Chat it up with The Chicken Lord at the Fili-West while grabbing some eggs, but don’t forget your reusable, eco-friendly snack wrap from Re-Rind. (We got the Jaws one. Let the jealousy wash over you.) Worried you missed something? Take a stroll through the Lowcountry Street Grocery, if you catch them there, and sign up for Compost Rangers on your way out.
Parking: Limited on-site
Where: Folly River Park, Center Street, Folly Beach
When: Mondays, March 19 - November 12, 4 PM - 8 PM
What to get: Though smaller than some of the other markets around town, this market has a wide variety of food products and handcrafted products from local vendors. Fairtrade clothing? Locally crafted beauty products? Beautiful art and jewelry? This is your spot. You’ll also sample local honey, granola, chocolate, pralines, and spice mixes, and don’t forget to check out the seafood stand before you head home to make dinner.
Vibes: There is no place better to beat your case of the Mondays. Check the calendar to see what the scheduled entertainment/band is, and savor that oh-so-uniquely-Folly feel and the smell of the marsh as you buy local and support small business.
Reese’s personal faves: Any market with a massage booth has my heart. And shoulders. And back. Hit up the Plot to Pot booth for unusual and delicious jellies (I snagged Strawberry Sauvignon Blanc made from Ambrose Farms Strawberries), and then mosey over to Fruit Creations for tasty dill pickles. Then get back to pampering yourself with delightful body scrubs and lotions from Steel Birch before diving back into the work week.
Parking: Street parking
Where: 645 Coleman Blvd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
When: Tuesdays, April - September, 3:30 PM - 7:00 PM
What to get: This large Charleston farmers market has everything from local meat, honey, pasta, cheese, ice cream sandwiches, produce galore, floral arrangements, to-go meals, seafood, and lots of order-ready food.
Vibes: You’ll see considerably more Lilly-Pulitzer-clad patrons arriving via golf cart at this busy market, and it’s likely to be more crowded than some of its cousins, though there’s still ample space to move. Moms will love the activity booth for kids, and the music and smell of funnel cakes add a festive feel. Lots of leashed pups!
Reese’s personal faves: Mitla Tortilleria tortillas are a staple in my house, and you’ll find those tasty, crispy goodies at the Mount Pleasant Farmer’s Market or on the Lowcountry Street Grocery. Wishbone Heritage Farms is another must-shop for delicious, locally-raised meats, and get your mid-week cheese fix with a wedge at the Charleston Artisan Cheesehouse. Pick up a Cannonborough Beverage Co 6-pack of grapefruit elderflower soda before you hit the road!
Where: Ackerman Park, 55 Sycamore Avenue, Charleston, SC 29407
When: Wednesdays, April 25 – October 3, 3:00-7:00 PM
What to get: Replenish your produce and fridge with this adorable mid-week market. Veggies abound at a market this size, and you’ll find a delicious mix of artisan food products like cheeses, pasta sauces, ravioli, freshly baked bread, and schmancy donuts to please any foodie.
Vibes: This market is a few blocks from my house, making me especially fond of it. Though a smaller, newer market, the fruit and veggie options will not disappoint. Enjoy rifling through seasonal finds while listening to live music or snag a gelato and people watch beneath a tent. You’ll find a healthy mix of young professionals, puppers, and families frequenting this neighborhood market, and it's especially nice to know you won't have to hassle with finding a parking spot after battling Charleston rush hour traffic.
Reese’s personal faves: I’m never going to make it through the week without my carb fix, so Rio Bertolini’s pasta (bundles of noodles are only $1.00!) with Porzio’s sauce is my Wednesday guilty pleasure. You can never go wrong treating yourself to some spicy pickles, and keep an eye out for locally grown loofas at the Lowcountry Local First booth. Finally, gardeners need to make a point to stop by Island Thyme Herbs for some organically grown additions to your garden. I scooped up a delightful little lemon basil last week and sorrel the week before.
Where: Marion Square, downtown Charleston at King and Calhoun Streets
When: Saturdays, April 25 – October 3, 2018, 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM
What to get: Produce, meat, food trucks, art, gifts, pecans, specialty salts, beauty products, honey, handmade cat toys... This market has it all and more. You’ll find everything from seasonal veggies and freshly squeezed juices to hand-painted pillows, locally made soaps, and mermaid mosaics.
Vibes: Charleston’s largest market is also its most crowded. Tourists and locals fill the aisle and booths and wait in line at the various booths featuring local food trucks. Come prepared with plenty of reusable bags, friends, and time to get the most of out of this popular market. Sit under a tent and grab some lunch!
Reese’s personal faves: Make a point to stop by Blue Pearl Farms and for the various flavors of local honey (bees are amazing) and chipotle blueberry compote. Tiverton Farms has a fun array of spice mixes and handcrafted products, and Botany Bay Sea Salt products make an awesome Lowcountry gift… even if it’s to yourself. End the day with Roti Rolls for lunch before you go home and nap!
Parking: Don’t even try to find a spot. Just put it in the garage. You’ll be happier that way.
Where: Workshop, 1503 King Street, Charleston, SC 29405
When: Saturdays, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM
What to get: Bread? Eggs? Cheese? Produce? Heirloom rice? Coffee? Raw milk? This market is small but mighty, and a damn good time. The list of regular vendors can be found on the Facebook page, but half the fun is popping into the Workshop for their rotating kitchens and pop-ups.
Vibes: Hip and young, this chill market is both a rich farmers market and fun place to hang. Bonus points for being the only one to have a pop up bar while I was working on this post. Bloody Marys? Yes, please.
Reese’s personal faves: As just mentioned, Proof’s Pool Bar was a delightful twist to a rare Saturday off of work at the Pacific Box and Crate Farmers Market. Can we make this a thing, other markets?! I promise I’ll buy more. I digress. City Roots has my heart for that amazing mushroom selection, and the bunch of fresh flowers I snagged lasted forever in my home. The Butcher & Bee Bakery sent me home with dream-worthy fluffy English muffins, and Anson Mills’ Carolina Gold Rice is on my list for next week thanks to the Green Grocer. Resist picking up a MacBailey Candle Co soy wax candle on your way out, I dare you. Isn't your birthday coming up anyway?
Parking: Plenty on site
Where: Charleston Collegiate Campus, 2024 Academy Road, Johns Island, South Carolina 29455
When: Saturdays, 9:30 AM - 1:30 PM, year-round
What to get: This sizable farmers market is filled with everything from Lowcountry produce and meats to kombucha on tap and goat’s milk soaps. Quality crafts blend seamlessly with Charleston-made artisan breads and cheeses, and local nurseries will send you home ready to get gardening. The Johns Island Farmers Market boasts a Truth & Transparency Mission, which is awesome.
Vibes: This is my favorite Charleston farmers market. There. I said it. I love the ease of parking, the local, laid-back vibe, and the rich selection of vendors. The venue is spacious, so even during high-traffic times you won’t feel cramped, and they always have some awesome food trucks. It’s chill and family-friendly, a great market for those who have wrapped up a busy week and want to get away from the hustle and bustle (which is pretty much always me).
Reese’s personal faves: Ok, I’ll start out by saying the last time I was at the Johns Island Farmers Market, there was a baby goat at the Thaddeus Farms booth and I just about died. So keep an eye out for baby goats, y’all. I love all of these vendors. Fill your bag with tender lettuces from Vertical Roots (they seem to last forever in the fridge), fresh veg from Ambrose Farms, Island Produce, or Fire Ant Farms, and meat from Wishbone Heritage Farms. Check out Whitemarsh Farm for mushrooms, and don’t forget to grab both creamy, delicious goat cheese from Burden Creek Dairy and goats milk soap from Gritty Goat Farm. Bonus points to Counter Cheese Caves for bundling their addictive gooey cheese in wax and parchment papers instead of plastic.
Parking: Plenty on site
But WAIT THERE'S MORE. The North Charleston Farmers Market is on Saturdays, as is the Town Market on James Island. Sullivan's Island has a seasonal farmers market on Thursdays. The Lowcountry Street Grocery is a mobile farmers market running most days.
You can’t go wrong with any of these markets. And here’s why:
They’re filled with good, hardworking businesses from your community.
Shopping farmers markets causes you to eat local and seasonal, easing the strain on the environment by growing things that grow WELL in your climate at that time. This means less energy, less packaging, less pesticides.
Locally packaged produce from small farmers tends to have considerably less unnecessary plastic packaging.
Food miles really do matter, and buying local means less fossil fuels to deliver, less energy spent refrigerating the food en route, and food picked at its prime.
You begin to connect with your food and your community in a different, deeper, and better way. Get to know your farmers, they're sweet, incredibly hard-working folks.
Finally, remember to bring your reusable grocery bags. Don’t have any? Great. You’ll find some affiliate links in the gallery in the middle of the post. It’s my personal theory that you’re more likely to use your bags if they’re adorable.