I was spoiled in Wisconsin living just over an hour from the country’s largest open-air farmers’ market. It’s a pilgrimage my family and I make at least once each summer; during my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin, my roommate and I went every Saturday morning. Squeaky cheese curds, apple cider, potato donuts, honey sticks, and stand after stand after stand of fresh local fruits and veg line Capitol Square, under the watchful eye of our majestic state capitol building. Musicians, political activists, artists and other colorful characters of every sort tuck themselves into every open space along the way. It’s stimulation overload, but in a good way.

Incidentally, a trip to the Dane County Farmers’ Market is never complete without walking State Street, sitting in front of Lake Mendota [possibly with custard from Babcock Dairy], popping into the bookstore, or playing in the fountain… and definitely not without getting messy eating a gyro at the Parthenon.

Needless to say I was wary coming to Minneapolis. Will the markets have as good a quality as Madison’s? Will there even be a farmers’ market? Ye of little faith… The growing season in the upper Midwest is short, but the Twin Cities take full advantage of it with the St. Paul Farmers’ Market in Lowertown and the Lyndale, Mill City and Nicollet Mall markets in Minneapolis. All of which are wonders in and of themselves. The colors, the smells, the people-watching, the cheap produce!! My favorite of the bunch – and most photographed – is the Lyndale Farmers’ Market in northwest Minneapolis, tucked snugly next to the freeway; in fact, you park under the freeway!