Farm Fresh in California Park Destinations


A Love Your Parks Tour Shopping Story by Lisa D. Smith and Nancy J. Reid, assigned by travel writer Linda Kissam ‘Food, Wine & Shopping Diva, publisher of

As travelers, a farmers market provides a unique opportunity to soak up the local character and flavor of a destination. Why not load up your picnic basket with fresh fruits, produce and artisan goodies. How about some fresh-cut flowers to liven up your hotel room or vacation rental? Or maybe some local art, jewelry or handcrafted gifts for your loved ones back home? From the seasonal offerings to the live entertainment and activities, there’s always something new and different to enjoy!

Supporting a farmers market (or any locally inspired business for that matter) is part of being a responsible traveler and consumer. According to the Farmers Market Coalition, the top five benefits of farmers markets include: 1. Preserving America’s rural livelihoods and farmland; 2. Stimulating local communities; 3. Increasing access to fresh, nutritious food; 4. Supporting healthy communities; and 5. Promoting sustainability.

Along with its magnificent and diverse array of parks, California is known for its agriculture, wineries, artisan foods and farm-to-fork offerings. We found four fantastic farmers markets which not only supplied us with a delicious bounty of fresh and local food for our park picnics, but also an enjoyable time getting to know some of the local farmers, artisans and purveyors. These four markets only represent local California and certified farmers, with many of them offering organic goods.

Gateway to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, Giant Sequoia National Monument and Sequoia National Forest, Visalia is located in the heart of Tulare County in California’s Central Valley. The Visalia Farmers Market takes full advantage of being in one of the top agricultural regions in the country, where along with a strong dairy industry, over 200 different major crops are grown. From jujubes and pomegranates to grapes, oranges, okra, free ranges eggs, cheese and honey, the variety of fresh offerings at the market is astounding. The Visalia Farmers Market now has over 80 vendors and four locations, including one in nearby Porterville. Info:

Located east of Monterey in Central California, Hollister is the seat of San Benito County and eastern gateway community of Pinnacles National Park. The area has a rich ranching and agricultural heritage, and is known for producing quality beef and lamb, wonderful wines and olive oils, apricots and berries, and all kinds of vegetables. Hollister’s historic downtown district celebrates the community’s farming culture with colorful murals, farm-to-fork restaurants who also serve local wines and brews, regionally  inspired culinary gift shops and of course, there’s the vibrant Certified Downtown Hollister Farmers Market that runs from May-September. Info:

Known as ‘The Queen of the Southern Mines,’ Sonora is a charming historic gold rush city in Tuolumne County, and gateway to Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest. The farming community is diverse ranging from beef and poultry, to Christmas trees and flowers, apples and fruits, vegetables and olive oils. Wine and cider tasting, farm tours and farm-to-table fare are all part of the Tuolumne County experience. Located in the historic downtown district, the Sonora Certified Farmer’s Market rolls out on Saturday mornings (mid-May to mid-October) with a variety of local produce, flowers, artisan foods and live music. Info:

Just 10 miles or so from Golden Gate Bridge, Larkspur is located in Marin County which is home to Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods National Monument and Point Reyes Seashore. Overlooking Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and offering beautiful views of the Bay, Marin Country Mart is a wonderful boutique shopping and dining destination. Held every Saturday morning (rain or shine), their Farmers Market makes for a fun family outing with great activities and entertainment for the kids, fantastic brunch venues, and a nice array of purveyors offering local produce, flowers, seafood, eggs, baked goods and more. Info:

Enjoy your farm fresh picnic in the park!


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