According to critics, the most problematic feature of our region is the geographic size of Jacksonville. It’s just a really big city. If you drove from Baldwin in West Jacksonville, all the way to where Atlantic Boulevard dumps you on the ocean, it would take you almost an hour – and you would have never left the city limits of Jacksonville.
Despite the downfalls of this geographically immense city, there is an unquestionable uniqueness inherent in covering such a broad swath of land. The city’s size sheer size allows for more diversity, more opportunity and more potential. One of the most shining examples of turning a would-be negative into a positive is in Jacksonville’s farmers market scene.
As people in the United States grow more and more attuned to when and where they buy their produce, farmers markets have retaken their central role as centers of fresh, seasonal produce. Jacksonville boasts at least a dozen markets and there are probably more that aren’t covered here. The markets range from their pure unadulterated form as selling only produce to more unique offerings that are specialized or amplified by surrounding art and music vendors. From early in the morning to late at night, our big city has you covered.
First, there are the classics and the big guys. These are the markets your parents went to if you’re a second- or third-generation North Floridian. Others are the new kids on the block, filling a niche in the new master-planned communities or setting up shop in formerly blighted areas as the forerunners of an economic revival.
The Jacksonville Farmers Market (Beaver Street)
The Jacksonville Farmers Market holds the title as Florida’s oldest, continually open farmers market. Opening in 1938 and colloquially known as the Beaver Street farmer’s market, wholesale produce has been bought and sold here from dawn ‘til dusk, 365 days a year for decades. While not all the goods sold here are from small-scale farmers, many are. If you’re not in the mood to cook your own food, swing by the famous Andy’s Farmers Market Grill.
Hours of Operation: Dawn to dusk, 365 days a year
Riverside Arts Market (RAM)
For over five years, the Riverside Arts Market (RAM) has been meeting under the Fuller Warren Bridge in Riverside, right outside downtown. Offering unique entertainment and venues and with an unparalleled view along the river, RAM gives visitors the chance to load up on some of the freshest local produce around. As with most farmers markets, there is an excellent selection of local honeys, jellies and jams. Also, you may get the chance to spot one of the cutest pet pygmy piglets around, the famous Kevin Bacon.
Hours of Operation: Every Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Old City Farmers Market
Old City Farmers Market meets in the St. Augustine Amphitheater. With ample parking space and a broad selection of the freshest local produce, this market is a can’t-miss for those hailing from St. Johns County. Similar to RAM, the event is also programmed with local artists and musicians, making this an all morning adventure. The locals say to get there early because the produce sells out quickly. The selection of handcrafted goods and jewelry are also quite the pull, so don’t miss out.
Hours of Operation: Every Saturday, 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Nocatee Farmers Market
In the region’s newest master-planned community, the Nocatee Farmers Market fulfills a role farmers markets played in their earliest days: building community and bringing people together. As a relatively new neighborhood in the region, the Nocatee Farmers Market simultaneously offers fresh, local produce, artisan crafts and entertainment, while also giving the community a chance to come together. Locals rave that it happens to be the friendliest and most hospitable farmers market in the state.
Hours of Operation: Every third Saturday of the month, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Jaxsons Night Market, Downtown Jacksonville
Void has the exclusive scoop on the newest market swooping into the region and one that has the potential to be a game changer in the urban core. Mike Field, founder of the Jax Truckies group, is partnering with some local business owners downtown to start Jacksonville’s own urban night market, which will essentially will be a farmers market fused with a bazaar and street food vendors.
Field is taking inspiration from the nighttime markets that are extremely popular in California and applying a Jacksonville, southern-fried twist. The Jaxsons Night Market will feature local farmers, craft food producers, local artisans, a local craft beer garden, cooking demonstrations from local chefs and some really awesome street food vendors (both food truck and non-food truck street food vendors) all mixed together in a unique urban setting.
Stay tuned as the plans come to fruition within the next year. You won’t want to miss this one.
Hours of Operation: TBD; tentatively the third Thursday evening of every month.
The smaller markets are open shorter hours, but often more frequently and tend to specialize in the produce and goods they carry, since larger vendors tend to not participate in the more modest markets. Despite their humble size, these markets pack a punch when it comes to the fresh produce they feature.
Green Market at Jarboe Park
The Green Market at Jarboe Park in Neptune Beach is rapidly becoming a destination market for the region.
“The vendors at that market are almost exclusively farmers selling local produce, meat, eggs, fish, etc. This one is also a great family affair. People take the family out and wander the park, kids go crazy running around, there’s always something happening on the basketball court (typically not basketball), picnics, just people enjoying our beautiful outdoors,” said local activist and artist Mark Mellor.
“Jarboe Market is awesome. Particularly Southern Roots Apothecary. Particularly their pumpkin seed pesto. It’s a game changer,” said local market-goer Bronson Lamb. If you haven’t stopped by the Jarboe Park market, do yourself a favor and swing by sometime. It meets at the corner of Third Street and Florida Boulevard.
Hours of Operation: Every Saturday, 2 – 5 p.m.
King Street Farmer’s Market
Unfortunately the popular Riverside market on King Street in front of Intuition Ale Works has closed indefinitely due to outdated city regulations and code rules. The King Street Market was beloved by the neighborhood, but came an abrupt close in January due to an anonymous complaint. The King Street Market was unique because it was similar to the Jarboe Market in its focus on local ingredients, but also made for a good time with the brewery right next door, allowing one to kick back a few tasty brews while shopping for some delicious fruit or kale. The closing of the market is a severe blow to the progress the neighborhood and Jacksonville as a whole is making. If you have time, feel free to let your local council member know that you support farmers markets and our local economy and that Jacksonville has a responsibility to protect these venues, not shut them down.
Hours of Operation: Indefinite Hiatus
Mid-Week Market in Atlantic Beach
The Mid-Week Market is a hidden gem that meets in Bull Park in Atlantic Beach. What this market lacks in size it makes up for in quality. Fresh, organic breads, hand-ground grits and cornmeal without pesticides and all-natural soaps are some of the things you can pick up at this farmers market. Plenty of shade and a crisp ocean breeze make this a wonderful stop if you need to pick up some organic produce or goods while at the beach. The fact it meets every week makes it extremely convenient to load up each week on delicious fresh veggies and breads.
Hours of Operation: Every Wednesday, 3 – 6 p.m.
Unfortunately we haven’t even covered half of Jacksonville’s farmers markets. We didn’t mention the unique approach to farmers markets that Freshfield Farms brings to the table. Or that most of Jacksonville’s major flea markets have expansive selections of the freshest produce such as The Beach Boulevard Flea Market, The Ramona Flea Market or The Pecan Park Flea Market. Regardless where you live in the city or when you work, you really don’t have an excuse to not eat fresh, wholesome and delicious food. By shopping smartly at local farmers markets you contribute to the hard-working entrepreneurial spirit that sets North Florida apart.
For a more complete listing of regional farmers markets check out theorganicadventurer.com.