I love to go to Soulard Market! To write about its stalls stashed with fresh fruits and vegetables. To photograph the colorful produce and engage in small talk with vendors. To chit-chat with total strangers about what they’re buying and how they plan to cook it. So whenever one of my kids calls and asks if I want to go along on a Soulard shopping spree, I’m on board.
The Oldest Farmers’ Market West of the Mississippi
Soulard Market started in 1779 with farmers in horse drawn wagons gathering in a meadow to sell their excess produce. Today there are more than 140 vendors, selling everything from fruits to fennel to fiddlehead ferns.
The bustling city market is a cross-section of Americana. You’ll see shopper from all walks of life, browsing the stalls with a row of plastic sacks loaded on one arm, the other hand balancing a sweet roll, hot dog, or drink.
Allow a few trips to get familiar with the halls and passageways. Some sellers are simply known to buyers as the Cheese Man, the Fish Guy, or the Bakery Ladies. Use those terms and regulars will know who you mean.
I invariable buy more than I intend. But how am I to know when the green beans will look snappy or the Brussels sprouts perfectly formed? So I go with an open mind—and wallet.
As Russ and I acquired more and more plastic bags, I regretted not bringing along the tote bags that my daughter, Robin, put in my car for just such occasions. At home, I even have a collapsible, canvas cart that, Sally, my upstairs neighbor gave me because she had three. It would’ve been perfect!
Undaunted, we struggled onward.
Farmers’ Market Shopping Tips
- Bring along tote bags or a collapsible cart on wheels—unlike I remembered to do this time.
- Have small denomination bills in your pocket for easy access when making a purchase.
- Talk to sellers about their produce and to persons buying something you don’t recognize.
- Be open to trying new things.
- Come early, especially if the market is small. Although at Soulard you can get some of the best deals towards the end of the sales day.
- Go with someone who enjoys new cultural experiences. Or a child. Have fun.
Soulard Farmers’ Market. 730 Carroll St. Open: Wed-Thu 8a-5p; Fri 7a-5p; Sat 7a-5:30p. Closed: Sun-Tue.
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