There are terrific farmers’ markets all over the country (more than 700 in California alone), but the Santa Monica Farmers Market may be the queen of markets. It’s one of the largest, most diverse grower-only certified markets in the United States. And if you pop by one of the four weekly markets, you’ll find more than a few chefs selecting fruits and vegetables that will appear just hours later on restaurant tables all over greater Los Angeles. Vendors such as Coleman Family Farm, for asparagus and potatoes; Cal Pecan; Four Apostles’ Ranch, for Medjool dates; and Yasutomi Farms, for Asian vegetables, give cooks a vast variety of ingredients to choose from.

Launched in 1981, the Wednesday market was so successful that in 1982 the Pico Farmers Market was established to serve the city’s west side. The Saturday Downtown Farmers Market opened in 1991 and features the largest number of organic producers. Then the Sunday Market began in 1995, which also hosts food booths, musical performances, and arts and crafts.

The markets are community minded, too. Participants in the Cal Fresh, WIC, and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition programs can use their benefits to buy direct from farmers. There are adult and youth education programs and cooking classes. Plus, the farmers’ market has partnered with local schools to offer the Farmers Market Salad Bar as a school-lunch program.