The Essential Farmers Markets of Lancaster County
Lancaster County has a diversity of farmers’ markets. There are those markets that contain auctions, indoor and outdoor vendors, which are still entrenched deeply and closely to Lancaster County farm culture. Other farmers’ markets are entirely indoors. These are still connected to local community, yet contain a much more affluent atmosphere. These too have rich histories and a deep connection to Lancaster County.
Probably the one that tops my list is Green Dragon Farmers’ Market. This is not because it’s necessarily better than any of the other; rather it holds a special place in my heart because every Friday, the only day Green Dragon is open, my father used to take us to this market. I loved going there as a kid because I would often end up with a pack of baseball cards (wanted no only for the cards, but also for the gum inside) and a few Hardy Boys novels I could pick up for a few quarters. Over the years I begin to appreciate Green Dragon and all its variety. From the small livestock auction to the grain and hay auctions that took place in the parking lot to the various stands selling ice creams, meats, vegetables, plants, quilts, and more. And there were many, many antiques. Friday was not Friday without going to Green Dragon. Perhaps the thing that impressed me the most as a child was when we entered Green Dragon off 272 entrance. There was and still is a Green Dragon literally perched atop a sign. This harkens back to its days as a speakeasy during the prohibition. As a kid I was fascinated with the fantasy of it all. Now when I drive by, I just wonder how the the dragon got an arrow in it throat.
Another market that I frequented a bit less, most likely because with was a bit further out-of-the-way from where I lived was Roots Country Market and Auction. This was perhaps also because my father worked 12 to 14 hours days during the week and since this market was only open on Tuesdays, as it still is today, we never went. In a lot of ways reminds me of Green Dragon. It is an older market than Green Dragon; in fact, the owners’ of Roots helped establish Green Dragon. Roots actually started in the 1920s about 20 years prior to Green Dragon. Root’s Market features its produce auction as well as fresh meats, deli, bakery items, flowers, handmade crafts, antiques, collectibles and household items from over 200 standholders.
Perhaps the smallest farmers’ market on my list is Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market. Nonetheless, it is an important stop when visiting Lancaster County especially if you want to take home something that is definitely representative of Lancaster County and the Amish and Mennonite culture. It offers fresh meats, cheese and produce, a wide variety of baked goods, chocolates and candies, bulk foods, spices, coffee and loose leaf tea, locally made chips and hard pretzels, hand-rolled soft pretzels, fresh-squeezed lemonade, apple cider, made-to-order subs, fried chicken and rows of homemade canned goods. It’s not that the other farmers markets offer these things, and perhaps in greater variety. Beut if you are visiting Lancaster county for the Amish experience, this farmers market is located in the heart in the Amish corridor; buggy rides, Amish shops are only a short walk or drive away. This market is also indoors which makes it more pleasant when raining, cold, or extreme heat.
In an earlier podcast, I discussed my of what Central Market has to offer. Like Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market, it is indoors. Of the markets, it has the most diversity of food represent=in g the city in which it exists. It is also the oldest, harkening back to the 1730s.