Reaching deep into a sleeve of hot kettle corn for the kernels at the bottom amid a pop-up city of white tent tops is an easy recipe for a classic afternoon in Fairbanks. Farmers markets double as open-air social halls to run into friends and neighbors while shopping, and also play host to cooking demonstrations, competitions (like the purple vegetable contest), and live music.
No matter what the day of the week, there’s probably a market nearby. Tanana Valley Farmers Market (TVFM) is the oldest in the state and has the longest season (late May-late September) of any in town. It operates out of a wooden shelter on College Road, shading the tables of specialty craft vendors with tents pitched in rows and spilling out onto a large open-air plaza on either side. Underneath, vendors display infused vinegars, fresh baked goods, sweet fireweed honey, and bowls carved from birch bark. A busy day will turn out around 80 vendors.
The Tanana Valley Farmers Market is open on Wednesdays from 11AM-4PM, Saturdays from 9AM-4PM, and Sundays from 11AM-4PM. Patrons enjoy easy access by car, foot, bike, or bus. Every item at this market has to be grown or produced within the state, ensuring that purchases are 100% Alaskan. Visit in the mornings or on Sunday or Wednesday to avoid crowds and get the best selection. No pets are allowed.
If you come for lunch, you’ll have options from a half dozen vendors including steamed buns and bubble tea from Sipping Streams Tea Company or a reindeer sausage with all the fixings from Delta Meat & Sausage Company. Shady picnic tables wait in a stand of birch trees behind the hot food vendors on the east edge of the market.
If you visit in late summer, you may glimpse the beautiful blooms that have spurred a whole new industry in the Interior. The growing season for peonies in Alaska creates a supply of blooms perfectly times to meet the demands of late-summer weddings. Blooms are being shipped all over the world from Alaska growers.
The potential of encountering giant vegetables also increases in August. Growers specializing in huge produce (like Dave Iles of Dave’s Greenhouse) start to exhibit their early picks at the markets in preparation for statewide fairs and agricultural competitions. Ask Dave about his world records when you see him at TVFM or the Downtown Market—he’d love to tell you more.
The Downtown Market is open from 4PM-8PM on Mondays in Golden Heart Plaza on 1st Avenue overlooking the Chena River from June 3rd through September 16th. It’s quickly becoming a hotspot for downtown employees and residents. The market typically has 20-30 vendors carrying artwork, wildlife photography, vegetables, herbs, and locally-made gifts.
The market hosts a weekly series of live music (usually 5PM-7PM) and special event days throughout the summer. You might happen upon a sidewalk art sale, a magician’s show, or free segway tours.
Both the Downtown Market and Tanana Valley Farmers Market host cooking demonstrations by local chefs and restaurant owners in conjunction with the statewide Alaska Grown program. Check with the markets for a full schedule.
Ester, a former mining town located just outside of Fairbanks on the Parks Highway, has a weekly market with several food and craft vendors that you won’t find anywhere else. The Ester Community Market is open from 4:30PM-7:30PM on Thursdays in Ester Community Park. There is a more intimate feel to this market, located across from the town’s fire department.
The Co-op Market in downtown Fairbanks may also open a weekly market in their parking lot in summer of 2013. Call (907)457-1023 or check their Facebook page for the latest details.
Tanana Valley Farmers Market
2600 College Road, Fairbanks 99709
Golden Heart Plaza, 1st Avenue, Fairbanks 99701
Ester Community Market
Ester Community Park, Old Nenana Hwy, Ester 99709