13 New England farmers markets and food festivals to visit this fall

From an oysterfest to open-air shopping to a celebration of fluff.

Andy Pollack, owner of Silverbrook Farm sells produce.
Boston Public Market. –Jean Nagy / Boston.com

Summer’s warm weather might be waning, but New England’s bounty isn’t. With autumn’s harvest approaching, local apples, oysters, and cranberries give farmers and food artisans plenty to celebrate and craft into edible delights. Between the riches to be found at year-round markets and the region’s myriad food festivals, there’s plenty to taste in New England this season, and we’ve compiled a list of not-to-be-missed destinations, all just a day trip away.

Farmers markets

Boston Public Market
A crown jewel and relative newcomer to the farmers market scene, the Boston Public Market is a lovely indoor mix of more than 40 local farm stalls, food vendors, florists, and craftsmen, with plenty of coffee, beer, and wine on offer to keep things lubricated. New England favorites Jasper Hill, Red’s Best, and George Howell might steal the show, but there are also lots of fresh faces to discover and enjoy. Before you go, be sure to check the calendar for The Kitchen, where vendors host cooking and product demos. (100 Hanover St.; year-round Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.)

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Portsmouth Farmers’ Market
A mishmash of both edible and craft offerings, the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market has everything you need to justify a day trip to the Seacoast. With all manner of farm produce—from eggs to meat to homemade jams—plus art and handicrafts, a day spent perusing the various wares is a day well spent. Bonus additions, such as live music, book swaps, and demonstrations, make it a worthy precursor to dinner at charming local haunts like The Black Trumpet. (Portsmouth City Hall, 1 Junkins Ave., Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through November 5)

Coastal Growers Market
This year-round Rhode Island market features all of the fabulous local food and farm vendors the Ocean State has to offer but adds a slew of local artisans—from glassblowers to ceramicists to yoga instructors—to the mix, resulting in one of the most multidisciplinary markets in New England. Throw in weekly live music and seasonal festivals like their Halloween Spooktacular, and it’s hard to beat Coastal Growers for crowd-pleasing weekend fun. (Casey Farm in Saunderstown, Rhode Island; Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. until October 29; winter market begins on November 5)

Portland Farmers Market
In Portland, three separate seasonal markets work in concert so that you can find the best of Maine year-round. In the summer, Saturdays at Deering Oaks Park and Wednesdays in downtown Monument Square provide plenty of organic vegetables, meats, and, of course, fresh Maine blueberries in season. In the winter months, Swallowtail Farm’s urban space, “Milk and Honey,” in downtown Portland hosts hearty root vegetables, breads, candies, and canned goods to sustain you in the cold. (Locations and hours vary depending on season; visit the website for more information)

Portland Farmers' Market at Deering Oaks Park, Portland, Maine. (Necee Regis for The Boston Globe)
Portland Farmers’ Market at Deering Oaks Park in Portland, Maine. —Necee Regis for The Boston Globe


Food festivals

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Boston Local Food Fest
Meet your local farmers, chefs, and fishermen—and sample the fruits of their labors—at this free, zero-waste event in downtown Boston. A celebration of “Healthy Local Food for All,” the event features chef demonstrations, educational activities, a retail market, and a smorgasbord of local, sustainable nibbles. (Rose Kennedy Greenway, Atlantic Avenue at India Street, Boston; September 18 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; free entry)

What the Fluff? Festival
A perennial favorite for kids and kids at heart. Spoil your sweet tooth at this festival celebrating the 1917 invention of Marshmallow Fluff in Union Square. Honor mastermind Archibald Query and his sticky brainchild with wacky Fluff-centric games, live music, and plenty of sugar-filled treats. (Union Square, Somerville; September 24 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.; rain date is September 25; free entry)

Marshmallow Fluff is the star of the annual "What the Fluff? A Tribute to Union Square Invention" festival.
Marshmallow Fluff is the star of the annual What the Fluff? Festival. —(Union Square Main Streets)

North Quabbin Garlic & Arts Festival
This multidisciplinary festival includes plenty of allium-laden food vendors, artistic exhibitions, live music, and outdoor activities. At the heart of the festival is a wood-fired oven run daily by volunteers; oven workshops are held at 4 p.m. each day for would-be bakers, roasters, and pizza makers. (Forster’s Farm in Orange, Massachusetts; September 24 and 25 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine; $5 per day for adults, $8 for a weekend pass, free for kids 12 and under)

Chowdafest
You be the judge of this charity-driven competition that pits more than 40 award-winning chefs and restaurants against each other in a delicious battle for the title of best chowder, soup, and bisque. Your ticket buys event entry and a chance to help Community Plates fight food insecurity at this zero-waste event. Don’t worry if chowder isn’t your style—you’ll find Italian, Mexican, and ice cream fare, as well. (Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Connecticut; October 2 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; $15 for adults, $5 for kids ages 6 to 12)

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Cranberry Festival
Stock up for Thanksgiving at this celebration of the almighty cranberry hosted by the Nantucket Conservation Foundation. In addition to fresh-from-the-bog berries to take away, you can join a bog tour to learn about the history of cranberry farming, enjoy food from local vendors, and let the kids play in classic fair games like sack races and tug-of-war. This year’s fair is particularly notable, as the NCF honors its first year of organic production. (Milestone Cranberry Bog in Nantucket; October 8 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; $15 parking; free admission)

Wellfleet OysterFest
In addition to the dozens of oysters to be slurped and craft beers to be savored at this family-friendly weekend festival, the famous Sunday Shuck-Off pits competitors from all over New England in a speed race to shuck 24 oysters as quickly as possible. Amateur and professional shuckers alike are welcome to enter the competition, and the winner earns entry in the National U.S. Oyster Shucking Contest in Maryland. (Main Street in Wellfleet, Cape Cod; October 15 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and October 16 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; $10 per day for adults, free for kids under 12)

James Gray demonstrates his shucking technique at Wellfleet OysterFest in 2012.
James Gray demonstrates his shucking technique at Wellfleet OysterFest in 2012. —Lezli Rowell

Harvest on the Harbor
Maine’s biggest food festival is packed with events like celebrity chef dinners and beer tastings from some of New England’s most coveted craft brewers. Flagship events span the weekend, and tickets include discounts and benefits at Portland restaurants and retail shops. (Various venues in Portland, Maine; October 19 to 23; ticket prices vary; see website for more information)

Boston Veg Food Fest
Whether you’re a lifelong vegetarian or just someone who’s looking to expand his or her plant-based horizons, this festival is not to be missed. Boasting more than 120 vendors, plenty of cooking demonstrations, and seminars all devoted to a meatless diet, it’s a great way to dig into some local roughage. (Reggie Lewis Athletic Center in Boston; October 22 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and October 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; free)

CiderDays
Head to the Berkshires for a full weekend celebrating the past and present of New England cider production. With a wide range of events hosted by cider houses, orchards, and restaurants throughout Franklin County, opportunities to eat, drink, and learn abound. But don’t think it’s all about cider—vinegar workshops, cheese tastings, and orchard rides are also among the offerings. (Franklin County, Massachusetts; November 4 to 6; ticket prices vary; see website for details and a schedule of events)

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