A Peek inside the Oldest Farmers Market in the Country
Lancaster Central Market is a gem in plain sight, in the city center of Lancaster, PA. It is the oldest, continuously running public farmers market in the United States, with over 60 vendors from the area, filling it with delicious food every single week.
Local food culture
This farmers market makes sure to highlight all things local when it comes to food and fresh produce in Lancaster County.
Among the vendors, you're likely to spot the stand Amish Family Recipes, run by Mike Wachter. His stand is hard to miss, as he stocks it with more than 44 different varieties of jarred items, including salsas, jams, dressings, mustards, and pickled vegetables, all of it based on Amish and Mennonite family traditions.
Inside the market, you'll also find Linden Dale Farm. The seventh-generation farmers Andrew and Mary Mellinger faithfully fill their stand every week with farmstead goat cheeses from their farm in Ronks. Their family farm dates back to 1797.
The diversity that has dominated the Lancaster food scene in recent years is also represented in the farmers market. Saife’s Middle Eastern Food opened in the early 1990s to support his family after they immigrated to Lancaster. Omar Al Saife and his wife, Nadia, bring the warm and savory spices of The Middle East to the market every week. Their spiced falafel, hummus, and baklava are all local favorites.
If you enjoy Italian food you should stop by Deli Grassi. Lorne Horst fill up his stand with a variety of Italian specialties, including both imported items and homemade dishes from recipes that have stood the test of time. The meatballs are, for example, constructed from a secret family recipe of the previous stand owner, Sally DelGiorno, and they pair perfectly with sausage and marinara on a classic Philly-style hoagie roll.
Lancaster Central Market was born in 1730 on a 120-square-foot plot of land conveyed by Andrew and Ann Hamilton from their private estate. Here, farmers would cart their bounty from the surrounding fruitful land to the heart of the nearly settled municipality to sell their wares in the now-public, open field. This early market was an important, encouraging factor in King George II designating Lancaster as a market town.
By 1757, the first official market building was built, most likely it was nothing more than an open-air structure with stalls and a roof. In 1889 it was replaced by the Market House that stands in Penn Square today.
From its modest start in 1730, the public has had the privilege of owning the building. The beautiful Central Market House that stands today is owned by the City of Lancaster. The city collaborates with the Central Market Trust for its maintenance.
At Central Market, you'll get everything from Amish baked goods and local cheeses to fresh vegetables and locally sourced meat. Today Lancaster is also known for its culturally diverse food. Whether you like Middle Eastern food or Italian staples, you are likely to find it here.
The farmers market is open three days a week. As it is located in Penn Square in the heart of the city, it is hard to miss the beautiful building, or the delicious smell of baked goods coming from Central Market.