It’s safe to say that Tower Grove Farmer’s Market, which launched in 2006 with 13 vendors, has grown into a full experience for not only the neighborhood it serves, but for the St. Louis community as a whole. The market now hosts 130 vendors weekly in Tower Grove Park, with offshoot markets at The Boulevard in Richmond Heights on Sundays, Francis Park on Thursday nights and a “sip and shop” style night market at its namesake park on Tuesdays throughout the summer.
Saturday mornings at Tower Grove Park are the main event, boasting everything from hot food and local artisans to plants and home wares, provisions and pantry staples, and, of course, local meats and fresh produce. Vendors are grouped by category, with farmers at the front end, a variety of local artisans near the playground and fountain areas and hot food vendors near the pavilion. The geography of the vendors gives even first-time visitors an easy way to get their bearings and determine where to park to best serve their individual needs. The market itself is intentional by design, with vendors curated by Katherine Smith, general manager of Tower Grove Farmer’s Market. It’s made to appeal to the broad audience who shows up each week.
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Smith’s love of the open-air markets in other parts of the world inspired her choices for this season: She recently returned from a trip to Oaxaca, where outdoor markets and street food abound. Her love for the St. Louis food scene made adding more hot food vendors a no-brainer. “I think St. Louis is an awesome food city, so why not showcase that at the market?” she says. “We wanted to be more inclusive, and we’re incorporating more international food because Tower Grove is so diverse.” This year, the market will welcome new chefs into the mix of returning fan-favorite vendors like Hafa Adai, Misters Hand Pies, Holy Crepe and others.
Twangfest will also return to the pavilion in May, which is critical to overall atmosphere of the market: On any given Saturday, people of all ages gravitate to the back side of the market area to snack, play and enjoy the band of the day. This season will also see the rollout of free market cart rentals, designed to offer shoppers a hands-free way to easily tote their purchases around or transport them to their car. For refrigerated items, Smith says, many vendors are willing to hold your purchases until you’re ready to leave: It’s one of the best “market secrets” for keeping your food safe while you shop.
The overarching goal of Tower Grove Farmers’ Market, Smith says, is food education. “Missouri is such a good growing state, and there are beautiful things you can do with everything,” she says. “So it’s how to use all those resources and become more sustainable as a community at Tower Grove Park. Let’s connect the community to the food: That’s the goal.”
And that begins with the season opener, when market-goers can attend the first of several chef demos, which will be held at least once a month at the Saturday market. The first installment of the series will feature Joe Kuraowski of Pizzeria da Gloria making fresh mozzarella alongside Mike Miller of Field to Fire, who has returned from a new job Sitka, Alaska, to train and transition chef and forager Ryan Maher to head up the Field to Fire team for the season.
“Mike was the first one there in the morning and the last one to leave,” Smith says of Miller’s tenure at the market. “He just loves the market … and it just shows how much the market has impacted people’s lives.” And Miller is thrilled to be here for opening day. “We’re going into our tenth season at Tower Grove Farmer’s Market,” Miller says. “I could not miss out being back home with my market family and seeing all my amazing customers on this milestone for our small business.”
One of the most practical additions to the market this year is the new interactive map feature, which allows customers to not only navigate through the market with ease but also pull up descriptions for each vendor with a click. Market visitors can plan their day, use the search function to find specific vendors or filter for products by category to get a taste of something new. The map currently houses full-season vendors, Smith says, but updates will continue with more detailed information about vendors, including products, specials and promotional offers.
But at the end of the day, it’s about the atmosphere – one that’s impossible to replicate at any other market around. If you’re a regular, you already know this. “There are moments when I’m there walking around, silently watching everyone, and it really hits home how much the community shows up,” Smith says. “It’s so wholesome. It’s not a kid thing, or an adult thing, it’s just universal. There’s so much diversity, and that’s how we want it to feel.”
Follow Tower Grove Farmer’s Market on Instagram for updates and special events through the year, and visit its website for the new interactive map of vendors for the 2023 season.
Tower Grove Farmer’s Market, 4257 Northeast Drive, St. Louis, Missouri, tgfarmersmarket.com