Ultimate Montana Summer: Best Kept Secrets of Farmers’ Markets in Western Montana

As part of our Ultimate Montana Summer series, we’re profiling one of our favorite things to do in the summertime – head to our local Farmers’ Markets! But what if you are vacationing from out of town, you are new to the area, or you are a local but new to Farmers’ Markets? You need to know the inside dirt (pun absolutely intended) on Western and Northwestern Montana’s Farmers’ Markets. From Hamilton all the way to Whitefish, we have you covered. 

Hamilton

Hamilton’s Farmers’ Market has grown substantially over the years, from essentially being hosted on the county courthouse lawn, to taking up almost the entire city block around the courthouse! This market now rivals larger markets, like the one in Missoula. The Hamilton Farmers’ Market has an impressive selection of produce, artisan vendors, and food trucks. 

Image via Facebook

Visitors of this market must check out Lifeline Produce. This Bitterroot Valley staple, located west of Victor, has been around for 35 years, starting out as a very humble dairy farm. Now it has grown into a regional leader in regenerative agriculture. The farm produces milk, cheese, butter, beef, and pork. Locals’ mouths start to water at the mere mention of Lifeline Produce (it’s also known as Lifeline Farm and Lifeline Dairy). This farm has an impressive and sustainable business model, surviving COVID when many other dairy farmers had to dispose of milk due to lack of corporate demand. Learn more about Lifeline Produce here, and make sure you stop by their booth for a sample of their legendary meat and cheese. (One last secret about Lifeline Produce — they also have a booth at the Missoula Farmers’ Market!)

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Did you celebrate a little too much Friday night and an early morning stroll through Farmers’ Market just sounds like a lot of work? Juniper Juicing gets you and is here to combat the Saturday Morning Blues with nutritious drinks. Chug one of these concoctions and enjoy your Farmers’ Market adventure. 

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Another great secret about the Hamilton Farmers’ Market is The Imperfect Perfectionist booth, which offers food wraps made from cloth and bees wax to reduce plastic wrap use and waste! 

Hamilton anchors the Bitterroot Valley Farmers’ Markets, but each little town up and down the valley has its own Farmers’ Markets of varying scales. New to the Valley is the Farmers’ Market out at Lone Rock, a tiny community outside of Stevensville. Never heard of it? Lone Rock School, opened in 1885, is the oldest continuously operating public school in Montana! Pick a Saturday and do a “Farmers’ Market Crawl” up and down the Bitterroot!

The Hamilton Farmers’ Market runs Saturdays, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. May through October. Learn more here.

Missoula 

Missoula’s Farmers’ Market is well known and highly celebrated. Think I’m exaggerating? It hit Sunset Magazine’s Top 10 Farmers’ Market list, right alongside markets in Hawaii and California!

 

Image courtesy of Kat Hobza 

One Missoula Farmers’ Market secret that folks are always surprised to learn is that there are actually THREE markets! The largest market, the Clark Fork Market, has been relocated from under the Higgins Street Bridge to Caras Park. The People’s Market, crammed with must-see local artisans, is located at the intersection of Higgins and Pine. The original Missoula Farmers’ Market, which is 50 years old, is located by the Depot and red XXXs at the end of Higgins. 

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If you are tired of paying ridiculous prices for bone broth – here’s a secret. Mannix Family Grass-finished Beef out of Helmville, MT has a booth in the Clark Fork Market, and sells the bones of grass-fed beef critters so you can make your own broth! They are not always on the menu, so be sure to ask for them. Mannix also sells organs that are hard to find like sweetbreads, which also may or may not be on the board. 

This huge market has countless secrets, so plan at least two hours to discover some of them yourself. The market opens at 8:00 a.m. on Saturdays, closes at 1:00 p.m., and runs through October. 

Bigfork

Bigfork is a jewel of a little town that nestles up to Flathead Lake. The Bigfork Farmers’ Market has everything to delight each of your senses. 

Image via Light Katchurs

If it is eye candy you are after, be sure to visit Light Katchurs’ booth. Lisa Katchur is a retired nurse who specializes in custom jewelry pieces. Her one-of-a-kind works are jaw dropping – but be warned. This is not your typical Farmers’ Market buy-a-$20-pair-of-earrings experience. Lisa’s hand-crafted pieces cost a bit more, but the quality and uniqueness warrant the price. Pre-shop Lisa’s artwork here.

Another secret of the Bigfork Farmers’ Market is that you can buy shrimp raised in Montana! You read that correctly. Mission Valley Shrimp Farm raises White Pacific Saltwater shrimp right in Charlo, Montana. Be sure to stop by their booth and ask about their process. If you are really interested in how shrimp are raised in Montana, you can tour the facility for free.  

The Bigfork Farmers’ Market is hosted Wednesday evening at 22 Swan Way in Bigfork, from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Ultimate Montana Summer: Exploring back-country roads >>>

Kalispell

We have just two words regarding the Kalispell Farmers’ Market – huckleberries and cherries. Of course, any of the markets hosted up and down the Flathead Valley are likely to have cherries and huckleberries, but the Kalispell Farmers’ Market hosts the Polebridge Bakery, with its world-famous huckleberry bear claws for sale.

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For those who are not familiar, the Polebridge Merc is legendary for its huckleberry bear claws – but for years, the only way to get one, was to drive all the way to Polebridge! If you are at the Kalispell Farmers’ Market, you can have one of these time-honored family traditions without the long (but gorgeous!) drive. Here’s another secret – the Columbia Falls Farmers’ Market also features these baked wonders! 

The Kalispell Farmers’ Market is every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 777 Grandview Drive. 

Ultimate Montana Summer: Improve your huckleberry game with these recipes >>>

Whitefish

If you are a foodie, the Whitefish Farmers’ Market is calling you. One of the first secrets about the Whitefish Farmers’ Market is that it is not open on Saturday mornings, like most markets. It is open Tuesday evenings from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. and ends in September. 

Image via Rebel Roots Kitchen

Our very own Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty agent Amy Olson HIGHLY recommends the Rebel Roots Kitchen. Hands down, the best Poke Bowl with Cauliflower Rice, Blackened Mahi Mahi Bowl, Rainbow Bowl, Pulled Pork Bowl (and Thai food when you go to the Palace Bar). All the bowls are sprinkled with crunchy sunflower seeds and her secret sauce. So, so delicious. Salsa Mango, an extra $1, totally worth it. Gluten and dairy free. The owner is a splash of sunshine and humility. I tried to replicate her garlic cauliflower rice and failed miserably. I asked her what her secret was and she told me how to make it! I love her. She mixes every color of the rainbow with flavors from Hawaii in all her dishes. The best food on the planet!”

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Another fan favorite is Wagyu Wagon, a food truck, featuring delicious, high quality burgers and brats from the vendor’s pasture at the Lazy K Ranch in Columbia Falls. Visitors can choose from mouth-watering burgers, brats, sliders, and hot dogs. The Whitefish Farmers’ Market takes place at dinner time, so take the night off from cooking and enjoy tempting truck food fare instead!

There are two more Whitefish Farmers’ Market secrets to share with you – the market is a Zero Waste Market, meaning all vendors use compostable food containers. There is also music each Tuesday night – you can find which artist will be playing by visiting the Whitefish Farmers’ Market Facebook page. 

Image courtesy of Kat Hobza 

Just about every town – large or small – has a Farmers’ Market up and down Montana’s western and northwestern valleys. We have barely scratched the surface with these highlights. A great way to learn your own secrets is to ask vendors, “Besides your own booth, which are your favorite booths to visit?” or “What is your favorite snack or meal at this Farmers’ Market?” Vendors are understandably proud of not only their own booth and wares, but of the markets they participate in. Get out there and enjoy all that Montana farmers and crafters have to share!

 

Kat Hobza has lived in Montana since she was nine, and was raised in the mountains west of Victor, Montana. There she learned to hunt, fish, shoot competitively, chop and stack firewood, and drive on icy or muddy roads. Kat has over two decades of experience in professional writing and content marketing. When she’s not crafting copy for Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty, she’s either hanging with her hilarious adult kids or soaking up the sun somewhere – a riverbank, a golf course, or her deck.

 

 

 

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