As the ground thaws and green shoots thrust through the earth, another rite of spring commences: farmers market season. In Maine, we are awash with a panoply of markets from which to shop for local foods, eat seasonal and support the myriad farmers in our midst. So grab your cash and reusable bags and get ready. Here are a few of Maine’s best spring and summer markets to visit for a bale of kale, carrots, conversation and the element of surprise.

Orono Farmers Market

At 21 years old, this mighty encampment along the Stillwater River is one of the state’s oldest and largest farmers markets. In mid-May, the year-round market in downtown Orono moves and expands to its picturesque summer home on the University of Maine campus. Up to 35 small farmers and food producers sell their produce, dairy and baked goods in this stunning setting. Some even canoe here.

“I am going to go out on a limb and say it is the prettiest,” said Jim Mitchell, market spokesman.

What to expect: Fresh, just-picked organic produce from committed growers such as Grassland Farm in Skowhegan, baked goods from Daily Bread and vegan treats from Irish Daisy Bakery in Hermon. Three blueberry farmers and a value-add product, blueberry tea from Highland Organics, which Mitchell calls a great “noncaffeine pick-me-up,” round out the goods.

“Orono doesn’t have any ancillary weavers or musicians, just farm produce and that alone,” said Mitchell.

Dairy from Tide Mill Creamery in Edmunds, cheese and yogurt from Balfour Farm and new this year, Fuzzy Udder Creamery, a Whitefield artisan goat, cow and sheep cheesery, will sate you. Add pork sausage from Palmyra, and we have the elements of an epic picnic. Go early and often.

Opens: The market location changes from downtown Orono to University of Maine’s Steam Plant parking lot on College Avenue on Saturday, May 16th. The market is open 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays. Starting in June, the market also runs 2 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesdays. For more information, visit snakeroot.net/orono.

Freeport Maine Farmers Market

Sprawling out on the L.L. Bean campus, this community farmers market is well ensconced in commerce. But don’t let the locale fool you. The market is a eclectic mix of handmade goods, music, veggies, shellfish and crafts. Throngs of locals blend with tourists, spilling out with newly-minted Bean boots and flannels, to keep the market thriving all summer long.

“Our main objective is to put forth local product,” said Angela Streeter, market manager and maker behind “The Craftin’ Scot.” Look for her pot holders and burlap onion storage bags here.

What to expect: Bushels of healthy fungi from Oyster Creek Mushroom Co., granola from Gorham, clams from Freeport, and fresh bread and preserves from Paula C’s Baked Goods in Richmond. Don’t miss her cinnamon rolls. Falling on a Friday, this is a good time to stock up on organic eggs and berries to keep you fueled all weekend. Vegetable farm applications are still being accepted.

Opens: 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Friday, June 12th, at the L.L. Bean campus, Main Street, Freeport. Moose lot between the home and flagship stores.

Brunswick Topsham Land Trust Farmers Market

Spreading out over the lush 320-acre Crystal Spring Farm, this joint-town market is the granddaddy of them all. Opening last Saturday (cheers), the market resembles a weekly Common Ground Fair. It is a traveling show and rolling feast populated by hundreds of shoppers each week. Farmers, craftspeople, bakers, fishermen and musicians make this one a day-trip destination.

What to expect: Olive oil, black angus beef, honey, chaga, turkeys, knife sharpening and down-home camaraderie. Market mainstays are organic strawberries, broccoli and greens from Six River Farm in Bowdoinham, lobster from Potts Harbor Lobster, thick blueberry yogurt made in small batches from Swallowtail Farm on the Sheepscot River, and did we mention beer? Belgian ales from Lively Brewing Co., brewed in Brunswick, makes this worth the trip. Local coffee roaster Moses Dyer represents, too. Score.

Opens: 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2, at Crystal Spring Farm, 277 Pleasant Hill Road, Brunswick. For more information, visit btlt.org/farmers-market.

To find a farmers market near you and for updates and information, visit Maine Federation of Farmers Markets at mainefarmersmarkets.org.

Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.