Shopping at your community’s local farmer’s markets is the best way to eat locally. Whether you are a first timer to the farmer’s market or a weekly regular, here are 10 tips to navigating your local farmer’s market.
#1 Bring Bags
Most farmers offer some inexpensive form of shopping bags, but when you are hauling home a half dozen summertime peaches and heavy home grown tomatoes, you may be wishing you had sturdier grocery bags. Before you head out, grab those reusable canvas grocery bags – you will be thanking yourself later.
#2 Create a List
No matter if you shop at your local grocer or community farmers market, making a shopping list is always helpful. Before you go, take an inventory of what food you already have in the pantry. Making a grocery list will make your trip to the farmers market a lot easier and less stressful.
Tip: If you have your favorite cuts of meat already picked out for your weekly recipes or meal prep parties (i.e. grass-fed beef, bison, lamb, pork, poultry and wild-caught seafood), select an array of farmer’s market fresh vegetables that would compliment your dish.
#3 Cash Over Cards
Although most farmer’s market vendors accept credit cards, it’s always best to have cash on hand, just in case credit cards are not accepted.
#4 Come Hungry
Some farmer’s markets not only offer fresh produce, but some markets even have food stands offering a variety of food such as fresh fruit smoothies, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade baked goods – Yum! Grab a friend, go for a stroll and share lunch together outside in the summertime sunshine while you pick up your weekly farmer’s market haul. You can even plan a picnic and bring some of your favorite healthy snacks to share with your friends.
#5 Go Early or Late
Farmer’s markets are less crowded when they first open early in the morning, so if you want the first pick on your favorite pieces of produce, go first thing in the morning. However, if you are looking for a good deal, go shopping towards the end of the day right before the farmer’s market closes. Vendors may be more inclined to give a small discount on their crops so they don’t have to repack and haul any leftovers home.
#6 Leave Space
If you decide to venture off your usual list with something new, make sure you leave enough space to haul it home. Bring an extra canvas tote bag or two, just in case!
#7 Peruse Before You Purchase
When you first arrive to your community’s farmer’s market, take a lap around the entire market and visit all of the vendors. The worst thing to do is to purchase the first item on your list later to realize you could have gotten two for the price of one at a different stall, so if you have the time, peruse before you purchase.
#8 Talk to the Farmers
Don’t be afraid to talk to the farmers, after all they are the experts. They usually have the best preparation tips and recipe recommendations too, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
#9 Try Something New
Although a grocery list is good, don’t be afraid to try something new. That crazy looking vegetable could turn out to be your new favorite. Still unsure? Ask the farmers!
#10 Shop for the Seasons
Learn what produce grows in your region so you know what food is in season. If you are unsure, refer to tip #8. Also, inquire what’s to come in future weeks so you can plan your upcoming trips to the farmers market accordingly.
Looking for a local farmers market? Check out the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory. Happy farmers market season everyone!