The summertime season means warmer weather, sunshine, and farmers markets. Shopping at your community’s local farmers markets is the best way to eat locally. Whether you are a first timer to the farmers market or a weekly regular, here are 10 tips to navigating your local farmers market.
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 and products you have on hand, then write down everything you need to stock up on. Making a grocery list will make your trip to the farmers market a lot easier and less stressful.
Most vendors at the farmers market will have plastic bags for you to use, 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 some reusable grocery bags. You’ll be happy you did later!
Bring cash with you. Although most vendors accept credit cards, it’s always best to have cash on hand, just in case credit cards are not accepted.
Farmers markets are less crowded when they first open, 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. Vendors may be more inclined to give a small discount on their crops so they don’t have to repack and haul any leftovers at closing time.
When you first arrive to your community’s farmers market, take a lap around the entire market and visit all of the vendors. The worst thing to do is 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.
Some farmers markets not only offer fresh produce, but some even have food stands. Fresh fruit smoothies, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, and homemade baked goods: Yum! Grab a friend, go for a stroll and share a lunch together outside in the summertime sunshine while you pick up your weekly farmers market haul.
Although a grocery list is good, don’t be afraid to go rogue and try something new. That crazy looking vegetable could turn out to be your new favorite. You will never know unless you try! Still unsure? Ask the farmer!
Don’t be afraid to talk to the farmers; they’re the experts. They usually have the best preparation tips and recipe recommendations, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
If you decide to venture off your usual list with something new, make sure you leave enough space to haul it home. Be sure to bring an extra canvas tote bag or two, just in case.
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 near you? Check out the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory. Happy shopping, everyone!