Summer is here! And that means there’s probably a Farmers’ Market near you that is in full swing. Farmers’ Markets are great places to find local and organic produce, handicrafts, pastured meats and dairy, and homemade goodies. Just make sure that you follow these 10 tips to make your visit to the Farmer’s Market as good as it can be.
Before You Go
1. Do a bit of research
Before you head out to the Farmers’ Market, do a little research. Many Farmers’ Markets have a website, which can tell you the location, time and dates for your local market. All of these may vary based on your area, growing season, temperature, etc.
Additionally, the website may have a listing of the various vendors that come each week. You can click over to their websites (if available) and do a little research before you go. You can learn their philosophy, growing practices, product availability and more. As you research your local market, do a bit of research on what’s available a town or two over. It may be worth a longer drive to get the selection or vendors that you desire.
Another great source for information about your local Farmers’ Market are friends who have gone. They may have additional information about products offered there, and some more subjective information—like whose strawberries taste the best.
2. Decide when to go
The hours at a Farmers’ Market vary, both from market to market and from season to season (if yours is open year-round). If you arrive at the opening time, you will be assured a fabulous selection. If you wait until near closing time, you may be able to negotiate better prices so that they don’t have to bring home or throw away unsold items.
What Should You Bring?
While some vendors have generic plastic grocery bags for their wares, you’re better off bringing your own bags. First, it’s better for the environment. Second, it saves a bit of money for the vendor. Third—and this is the most important—your own cloth bag will be much more comfortable in your hand than a thin, plastic handle.
If you bring a bag that can be slung over your shoulder, it will be even better. And don’t forget, with eggs, meat, and dairy, you’ll want to grab an insulated cold bag as well.
Looking for some great bag options?
- For great workhorse bags these Simple Ecology Organic Cotton Bags have long over the shoulder handles, and this set of Tote Agains Canvas Grocery Bags have both short and long handles.
- For cold item bags, try this insulated Keep Calm and Carry Your Bag set. If you need more space, Rachel Ray’s ChillOut Thermal Tote is a bit bigger and great quality.
- For more pizzazz, check out these LA Pop produce themed bags or this gorgeous ChicoBag SideKick Crossbody.
4. Bring your kids
We’re sure you’ve heard that if your child helps choose foods to purchase, they are much more invested in actually eating it once you get it home. With luscious produce laid out and samples of market fare, your children will enjoy their time at the Farmers’ Market much more than they enjoy following you around the grocery store aisles.
5. Don’t forget cash
Some vendors have card readers attached to a phone or tablet, making paying with a credit card simple and easy. However, some vendors will only accept cash. Since many of us no longer carry around much cash, make sure you grab some from your house or the bank before you pull up to the market.
6. Wear appropriate clothes
Farmers’ Markets are located where open space is available. This may mean a large parking lot, or it could mean a dirt field, or a grassy strip next to a sidewalk, so make sure you wear appropriate shoes. In addition to the right shoes, you also might want to wear sunglasses and a hat to keep the sun off of your face as you peruse the vendors’ stands.
While you are there
7. Get to know the vendors
Of course, one of the first things you will need to do at a Farmers’ Market is talk to the “farmer”! The best way to learn about their offerings is to ask them. Ask about prices, their growing philosophy, animal management, ingredient sourcing, etc. Just remember, if something seems off—even if you have taken up a chunk of their time and had a sample—you are still free to walk away without buying anything.
After an initial conversation, keep talking to them—every time you go—and really get to know them. You may discover that if you become a frequent customer, you can access specials or discounts not available to the general public. You may also discover that once the Farmers’ Market season is over, you can still contact and purchase from the vendor in the off-season. You may also want to talk to them about other vendors—you might find out more than you bargained for.
8. Don’t expect to save money (But you might find some great deals)
Sometimes, Farmers’ Markets can have excellent deals on local produce! However, Farmers’ Markets do not carry normal grocery store items, so don’t expect to pay grocery store prices. Avoiding factory farmed animal products and synthetic pesticide laden produce doesn’t come cheap. Research your vendor to make sure you’re getting what you’ve paid for, and then consider the extra cost an investment in you and your family’s future health and well-being.
After you go
9. Take (mental) notes
As you use or eat your take-home haul, try to remember where you got each item so that you can know if you want to return to that vendor for repeat business another week.
10. Keep the packaging
If you are going to become a regular customer, hold on to the packaging. Bring back clean jars or egg cartons and save your “farmer” a bit of money (and keep your cost just a little bit lower).
Once you’ve made the most of this season’s Farmers’ Market, keep in touch with your favorite vendors. As mentioned above, once you get to know your “farmer” you might be able take advantage of off-season offerings. Then, you’ll have the benefits of a Farmers’ Market year-round.
Photo Credit: “farmer’s market” by Rhett Maxwell (CC BY 2.0), north park farmer’s market by Stacy Spensley (CC BY 2.0), Green Market by Caitlin Regan (CC BY 2.0), Market at Ag Heritage Park by Auburn Alumni Association (CC BY 2.0), Farmer’s Market 2011 13 by Mark Turnauckas (CC BY 2.0), Farmer’s Market 2011 07 by Mark Turnauckas (CC BY 2.0), farmers_market_05 by Jerimee Richir (CC BY 2.0), Six Eggs by Roger Goun (CC BY 2.0).