Make the most out of your trip to the local farmers market by following these simple tips.
If you’re going to shop at the farmers market, then you’ll need to plan your meals around the fruits and vegetables that are in season — you won’t be able to get asparagus in March, for example. The benefit, however, is that by eating seasonal produce, you’ll get fruits and vegetables at the peak of ripeness (and deliciousness). Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with what’s in season; most farmers markets can provide you with a chart of what you can expect to be available each month.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to timing your visit to the farmers market. If you’re looking for the best selection of products, go early; many of the more popular items will sell out before the day is over. If, however, you’re looking for the best deal, then try visiting the farmers market late in the day; you’re more likely to find mark-downs.
And by BYOB we mean “bring your own bag”! Many farm stands don’t supply them to customers. Depending on what you’re planning to purchase, you’ll probably want to take a few large canvas bags, some smaller plastic or paper bags (for sorting items inside the large bags), and a cooler or insulated cooler bag.
While you’re packing up the things you’ll need for your trip to the farmers market, make sure you get some cash, too, preferably small bills. Keep the bills in a place where they’ll be easily accessible while you shop.
When you arrive at the farmers market, avoid the temptation to buy the first beautiful pint of strawberries you lay eyes on; you may be able to get a better price two stalls down. Do a quick lap around the entire market without buying anything to compare prices. Then, on your second pass, start shopping.
One of the best things about shopping at the local farmers market is that you can talk to the person who is growing or making your food. If you’re interested in a particular product but it’s not certified organic, ask the farmer why that is; you may be surprised to find that some farmers who forego certification are actually following all of the guidelines for producing food organically. Similarly, if you’re not sure how to wash, cook, or store a particular food item, your local farmer can probably help you with that as well.
Oftentimes, you can get a better price by buying in bulk. When you’re planning your trip to the farmers market, think about a few items that you’d like to buy in bulk to freeze or can for future use; that way, you can cut costs over time.
Since you’re buying in season and directly from the grower, you may not always find what you’re looking for at your farmers market. That’s OK; use it as an opportunity to try something new!