Farmers’ markets are, thankfully, popping up everywhere, and there is no better time to get to know your local market than springtime! (And yes, despite the less than spring-like weather, it is actually SPRING right now!) We all know that eating fresh, local food is better for us for, better for our communities, and better for the planet. But, just what are the secrets to a successful farmers’ market outing? How do you navigate the maze of vendors offering such a wide range of delicious homegrown and homemade goodies?
Read on for a list of questions to help you get to know your local farmers’ market and maximize your healthy bang for your buck
- Take a warm-up lap – Before you begin checking off the items on your list, take a lap through the market to see who is offering what today, and the relative prices.
- Bring cash – Many vendors offer credit/debit card purchases now, but consider that a portion of your payment will go to the processing, and not to the farmer who grows your beloved peaches. As a bonus, cash allows you to move in and out of crowded stalls more easily.
- Have a game plan – Sure, you can easily come up with several delicious meals if you just walk around the market aimlessly and purchase everything that strikes your fancy…but nine times out of ten, you’ll end up with ½ the ingredients for more meals than your schedule allows, and you’ll end up composting spoiled produce. At the very least, take a moment to peruse your schedule for the week so you know how your time will be spent and then you can meander accordingly.
- Get to know your farmer – There is no better resource than the farmer who grew the produce, or raised the chickens who laid your eggs. Ask about their farm, ask about how to store and prepare produce, and ask for recommendations for something new.
- Go big or go home! – If your home environment allows for it, consider buying in bulk. Many farmers will gladly sell in bulk, and often for a lower price, enabling you to make more while spending less!
- Don’t judge a book by it’s cover – Consider asking for “seconds” that aren’t as visually appealing (i.e. bruised, misshapen, etc.) when your recipe allows for it. Jams, pies, salsas, and sauces don’t mind if your produce had a few lumps or bumps, and they will cost less to make!
- Shop strategically – Be sure to buy items that bruise or wilt easily last, that way they end up on the top of the bag and won’t get smushed by their heartier buddies.
- Time your priorities – Is it more important to you to get the most beautiful, shining produce? Then plan to arrive early. If it’s more important to you that you get the best price available, then plan to shop at the end when farmers tend to mark down the items.
- Try something new– If you see an unfamiliar item, most definitely ask what it is, as you just might find your new family favorite. That being said, most of us don’t have time to learn how to prepare multiple new veggies at once, and you’ll be more likely to take time to savor and enjoy your new bounty if you take it slow. Aim to try one new thing every time you visit the market.
- Have fun! – How lucky we are to be surrounded by so many hardworking farmers who bring delicious delicacies to our tables. Soak up the electric frenzy of the market and channel that enthusiasm as you make your purchases.