Photo by Made In
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that buying local is the bee’s knees–and there’s no better place to support the movement than your local farmers market. If you’re new to shopping this way, it can be a bit intimidating in the beginning. What is that strange-looking vegetable you’ve never seen before? Why are these eggs not refrigerated? Where in the world are the prices?
Never fear–we’ve compiled some tips to help you make the most of your market experience. Follow this guide and you’ll be a farmers market pro in no time.
Cash Is King
Before you hit the stalls and stands, hit the ATM machine. Yes, many vendors take cards these days, but connectivity can be unreliable depending on anything from the building to the weather. Plus, vendors pay a percentage (typically two percent or more) of your purchase price to the credit card company. It may not seem like much, but those fees add up. Bring small bills and some loose change. It’ll make your transaction quick and hassle-free.
Nothing makes farmers market shopping more fun than filling up a big bag with healthy, colorful produce. Bring along some reusables, or better yet, treat yourself to a beautiful woven basket with a wide, flat bottom. You’ll be able to see all your bounty at a glance, and it’s also a great conversation starter.
Meet The Farmers
This is by far the most important, eye-opening (and fun) part of the market experience. Strike up conversations with vendors, asking questions about their growing practices, how much land they farm and what they’re growing. If you see a food you’re unfamiliar with, just ask about it! If they’re growing it, they can tell you how to prepare it.
Share the Love
Market shopping is a lot like dating. Don’t rush in and buy the first handsome eggplant or fine-looking melons you see. Arrive early, scope the scene, compare prices, peruse the selection. Ask for some samples and chat up vendors before you commit.
Do Your Research
Some markets have stricter guidelines than others. Find out if vendors are truly local, or if the market allows wholesalers. Look for blemishes and imperfections on the produce (they’re more likely to be the real deal) and avoid anything with stickers or bar codes. If the vendor can’t tell you when things were harvested without thinking about it, move on.
Don’t Get Caught Up On Organic
Contrary to popular belief, organic farming still allows for a multitude of yucky chemicals and fungicides to be used in the growing process. Yes, you read that right: “organic” does not mean chemical/pesticide free. Sustainably-raised meats and produce are often far beyond organic, but many small farmers can’t afford organic certification–an extremely costly process that can take several years, and even then often lacks proper oversight. Ask vendors exactly how they fertilize and manage pests.
Never, and I mean never leave a farmers market without a fresh flower bouquet. They’re a fraction of the price you’d pay at a florist, and even if you don’t use them in your own home, you can make someone’s day by gifting them (hint: moms, friends, SOs, neighbors and party hosts love them).
By Davina van Buren