I absolutely adore Farmer’s Markets, though I don’t have much experience with them. There is only one that comes to my area from spring until fall and it isn’t very large. Big or small, though, they can be a little overwhelming, because they sell so many delicious and interesting things. Where do you even start? To help you figure it out, Lauren from The Thrifty Ginger has written up a post on how to shop at a Farmer’s Market.
It can be really intimidating and overwhelming to shop at a Farmer’s Market for the first time. If you’re like me and enjoy organic and local foods, Farmer’s Markets are the perfect place to buy your groceries. But if you’re used to the grocery store, it can be difficult to decide who to buy from, what to get, and what is a fair price. Here are some tips to get the most out of your local Farmer’s Market.
Find a Market
Before you even are able to shop at a Farmer’s Market, you need to find one! Local Harvest has a great search tool that lists a lot of different markets around the US. Check the day of the week and time, along with seasonality. Often Farmer’s Markets are not open year-round, especially in the northeast. You might also get an idea of how large the market is. I’ve visited Farmer’s Markets with about 8 vendors, and others with over 50. The scope and offerings were vastly different.
My number one piece of advice is to be prepared. I don’t just mean bringing reusable bags–which you should definitely take along. Take a peek into your fridge and cupboards to see what you already have, and make a shopping list. When I first started going to Farmer’s Markets, I just bought prepared foods and treats because I didn’t know what raw ingredients I really needed. I ended up spending a lot of money and not getting good groceries. If you know what you want or need in advance, you’ll get more out of your shopping experience.
I enjoy Farmer’s Markets so much more when I go earlier in the day. Near me there is a very large market that opens at 9AM. The crowds pick up by 11, and it can sometimes be difficult to even walk around, never mind browse the stands. When you go to a market early, you not only avoid crowds, but you also ensure your pick of produce. Farmers and other vendors only bring a limited amount of food with them each day. If you arrive later on, they might be sold out of what you were looking for.
Look around and Ask Questions
Especially at a new market, it’s a good idea to take a quick walk around the marketplace to see all of what’s offered and what the prices are. In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, Farmers Markets often have vendors selling baked goods, prepared foods, honey, meats, dairy, and more. You’ll often see new vegetables that you’re not familiar with. Feel free to ask questions about what something is, how long it will keep, and if they have cooking suggestions. It’s great to have such a nice resource selling the food directly to you. Take advantage of it!
Prices may vary significantly, sometimes with just cause. Often there will be a mix of farms, with some growing certified organic foods, some following organic practices, and others growing in whatever manner they see fit. Prices will also fluctuate significantly with the seasons. What’s expensive in April (or just not even available) may be cheap in June. You’ll get the best prices by purchasing only what’s in season.
Have fun and Support a Farmer!
Even though I just told you to look at prices, you should also realize that Farmer’s Markets are typically not the places to bargain shop. Almost always you are buying your produce and goodies directly from a small, local farm. Prices may be higher, but you should feel great about eating healthy and supporting the local economy. Plus, it’s really fun to stroll around a market, people watch, and enjoy a little treat. Enjoy your time at the Farmer’s Market!