I am a serious, crawl-out-of-bed-early-every-Saturday-morning farmer’s market groupie. With my reusable bags and family in tow, I hit my favorite market weekly to stock up on fresh, seasonal, locally grown foods. I know the names of my farmers (and yes, they are MY farmers. I’m tight with them like that) and they know my family. I buy the food they lovingly and expertly grew. And I give my hard-earned dollars directly to the farmers….without any middleman trying to take his cut. It’s a beautiful arrangement and has also become a family tradition that I am beyond proud to instill in my daughter.
If you are not currently a farmer’s market groupie, I highly suggest you try it on for size. Shopping at farmer’s markets is good for everyone involved. You get beautiful produce at its peak of freshness, and local farmers are directly supported with the power of your mighty dollar.
Shopping at a farmer’s market can be a bit overwhelming at first. What do you bring? How do you navigate for the best deals? How the hell do you find a farmer’s market to go to in the first place!? It seems almost silly to be intimidated by the idea of going to a farmer’s market, but I totally was my first time. After years of being a FM groupie, I have honed in on tips and tricks of the regulars.
With spring finally here, farmer’s markets nation-wide are opening up to bring locals all of the seasonal beauty their area has to offer. Jump on that bandwagon, folks! Its a tasty, nourishing ride. Here are a few tips that I use on my farmer’s market trips to help you get the best bang for your buck while supporting local farms.
1. Find a farmer’s market near you. This step seems a bit obvious, but if you don’t currently know of one local to you, it is the most vital tip of them all! If a farmer’s market is too far away from you, then the likelihood of you attending isn’t very good. Either hit up Google for some help finding a farmer’s market near you or visit www.localharvest.org and enter your zip code to find one close by.
2. Get to know your farmer. I personally think one of the biggest benefits of buying from a farmer’s market is knowing the people who grow my food. I buy a CSA from a favorite farmer every week and then visit other stands to get seasonal odds and ends. The farmers know me and my family by name, save us some of their best produce, and occasionally throw in extra produce at no added cost just for being a loyal customer. They appreciate your business and want you to know it.
3. Bring cash. Some vendors will have credit and debit card readers for their phones, but not everyone does. It’s a big bummer when you have your arms full of beautiful fruits and veggies only to find out you can’t buy them because you don’t have cash and that is the only payment they can accept.
4. Bring reusable bags. Several. Many vendors will have plastic bags to give you, but those are a pain to carry around after a while (not to mention are bad for the environment). I have a large backpack with multiple pockets that I bring to the farmer’s market weekly and use for carrying my produce. It’s perfect! If you plan on really stocking up, consider bringing a wagon to avoid frequent trips back to the car.
5. If you are looking for organic, don’t look for just Certified Organic. Becoming certified organic is a pretty impressive (and expensive) feat for a farmer, but the cost of their produce is also going to reflect the cost of gaining that certification. Like I said before, get to know your farmers. Ask them questions about how they grow their product. I have found many farms at my farmers market that grow organic, but can’t afford the certification (they are small businesses after all). It is an element of trust, but if you feel like your farmer is being honest with you, it is a way to save a few bucks in the expensive work of whole foods living.
6. Beware of “farmer poseurs.” Some farmer’s markets require you to grow/make what you sell, but not all of them. If you see a vendor selling something that no one else is because it is not in season, beware. Some people prey on the trendiness of farmer’s markets and sell produce grown on the other side of the country or in another country altogether. While you might still be supporting a small business, you are likely getting fruits and veggies you could have picked up at your local supermarket.
Farmer’s markets are a beautiful resource available in many communities. Embrace the season of spring by finding one near you and try these tips on for size. Chances are, you will not only find amazing food that will nourishing your body and support your local farmers, but a tradition you will look forward to week after week.