Summer is in full swing and market tables around the country are starting to groan under the weight of the fresh veggies & fruits, local meats & cheeses, small batch baking & canning. Big or small there is likely a local farmers market near you
These 8 tips can help you get the most out of the farmers market and make it more enjoyable for all.
Get there early
Know when the market opens and arrive on time (not early) and you will have the best selection. In many markets things like eggs, fresh breads, and short season produce will sell out early in the day.
Although if you go just before closing you could score some great deals as open or cut samples are given away and those with perishable goods are more likely to negotiate*.
Bring bags and bills
Every bag counts! We have a bag ready for you but we LOVE YOU for consolidating purchases in backpacks & cloth bags.
Bring cash in the form of quarters, singles, and fives. Not all vendors accept credit cards or checks so be prepared with plenty of cash. While we try to bring enough change sometimes we are handed one $20 bill after another which depletes the change box quickly.
Try new things
You can make a meal sampling your heart out at the farmers market. Farmers and food vendors are usually happy to offer a sample. Not only does it give you the consumer a chance to try something new but it allows the farmer to show off quality or get feed back about a product. Sample one of everything. Sometimes you might even sample something a couple of times to help make a decision before you purchase.
Don’t make a meal under one tent. If you (or your family/friends) eat a pound of cheese, a loaf of bread, or a jar of preserves amongst you it’s considered polite to make a small purchase. Assist tiny hands with sampling and have a meal plan to avoid making meals on samples
Why hello there!
The market is a social experience. Say Hi, ask questions. The person behind the table likely made or grew what you are purchasing. We are proud of our work, and can talk canning/farming/baking/etc. all day long.
Get to know your farmers but don’t hold them up with endless chatter. If the booth is busy and you want to talk shop, try and earlier time at a different date.
Think before you speak. While we all appreciate feedback, take a minute to remember that the person under the tent has created what’s in front of you. If you feel the price is high, don’t scoff, shop around. If you don’t like something then don’t make a fuss just don’t shop there.
Become a frequent shopper.
The more you come to market, the more you become part of the market. By getting to know the market community it becomes more tailored to you. Vendors and farmers will try to remember your preferences and take it into account when preparing for market.
You might even find that your market is lacking in something you know how to provide. Do you grow the most beautiful begonias? make an amazing veggie chowder? Are your organic vegan marshmallows the best?? You too can be part of the market fabric. Just ask the market manager about being a day vendor.
Organic isn’t everything
Not all organically grown produce is labeled organic. Is organic important to you? Non-gmo? Free range? There are many reasons a farm that uses organic practices might not have the USDA stamp of approval. Start a conversation with the farmers and ask thoughtful questions.
Don’t overly engage the farmers at a busy booth, if you want a lot of attention, go early.
Know the growing seasons
Purchasing at the peak of season when the supply is high will drive down costs making it an ideal time to stock up & put up your favorite fruits and vegetables.
If you show up to a Vermont farmers market in May expecting to find ripe tomatoes you will likely be disappointed. Become a seasonal eater and take interest in the crops that are abundant during each part of the year.
Bring a crowd
Go with family and friends, farmers markets are kid friendly! Enjoy the outdoors, try new things, and get to know your neighborhood. Some markets have live music, face painting, kids booths, picnic space, and are even open to pets*!
Be aware of your surroundings. If you are roaming in a large group, be mindful that you take up a lot of space. Try to avoid clustering in high traffic areas and take turns under the tents so that fellow market attendees can shop too. Strollers are welcome and useful but they can take up a lot of space.
Now that you are fully stocked from the farmers market, put those good to use.
Try my Green Garden Gazpacho when you have armloads of leafy greens
When the cherry tomatoes are abundant stock up and make this rich Tomato Confit
Before you compost all those veggie scraps put them to work one last time in Veggie Broth
*Check the rules at your local market. Some markets have very strict rules about selling early, discounts, bringing pets, etc.