When it comes to eating local and sustainable foods, the farmers market is a great place to start. After all, you know exactly where your food is coming from and you have direct access to the farmer, allowing you to get the answers to any questions you may have. While getting the freshness that comes with eating foods that were harvested locally, you are supporting your local community at the same time. Here are my 11 favorite steps to help you get the most out of your farmer’s market experience.
1. Find Your Local Farmer’s Market
The first obvious step in your farmer’s market experience is to find one in your local area. Some great online resources for finding one in your area include:
2. Timing is Everything!
The time that you arrive at the farmer’s market completely depends on the experience you are looking for. If you are looking for the best selection of fresh food, arriving early is the way to go. If you are looking for a great deal, then arriving late may be your best bet. However, remember that farmer’s need to make a livable income too, so even if you arrive late, the farmer may not offer a huge discount.
3. Know What You Need, Remain Flexible
Make a list of the meals that you are planning to make for the week, and the ingredients that you will need to purchase. I like to organize my list by section; produce, dairy, grains, meats, and other. However, try to be flexible – you may find an item that a farmer has an abundance which will then be a better deal. Be flexible to swap out items on your list for ones that will be the bigger bargain.
4. Do a Once Over
If your farmer’s market is as large as mine, doing a once over is essential. A large farmer’s market can be overwhelming with a lot of vendors offering the same items. I suggest quickly walking around the entire farmer’s market to make note of who is offering what and at what price-point. I highly suggest you do this, because I cannot tell you how many times I have bought a bag full of produce or several loaves of bread only to find a better selection or price at another vendor as I moved throughout the market.
5. Know What is in Season
Knowing what is in season can help you create your menu plan before hitting the market. It is also best to buy produce that is in season for the freshest, juiciest and most affordable options.
6. Ask Questions
Once you find a vendor that offers a selection of foods that you are interested in purchasing, this is the time to ask your questions. Don’t be shy; most farmers are more than happy to talk to you about their farming practices – in fact, most of them are delighted that you would ask. Here are some questions that I always ask the farmer before making a purchase.
- Are you the owner? Who operates the farm? Where is the farm located? What size is the farm?
- Are your products grown organically?
- Is the soil organic? What fertilizers do you use?
- What do you use for pest control?
- When was the product harvested?
- How are the animals raised? What are they fed? Are they given antibiotics? Hormones? Do they spend time outside? How much time?
- How should I store the product for the best results?
7. Don't Forget Your Reusable Bags
Remembering to bring your reusable bags is great on the environment. However, many vendors and farmers will not have bags to offer you because it cuts into their profit margins.
8. Buy in Bulk for a Great Deal
A farmer will give you a discount if you are purchasing in bulk, and when you couple that with purchasing in season – you are in for a great deal. Before purchasing in bulk, consider how much you will be able to freeze, dry or can to use later in the year.
9. Don’t Go Overboard!
Make sure that you have plans for everything that you purchase. Nothing is worse than buying a lot of produce, only to have it go to waste. Only buy what you will be consuming quickly or that you can freeze, dry or can for consumption later in the year.
10. Keep Inspired
Are you worried that you will get to the farmer’s market and have no idea what you want to buy? Keep inspired by bring your favorite farmer’s market cookbook with you or start a board on Pinterest with farmer’s market recipes on it. Then, when you need a little inspiration as you browse the vendors’ booths, check out the Pinterest board or cookbook.
11. Have Fun with It
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The farmer’s market is not only about buying fresh, whole foods directly from the local farmer, it is also about community and fun. Take the extra time to really enjoy the farmer’s market. Whether that means grabbing something for an impromptu picnic on the grass, mingling with other farmer’s market visitors or stopping to enjoy the local musician -the farmer’s market is an incredible experience.