My first exposure to a Farmer’s Market was the Dane County Farmer’s Market held every Saturday morning around the courthouse square in Madison, Wisconsin.
There, like at most Farmers Markets, you’ll find fresh produce, homemade preserves, unbelievable artisan breads, and the aroma of so many different marvelous foods (like fresh-pressed hot apple cider!) — all supplied by farms around the area.
Ever since that first time, I’ve looked forward to visiting every new Farmer’s Market I can find. My plan is always to capitalize on all the seasonal good eats I can find!
Following is a collection of tips to help you get the most out of your next shopping trip at the local Farmer’s Market…
Unlike supermarkets whose produce is often picked green and shipped half-way around the globe, local farmers wait until their fruits and vegetables are nice and ripe before selling them.
This ensures the best flavor and texture — it’s a win/win for you and them. That’s not to say that early in the season a vegetable stand at the Farmers Market won’t be selling produce they have trucked in from quite a distance. If they can tell you it was picked yesterday, you will know it’s fresh.
Throughout the growing season, fruits and vegetables ripen at different times. Knowing when different items will be coming to market from local farms will help you plan your menus. At the same time, you’ll be able to determine how you will preserve foods for months ahead while they can be bought at the most reasonable price.
#3 Bring cash.
Your credit card may or may not be accepted at the Farmer’s Market. The same goes for checks. It’s best to take cash. (Plus, you’ll be able to stick to your budget better!) Cash is appreciated by most vendors, because it eliminates another thing they have to deal with (credit card machines and fees).
Most vendors will have wrapping or bags to carry your purchases in. Since the main appeal to shopping at a Farmers Market is to avoid excessive preservatives and obtain the freshest possible goods, you can take this one step further and help protect our environment by bringing your own containers and reusable bags.
Typically, Farmer’s Markets are outdoors. So your shopping trip will likely involve quite a bit of walking. You may also be carrying your purchases for a long time too. Consider taking a collapsible shopping cart to help carry your items when shopping at the Farmer’s Market. It can save your back and arms from undo strain.
#6 Get there early.
The early bird gets the worm. The best items will be the first to go. Unless you want to be looking through what’s left over and has already been handled by everyone else, it pays to get up early and make the Farmers Market your first stop.
#7 Stay there late.
Farmer’s plan on selling everything. Repacking and taking their products home means losing money. By the end of the day, you can find some real bargains — especially if you’ve brought cash and you’re willing to haggle a bit.
#8 Ask for recipes.
That huge dark purple eggplant looks great, but if you haven’t a clue how to prepare it you might pass it by. Odds are, if a farmer grows such items he also eats them and can give you all kinds of insight on how best to prepare his product.
#9 Plan your menu.
The typical customer at a Farmer’s Market will buy what they need for the next week or s
o, planning their meals accordingly. Returning regularly means you won’t over buy, and there won’t be waste.
#10 Try new things.
You may have hated asparagus as a kid. But try to get yourself to try it again, as an adult. Fresh asparagus tastes terrific, and it’s easy to prepare. Don’t let yourself get into a cooking rut. Variety is the spice of life. Shopping at a Farmer’s Market can bring lots of fun new options to your dinner table!
#11 Take the kids.
Give your kids a few dollars and let them be involved in the process of shopping at a Farmers Market. Once they understand the goodness and health benefits of fresh, right off the farm products, they will have a head start toward maintaining their health and well-being as adults. Besides, shopping at a Farmer’s Market is an event in and of itself. There are lots of fun things to see and do for kids of all ages! It’s a great way to turn things like shopping, farming, and gardening into an educational opportunity.
If this is your first time visiting a Farmer’s Market, you will find this kind of shopping completely different from shopping at a local supermarket. This is a good thing. You will quickly discover that what comes from the other side of the planet isn’t nearly as good as what is produced in your own backyard!
One of my all-time favorite "hobbies" is cooking at home! I especially enjoy experimenting with new ingredients …and different types of cookware. My specialties are foods that are diabetic-friendly, keto-friendly, and low-carb. I share my favorite recipes and cooking tips here at The Fun Times Guide to Food.