Six Tips For Shopping Your Local Farmers’ Market
I developed a love for fresh foods early in life. Our family always had a kitchen garden and I fondly remember stopping there after school to pick and eat handfuls of raw peas. These days I live in town where there’s no room for anything but container gardening. Luckily, I live less than a mile from a fabulous farmers’ market. It’s a great solution for those of us who don’t have time or space for growing our own food. Here are a few quick tips to get you started:
• Find the market!
If you don’t already know of a farmers’ market near you, www.localharvest.org is a great resource. Their emphasis is on organic foods, but they also have an extensive database of farmers’ markets searchable by location.
• Go with a purpose.
There are many great reasons to shop the market: locally grown food is often more nutritious, in season and organic food may be more affordable than in a grocery store, and buying local means fewer emissions from transporting goods long distances and that’s good for the planet. Know which of these is important for you and ask questions. Not all food at the market is organic. Using only in season foods may require you to be creative with your menus. Vendors are often happy to share ideas and recipes for foods that aren’t already part of your family’s menu.
• Pick your time wisely.
If you want the best selection of produce, go early and be prepared for crowds. Regular market shoppers will be there waiting when the gates open. If you’re looking for bargains, consider going later in the morning when the selection is narrower, but small farmers are eager to make a sale. This is when they are most likely to give you a bargain and most ready to answer questions and offer tasting samples.
• Walk the market.
Prices vary widely at the market. You may overpay if you’re not careful. I like to walk the entire market then go back to the beginning with a plan for purchasing the best quality goods at the most affordable prices.
• Bring a bag.
Goods at the market are sold loose. They are often displayed in an open basket or bin. Many vendors will have a limited supply of bags but they appreciate the shopper who has their own bag at the ready and later in the day the bags may be gone.
• Shop with a friend.
When you shop the market with a friend you can split up and share foods sold by the basket. Farmers will probably be willing to let you purchase smaller portions, but if you’re shopping at peak morning hours, teaming up with a friend to share portions will save time and make everyone happy. Plus, it’s fun to shop with a friend.
The best part of shopping the market is coming home with fresh, nutrient rich foods. Hope you’ll give it a try!
Cheryl Alldredge is the author of Ladybugs and Fireflies, a contemporary romance set in small town Florida. You can find out more about Cheryl and sign up for her newsletter at www.cherylalldredge.com.