7 Tips For Making The Most Of Your Trip To The Farmers Market

As warmer weather approaches, farmers all around the country are preparing to load up their crops and set up their booths at the local farmers market. While some cities have year-round farmers markets, they are most common during the late spring and early summer months. That means now is a great time to start considering what kind of locally sourced produce you want to stock your kitchen with this summer. 

As we all gear up for farmers market season, we want to help you be prepared to make the most out of your visit by sharing a few tips. But first, if you aren’t already a seasoned farmers market regular, you’re probably wondering why you should shop at the farmers market in the first place. Let us explain. 

Why Shop At The Farmers Market?

From supporting local businesses to getting perfectly ripe produce, there are a variety of reasons to shop at your local farmer’s market. Let’s take a look at a few. 

  • Get Fresh Produce. You’d be hard-pressed to find fresher fruits and vegetables anywhere else. The produce sold at the farmers market is grown and harvested by local farmers, which means it doesn’t have far to travel from the farm to your kitchen. Because of this shorter travel time, farmers are able to let the crops reach peak ripeness before harvesting them and delivering them directly to you—no freezing, refrigeration, or chemicals needed. Produce from the farmers market is as ripe and delicious as you can get. 
  • Support Local Businesses. We all understand the importance of local businesses, and farmers are no exception. Large corporations have industrialized agriculture and dominated the food production of the United States, which has made it difficult for small family farms to compete. When you shop at the farmers market, you are buying directly from local farmers, helping them to continue operating their businesses and supporting their families. 
  • Save Money. Famers aren’t the only ones who can benefit financially from the farmers market—you can too! Because of the reduction in transportation time, products from the farmers market are often more affordable than those found in the grocery store. Buying your produce from local farmers is a great way to help you reduce your monthly grocery bill. 
  • Know Your Food Source. Over the years, technology and advances in science have promoted foods that are highly processed and genetically modified. However, these types of foods, as convenient as they may be, are not the healthy, nutrient-packed fuel that our bodies need. Today, even the produce found at the grocery store has likely been genetically modified or processed in some way. When you shop at the farmers market, you often get the opportunity to meet the farmer in person and can ask them about their growing and harvesting practices. That way, you have a better understanding of where your food came from and exactly how it has or has not been processed.   
  • Protects The Environment. Another benefit of shopping with local farmers is that it’s better for the environment. Since locally grown products don’t have to be transported as far as industrially produced ones, your local farmers don’t use nearly as much fossil fuel as their corporate competitors. Additionally, local farmers are much less likely to try to alter the rate at which their produce grows and ripens by using genetic modification, synthetic fertilizers, or chemicals that are hard on the environment.  

Tips For Shopping At The Farmers Market

So you’re convinced to start shopping at the farmers market this summer. Great! But before you grab your bags and head out the door, we have some tips to help you make the most of your visit. 

1. Do Your Research

Do you know when your local farmers market will begin? What about where it’s located? If not, then it’s time to do some research so you can be prepared to show up at the right time. Lucky for you, the United States has an official farmers market directory that lets you search for the best markets based on your location and the products you are looking for. If you are a farmers market newbie, we suggest starting there. 

2. Know The Seasons

It’s important to remember that most produce is seasonal, so you shouldn’t expect to always be able to find your favorite items at the farmers market. Of course, the list of items that are in season may vary a little depending on your location, but taking the time to learn which produce grows during different times of the year means you’ll know what you can expect to buy, and you won’t be left looking for fresh winter produce, like cranberries or celery, in the middle of summer. 

3. Plan Ahead

While it’s always a great idea to give yourself time to browse the booths and see what items are available, it’s also important to show up prepared with a list of items you plan to purchase. This will help you ensure that you are getting all the items you will need for your snacks and meals so that you don’t have to run to the grocery store later because you forgot something. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for some items to sell out before the market ends. Having a list ready will help you have a better idea of which vendors you should visit first so you can make sure you get all everything you are looking for. 

4. Come Prepared

Some farmer’s markets have bags available, but not all of them do. Bringing your own sturdy, reusable bags makes it simple to carry your items as you shop and ensures you will get them all home without them spilling onto the floor. Furthermore, keep in mind that many local farmers may not be set up to take cards, so you’ll want to have cash on hand to pay for your purchases. If you want to make your transactions more simple and efficient, having change on you is a great idea, as it will allow you to pay for items with exact change instead of hoping that the farmer has change for that ten or twenty dollar bill in your wallet. 

5. Go Early or Go Late

Decide what time you are going to head to the market based on what your goals are. If you are hoping to get the freshest products or know that items on your list might sell out quickly, then you’ll want to get there as soon as the market opens. On the other hand, if you are looking to make your dollar stretch further by getting the best deals, going toward the end of market hours is your best option. This is because many farmers want to minimize the amount of product they have to take back with them, so as they get closer to closing time they begin to mark down prices to make sure everything is sold. 

6. Chat With The Farmers

One of the biggest perks of the farmers market is that the farmers are the ones selling you your food, which means they are available to chat and answer your questions. As you walk around the market, have a chat with the farmers or sellers. Feel free to ask them about their products and how they are grown. If you see an item that is new to you, don’t hesitate to ask about its origins, what it tastes like, and how to prepare it. Farmers and other sellers at these markets are extremely familiar with their products and are happy to answer whatever questions you may have. 

7. Buy In Bulk

While many of us probably don’t think of farmers markets as the best place to buy in bulk, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Produce sold at the farmers market is grown locally and at its peak freshness, which means it’s at its best in terms of flavor and nutrient profile. However, the peak harvest times for most items don’t last long, so if there are certain items you are particularly fond of, consider purchasing a lot of them at once. As an added bonus, some of the best deals at the market can be found when you buy in bulk, so it’s really a win-win for you. 

If you’re hesitant to buy in bulk because you’re afraid you won’t use it all before it goes bad, consider finding new recipes or learning how to preserve your food by freezing, canning, or drying it. 

Live the #NewEarthLife

Shopping local. Eating organic whole foods. Protecting the environment. It’s all part of what we call living the #NewEarthLife, and shopping at your local farmers market is the perfect way to do all three! So go ahead, find out when your local farmers market opens, and make a plan to check it out. We promise you won’t regret it.

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