I remember the first time I ever went to the Farmer's Market and I was completely overwhelmed. Granted this was a huge indoor/outdoor market full of different vendors so for a newbie like me it was a whole lot to take in. Now, I wish I could shop at something like that.
For those of you out there who are thinking of dipping a toe into the fresh markets in your city or town but have no idea how to do it, here's a few tips from me.
- Look up a Market in your town through Google. I have always just typed in "Farmers Market in ____" and just researched whatever comes up
- Local Harvest website is a great resource for locating Markets, CSAs and farms in your area.
- When you do actually make it to your local market, take some time to look around first and get a feel of the vendors. It may seem like everyone has the same produce. Which is probably true, farmers are selling whats growing and all foods have a season, so they are all typically growing most of the same foods.
- But, you might get lucky and find someone who specializes in blueberries or strawberries or peaches or organics. That's why it's best to make your rounds first and see what everyone has to offer.
- Dont' be afraid to ask questions! Some farmer don't grow the foods that they put out (you may or may not care). I always ask, "did you grow this___ (pepper, peach, strawberries, etc.)?" and "did you spray it?" If I like the answer to the first two questions (yes and no), then I ask what kind of soil they grow it in.
- If you're going to the Farmers Market to find USDA labeled Organic produce, you are probably not going to find it, especially at the smaller markets. To received the USDA certification costs a LOT of money and most small farms cannot afford the fees. But, a lot of local farms follow the same or similar organic practices. Just ask.
- I should also mention, don't be embarrassed to ask because you think that they might be offended. Farmers should be proud of how their food is grown (most are!) and if they don't like your questions, you probably won't like their produce. But, I think you can ask out of respect for their food and not in an accusatory demeanor. Good manners go a long way. (maybe this is the mother in me coming out.....sorry!)
- Bring your own bags! It will make shopping easier. And GREENER :)
- Talk to the Farmer. He/She would love to give you tips about how to prepare their delicacies.
- Most produce is by the pound and will be weighed. The berries I buy are usually a set amount.
- BRING CASH! These farmers won't (likely) be taking your debit card.
- Bring a friend. If you can, it's more fun that way.
More than anything, just go see what your local market is like. Supporting our local farms and business is of vital importance. If we don't support what these farmers are doing, we'll lose them.
What a sad day that would be.
Shopping locally has also challenged me in the kitchen to use what's in season and use more vegetables in our meals.
Please share your local Farmer's Market tips with me! I'm always so envious when I hear of the big Market street festivals! If that's what you have, go ahead....make me jealous. I want to hear all about it!