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Get Real: Shop Farmer’s Markets Like A Pro

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**This post is part of the Get Real series. Please remember that this is meant as a learning community. We know that many of you are passionate about what you do and we want you to express that, just please do so in a way that will be an encouragement and aid to others making a transition. We want this to be a “safe space” for participants to learn. For that reason, we reserve the right to delete any comments that are not handled in this manner.

We have Rachel Tayse of Hounds in the Kitchen here again today to help us navigate the farmer’s market. Not sure where there is a market near you? Just enter your location to localharvest.org!

Get Real folks know that shopping a farmer’s market can help the local economy, get fresh food to our families, and be a place where real food conversations happen. Yet a farmer’s market can be intimidating – there are unfamiliar fruits and vegetables, prices are not always clearly marked, and the crowds can be overwhelming. Prepare yourself with these simple tips to shop a farmer’s market like a pro.

farmer's market booth

1) Have a general list in mind – Shop with a generic list of what you need for the week and let the farmer’s selection fill in for you. For instance, I might know I want three kinds of snacking produce, and four vegetable dinner sides. In the height of summer, I might come home with three fruits, a cabbage, lettuce, green beans, and sweet corn if those are available. In late summer, I might return with two kinds of carrots and apples for the snacks, and sweet potato, white potato, rutabega, and greens for dinner. If you are shopping for a recipe that calls for a specific vegetable and you don’t see it, ask a farmer what would be a good substitute.

2) Bring cash – All farmers accept cash. Some might accept other payment methods (including food stamps EBT) and some markets provide a credit-card-for-token service. These are nice options when you need them but cash is fastest and is the easiest way to budget.

3) Carry your own bags -Many farmers are interested in sustainability and their budget so they don’t invest in grocery sacks. Bring your own cloth bag or basket to carry your goodies home. If you plan on buying dairy or meat items, an insulated bag or soft cooler is a good idea.

4) Shop early – The best selection will be available at the very beginning of the market. This tends to be when the farmer’s are most chipper and the crowds are lowest too. If you can, get to the farmer’s market at the start time.

market berries

5) Shop for the ‘rare’ items first – Farmers play a game every week where they try to bring exactly the right amount of produce so that they sell out during the day. Some have a very limited supply of certain items. In central Ohio where I live, tender fruits like strawberries and blueberries tend to be rare and sell out quickly. If you know you want something in limited supply, make a beeline for the booth and buy it first.

6) Ask questions – If minimizing pesticides is a concern to you, ask the farmer what chemicals he or she uses. If you don’t know how to cook or store a particular item, ask for ideas. Farmers choose to be at farmer’s markets so they can interact with customers.market flowers

7) Sign up and follow – If your local farmer’s market has a newsletter, sign up for it to be reminded of future markets and events. Follow your favorite farms on Facebook or Twitter to get the latest on produce coming to market, farm tours, and recipes.

April Week 4 Action Item:

Each week we will try to give you some simple action steps to put this journey into practice. It is important that you start this journey by understanding yourself, your goals and perhaps your obstacles.
  1. This week’s challenge is to buy something directly from a farmer or farm near you. If farmer’s markets are open in your area, go there and report back on what you find. If there isn’t a farmer’s market open yet, seek out local ingredients at a co-op, local foods store, or speciality grocery. Happy shopping!

April Get Real:

Please take a moment to thank our guest authors by clicking over to their sites and/or liking them on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Sponsor:  Once A Month Mom

Guest Author: Rachel of Hounds in the Kitchen

5 Responses to “Get Real: Shop Farmer’s Markets Like A Pro”

  1. Kayleen says:

    Our local farmer’s market started yesterday. Oh, how I have missed it all winter! Came home with rhubarb and a huge bunch of leaf lettuce. And, of course, since the kids were with me, honey candy, honey straws, kettlekorn, some cookies and a jar of local popcorn seeds.

  2. Malinda says:

    Unfortunately, our farmer’s market doesn’t open until mid-July. The past few days I have, however, been talking with a local rancher about buying a side of grass-fed beef later this fall. My family currently buys 1/4’s of local beef – local but grain-fed.

  3. […] to learn about what’s available when and who to buy it from. I recently contributed ‘How to Shop A Farmer’s Market Like a Pro‘ guide on Once a Month Mom with my top tips for feeling comfortable at farmers’ […]

  4. Dev in OK says:

    We are market gardeners and sell almost all of our produce at farmers’ markets. Your comments are right on target– shop early, bring cash — but don’t be afraid to ask questions! We all have favorite recipes for our produce and are happy to share them. Our market even has a recipe table. We sell at markets because we like to visit with our customers. Tell us what you’d like us to bring more of, ask about our growing practices, find out the best storage methods. Just don’t squeeze the peaches or peel the corn!

  5. Hope says:

    Our Farmer’s Market opens next week and I can’t wait! I’m hoping for some local honey and early lettuce; mine won’t be ready for a month or so yet. We are enjoying the local dairy that we are able to get and have also enjoyed finding a place for local beef, pork, and chicken. With our chickens and garden in the backyard, we will have a lot of our food needs met locally once farmer’s market opens.

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