Get Real: Shop Farmer’s Markets Like A Pro
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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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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:
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