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9 Tips for Shopping at Farmers’ Markets

With the farmers’ market season starting up, it's going to be crowded. So here are a few tips to help you get the best produce available at your market.

Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn. ~ Garrison Keillor

farmers_market_produce_chalk_slate_sign_veggies_picWhile I don’t know that I agree 100% with the quote above about sex versus corn, I do know that along with summer comes all kinds of wonderful fresh produce! And while nothing beats food that you plant, nurture, and harvest yourself, the plethora of buying options at this time of year truly makes for a healthy food nirvana. Farmers’ market produce is renowned for being locally grown and very fresh. Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned farmers’ market shopper, here are a few pointers to help you get the most for your time and money.

Plan Ahead

Think about how many meals you’ll be preparing in the coming week and buy your produce accordingly. Avoid bringing home more than you need: it’s not a bargain if you end up throwing it away or composting it!

Waste Not

Don’t throw about-to-go-bad food away! When fruits or vegetables look like they won't get eaten in time, dehydrate them thoroughly and store in an airtight container. Dried fruits can be used in trail mix, while your dehydrated vegetables can garnish a salad or be used in a soup.

Be an Early Bird

woman_farmers_market_pepper_shopping_produce_outside_picThe best vendors are usually also the most popular and they can run out of things. Arrive at the market soon after it opens for the best selection.

Be a Night Owl

Shortly before the market is about to close, the farmers will often give drastic reductions. They may be willing to sell at a discount just to avoid having to haul it away.

Establish Relationships

Get to know the farmers and vendors who work the stands you buy from. Tell them what your produce needs are and consider bringing them a sample of something you’ve made with an item they’ve grown. Such gestures go a long way in making the food cycle complete!

Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask growers—or even local chefs and foodies you might see at the market—for tips on food preparation and storage. You can adapt any suggestions you receive to your own tastes, and use the ideas of others as inspiration.

Understand Terminology

couple_farmers_market_store_sell_produce_farm_picMany people believe that organic produce is preferable because it is grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Sometimes growers who call their growing methods “chemical free” actually do adhere to organic practices, but simply lack the resources to become certified. Learn to appreciate the differences between growing methods as well as the meaning of terms like “sustainable” and “biodynamic,” and buy based on what resonates with you.

Money Talks

Bring cash: many vendors do not take credit cards or checks. Small bills are appreciated, and your shopping time will more efficient if you don’t have to wait for change.

Speaking the Language

While the farmers' market is a lot of fun, navigating streets and sidewalks filled with produce can be overwhelming if you're new to the scene. It helps while browsing the market to know the language. Learn these terms and soon you'll be chatting like a pro!

If you don’t have a farmers’ market in your area, give these ideas a try.

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