Farmers markets are springing up in every community. They are a great way to support local farms, get fresh produce and experiment with new fruits and vegetables. Going to a farmers market can be a fun way to spend time with family or relax and enjoy time outside, but there are a few tips that can make the trip even more successful.
If you go, it is good to have a game plan
It’s important to do a little homework before going to a farm market beyond knowing what the hours and location of the market are. Know what is in season and what can be grown in the specific region. It’s also good to know what different items look like in their peak season.
Bring reusable bags. These bags will not only help the environment, but help shoppers have an easier time carrying their purchases around. Reusable bags help prevent the farmers from having to use plastic bags – eating into their bottom line. Most markets are cash only, though the number of markets accepting WIC are growing, and most farms are making change out of a small cash box. Bringing small change to make purchases will also make the experience easier.
Make a meal plan part of the game plan
Plan meals for the week in advance of visiting a market. It is beneficial to know the type and quantity of food a household will eat during the week to know how much to purchase at the market. It also helps control impulse buying – but stay open to trying that new, fun or unusual food.
Shop early or shop late – it depends on the goal
The benefit to being at a farmers market when it opens is to beat the crowds. Fewer people make moving around with purchases easier. It also means getting to pick out purchases before everything has been picked over. Rarer or more popular items will often run out before the market ends.
If, however, it’s a deal a market-goer is looking for, buying at the end of the market can be a benefit. Many farms prefer to mark produce down to sell out before leaving than taking it back with them.
Like anywhere, it pays to comparison shop. If it is blackberry season and several farms are bringing blackberries to sell, it is beneficial to walk through the entire market to see whose look best and have the best price.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is the best opportunity available to talk to actual farmers about how they grow their food, how to prepare their food and what they themselves like.
Just because it is not labeled organic does not mean it is swimming in pesticides
While you are asking questions, make sure to ask a farm about how they grow their food. Just because a farm is not certified organic does not mean they aren’t growing their food in a responsible manner – in fact, many farms go further than the standards require. However, the certification process is expensive and many local farms choose not to take on the expense.
Buy in bulk
Bulk is the best way to find the deals. Buying quantity also provides the opportunity to try new recipes or try something new like canning, freezing or drying.
Make sure to try out the local farmers market this summer. The benefits to a family, to a local farm and the local community make it a worthwhile endeavor. Following these tips will help make it a fun and successful trip as well.