Tips for the Farmers Market

I have been going to the farmers market for years now. I frequent one near my home on Sunday mornings. When I know I can’t go on Sunday, I will often go to a different market on Saturday mornings.

I know what my tips for the farmers market would be; however, I felt it would be more valuable to ask some of the vendors themselves. They are there every week, maybe even at several different markets each week. They know better than me what is important to share with people new to the market.

  1. Bring your own reusable bags. Canvas bags are great. Insulated bags are good too. Your canvas bags can be washed, as can your insulated bags. (Michele’s tip add-on: Keep in mind that you don’t need to put all your items into plastic bags. We need to minimize all the plastic bags that end up in our landfills.)
  2. Vendors are very grateful when you use cash. Using debit or credit cards takes extra time making for longer lines. Also, these are small, local businesses and credit cards charge a fee so that means less money for our farmers and less money kept in our community.
  3. This is a two-in-one tip. Get to the market early and ask questions. Getting to the market early gives you the best selection as items may sell out when it gets later. Additionally, arriving early gives you time to talk with the vendors before they get too busy. The vendors expect us to ask questions and they love to share what it is they do. You can learn so much from the vendors. We sure have!! So, be ready to ask the vendors any and all questions you have.
    • Are they organic?
    • Where is their farm?
    • Are all their items in-season?
    • Do they grow everything themselves or get produce from other farmers?
    • Are their chickens cage-free?
    • What do they eat?

Note: When you find a vendor that you love, tell other people!

A special thank you to the following vendors for responding to my request for farmers market tips:

If you are part of the 40% that doesn’t buy at a farmers market, I’d love to better understand why. Another option that may work better for you is a CSA (community supported agriculture). This is actually how I got started with buying from local farms.  The CSA introduced me to foods I previously didn’t eat (like beets and beet greens). Also, some CSAs deliver to your home!

Here are some websites that can help you find local farmers markets and/or CSAs:
NFMD – National Farmers’ Market Directory – This is a no frills website where you can search by Zip code or by State, then City to find farmers markets in your area
Local Harvest – Real Food, Real Farmers, Real Community – This rich website gives you the ability to locate nearby CSAs, farms, and farmers markets. There is also an online store so you can purchase products you can’t find locally.
USDA – United States Dept of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service – This is a portion of the USDA government website that gives you the ability to look for farmers markets, CSAs, food hubs, and on-farm markets near you.

by Michele Spear