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Here's How To...
Shop at
a Farmers Market

Farmers markets are not outdoor grocers or miniature versions of big box stores. They are uniquely different. They offer consumers a chance to meet and buy direct from the person who grows the vegetable or raises the beef or makes the birdhouse. And they provide access to custom-made or one-of-a-kind products from local sources.

Buying from a local farmer not only helps the local economy, but also encourages the use of farmland for farming. Locally grown produce is usually fresher than what's available in supermarkets and this freshness can affect the taste, quality and nutritional value of the food you purchase.

How to shop:

  • Go Early. Get to the market early if you want the best pick of the market. The most popular products often sell out well before the closing bell.
  • Stay Late. Some vendors will discount prices on remaining goods late in the day rather than having to pack them up and take them home. If you see something you want, make an offer.
  • Get Informed. Many markets have an information booth. If you are new to a market, go here first. This is a good place to find out about deals, coupons, samples, tastings and upcoming events. Some markets have frequent buyer programs that give discounts to regulars. A few will cash checks and some accept food stamp cards.
  • Bring Cash. Most farmers don't travel with an ATM machine or credit card machine, so bring ones and fives and try to make your own change. Exact change is always appreciated.
  • Scout the Market. If you have time, walk the market once through before you purchase so you can get an overview of what's being offered.
  • Be Appreciative. Let the farmers know what you like. If you are a repeat customer, let them know, especially if you bring friends along to introduce. Flattery and loyalty can earn you special attention and, in some cases, "good weight."
  • Buy in Bulk. Much of the produce at farmers markets is very seasonal. Save money and enhance your larder by purchasing large quantities in peak season and preserving perishables by canning, freezing, or drying. (How to Make Jams and Jellies.)
  • Bring Shopping Bags. Re-usable canvas bags or a straw market bag may be needed to carry purchases. While most vendors will provide plastic bags, some are reluctant to do so because of the environmental impact.
  • Don’t Barter. Negotiating prices consumes valuable time and is rarely appreciated. Most producers post their best prices.
  • Be Adventurous. Try something new. Ask the producer for tips on how to use or prepare unfamiliar food items.
  • Take Your Time. Don’t feel pressurised into buying. Survey what the market has to offer and assess the best quality and values before making your purchases.
  • Bring a Cooler. There's usually more than fruits and vegetables at the farmers market. Many markets also have meats, fish, milk, cheese, yogurt and ready-to-eat items that require refrigeration.  By bringing a cooler, you can keep perishable purchases cool and spend more time at the market.
  • Check the Pet Policy. Don't bring your dog to the market without checking first to see if pets are allowed.
  • Ask Questions. If you’re not sure what something is, don't be afraid to ask. Most farmers market vendors grow or produce the goods they sell. They can explain how their products are grown or raised and provide ideas for use or preparation. It's okay to ask for samples, if they aren’t offered. Getting to know the farmers will also allow you to figure out who has the best, most consistent products.
  • Volunteer. By volunteering at a market you'll get a better understanding of its inner workings and have the opportunity to establish relationships with the farmers and the management. By volunteering, you'll help maintain the viability of the market and its vendors.
  • Find Out What's In Season. If you want to eat in season, you need to be aware of what is in season. If you’re not sure when peaches will be in season or when to expect tomatoes in the market, visit the information booth. Many markets produce a local crop calendar that will tell you when various fruits and vegetables will be available. Harvest Calendars.

Books for Farmers Markets
Books for Farmers' Markets

How to shop at and stock up on local produce at a farmers market

Farmer's Market Online.
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