The Do’s and Don’ts of Farmers Markets

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Photo: Seela.org

Photo: Seela.org

Eating better is always in season and what better way to get fresh, local produce than to go straight to the source. Farmers markets provide a way for consumers to slash supermarket prices by cutting out the middle man. Plus, with small local businesses sprouting up and selling their unique homemade goods, farmers markets are your cultural gateway to the yummiest eats in your neighborhood. Since there’s no better way to spend a Saturday morning than at a farmers market, I’m sharing some tips that I’ve picked up over the years on what to do (and not to do) to make the most of your neighborhood farmers market.

Photo: Arcataeye.com

Photo: Arcataeye.com

DO bring paper, plastic, reusable cloth bags, or even cardboard boxes to carry your purchases home. To cut down on stall costs, most vendors do not stock bags to give away.

DON’T be afraid to ask questions. In fact, vendors love it! But depending on how busy the farmers market is, you may need to streamline your questions to avoid a line forming behind you.

DO get to the farmers’ market early—the good stuff goes quick!

Photo: Deerfield.il.us

Photo: Deerfield.il.us

DON’T expect to be able to pay with anything but cash. These days some vendors and collective farmers markets offer other options like online payment, but not all of them. Even if they do, you should still carry cash just in case the internet goes down.

DO be mindful of costs. Vendors often make very thin margins which leaves little room for haggling. If you have a really tight budget, your best bet is to come late in the day when vendors are anxious to clear out their stall and be a consistent customer.

DON’T expect to find the same items every time. Unlike grocery stores, you will not find avocados, strawberries and other seasonal fruits and veggies at your local farmers market year-round. If you have your heart set on a specific dish, check out the local farmers market before heading to the grocery store. You may end up saving a lot in mark-up costs.

Photo: Chickpeasandchange.wordpress.com

Photo: Chickpeasandchange.wordpress.com

DO try new and unusual foods. You’re bound to come across types of squash or tomatoes you’ve never had or even seen before, so you should give them a try. If your unsure of how to prepare them, ask the vendor or do a quick search online. Who knows, it might end up being your new favorite variety.

DON’T expect to be in and out within minutes. Farmers markets, much like the growing process, are slow and casual. Vendors are not focused on time but rather quality and connections. You may end up spending the majority of your time visiting each vendor, sampling whats for sale and asking questions, but would you really want it any other way?

DO ask to volunteer. Farmers markets are put on to help promote the entire community and they rely on that community for support as well. Be sure to stop by the information tent or email the coordinator to see how you can help!