Six Tips for Making the Most of Your Local Farmers’ Market
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from our monthly guest contributor, Kate, at Perpetually Nesting. As a busy mom of two toddlers, Kate shares a few thoughts on living happier, organized and sustainable lives.
My kids have been waiting all year for this: It’s farmers’ market season again! The vendors are out with their June produce, and since spring came early in my city, beautiful local small red strawberries are in early (and cheap!). Farmers’ marketing has been a family tradition that I’ve continued from childhood to adulthood; no matter what city I live in, I spend my Saturday mornings with cloth bags and cash in open-air markets. I’ve been farmer’s marketing in France, Spain, Italy, Britain, Quebec, and now, Minnesota.
Here are some tips for making the most of your community’s open-air market this year.
1.Go early. The early bird really does get the worm. Markets are great for kids’ schedules. If you have early risers like we do, pack them into the car, grab a latte and head to your local market before breakfast.
2. Take advantage of the vendors on site. Most markets offer more than just produce – local artisans, food trucks and performers participate in market life as well. Our local market even hosts vendors who offer pastries and fresh squeezed juice and other more elaborate breakfast items. We love to grab a bite and people watch.
3. Walk around first. Don’t buy the first thing that looks good. Take a tour and familiarize yourself with the variety of produce available. Make note of current prices, talk to some of the vendors and ask about their growing and farming. You’ll find that some vendors offer local produce, while others come from farther away.
4. Bargain! Remember, a farmers’ market is not a traditional grocery store. You can negotiate. In my experience, they will usually agree, especially if you are buying more than one item at their stall. For example, if I find a great local farmer who is selling both rhubarb and berries, I’ll often ask him or her for a deal. “Are you willing to take $5 (instead of $7) if I buy two (instead of one)?” The worst thing that will happen is they say no; in that case, you are no worse off than when you started.
5. Watch for seasonality. Depending on your growing season, your market might have a lot of great veggies, but may not offer as many local fruit options. You should familiarize yourself with your gardening zone – learn about what is in season before you head to the market (Google your “state” + “growing season.”). In Minnesota, we don’t get as much variety when it comes to local fruit, so vendors sometimes supplement with out of state products. I like to stick with what’s in season in my area, and buy my bananas at the grocery store.
6. Bring your cloth bags! You can often make an entire trip to your local farmers’ market without using any plastic at all!
Last year, I found so many treasures at my local market: fiddlehead ferns, ramps, morel mushrooms and fresh lemongrass to name a few. My most favorite item was pink fresh ginger.
Are you a farmers’ market foodie? Share your tips! And tell us about your favorite farmers’ market finds.
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