How to Get the Most From Your Visit to the Farmers Market

Planning to come to the Stonington Farmers Market this Friday from 10AM to Noon? These tips from Erin Barnett of will help you make the most of your visit. Be sure to visit the website, too!
LocalHarvest Newsletter, July 26, 2012
Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

It’s farmers market season, and while many of you are already experienced farmers market shoppers, we sometimes hear from people who find the whole idea a little intimidating. This month we’re sharing our best ideas for how to get the most out of a trip to your local farmers market.

1. Go prepared.
If you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while, you know that I am a big fan of menu planning, so before I go to the market I always look ahead at what’s coming up for supper. I take a list of any ingredients I may be able to get there; once I’m at the market, though, I keep my eye out for anything that looks particularly good, whether or not it’s on my list. It is easy enough to change the menu if something unexpected and great shows up at the market. If I buy it and it needs to be cooked, though, I make sure to make a plan for when to serve it so it won’t get forgotten in the frig. (No need to make plans for fruit and raw veggies at my house – they get eaten first.)

Other things to bring include a handful of the plastic bags you have lying around your kitchen and a shopping bag. If you’re going to be out for a while, you may also want to bring a cooler so that your heat-sensitive veggies do not wilt on the ride home.

2. Talk to the farmers!
The experience of shopping at a farmers market is enriched when you begin talking with the farmers. Some good topics: what to look for when choosing a particular kind of vegetable, the farmer’s favorite ways of preparing a particular vegetable, when the_____ might be ready for harvest, and the impact of the recent weather on the crops. Try not to be shy, but don’t monopolize the farmer either!

Other aspects of etiquette include remembering that this produce (or meat, flowers, honey, etc.) represents the fruit of many hours of labor, most likely performed by the person standing before you. Your utmost respect is required, even if the quality is not pristine. You don’t have to buy it, but don’t make faces or negative comments.

If you are looking for organic produce but don’t see a sign saying that it is certified organic, you might want to ask about whether it is conventionally raised, or what they use for fertility and pest control. It can be a sensitive topic, so tread lightly.

In most areas I’ve visited, the price is the price, but in some places haggling is acceptable. If you want to try it, ask first. “Are you open to talking about the price on those?” vs. “I’ll give you $1 for three; they’re not very big.”

If you want a large quantity of an item, you may want to arrange ahead of time for the farmer to bring you a lug of “#2s”-for example, apples that have imperfections you may not mind cutting away if you are making sauce, for example.

3. Pick a strategy.
Some people like to walk through the whole market, looking at everything before deciding what to buy. Others hunt and gather their way through the market, buying as they go. Some like to buy most of their produce from one vendor, others like to buy a little here and a little there. Whatever your style, if you’re at a new market you may feel most comfortable if you pick a strategy.

4. Become a familiar face.
Being a “regular” at a farmers market is fun. You’ll feel like you belong there, you’ll get to know the farmers and other regulars a little bit, and you’ll be known as a loyal customer. All nice things.

5. Talk it up.
It’s your community’s farmers market! The more you and your neighbors go – and spend money! – the stronger and more diverse your market will become. If your town gets a reputation as a place that supports local food, more new farmers will want to try farming in your community.

Do you have other farmers market shopping tips you’d like to share? We want to hear them!

Until next time, take good care and eat well.

Erin Barnett


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