Buying Tips for the Farmer’s Market

Shopping at a farmer’s market is the best way to get really fresh and local food. For many years, we sold vegetables, homemade bread and jellies at farmers markets, so I’ll give you my insider tips for getting the most from a visit to a farmer’s market.

  • Post the schedule for the farmer’s market on your calendar so you don’t miss the day. If you get there early when the market starts, you’ll get the best selection. Sometimes everyone wants the fresh tomatoes or the first cantaloupes of the season. Before you know it, they’re sold out and latecomers are disappointed. The vendors have to set up real early, so don’t be surprised if you come right at closing time and everyone is packing up.

    2008-08-17 gail and ks photos 554

    Clyde and Gail Martin at the Fort Scott farmers market.

  • Be courteous and friendly. Don’t criticize the vendors’ produce, as they work hard to grow it and bring it to the market. Yes, it isn’t as cheap as the truckloads of produce shipped in from Mexico or Chile, but it’s a lot fresher. Most of it was picked that day or else the day before.
  • Tell your friends, fellow workers and neighbors about the market. You could even ride together to save on gasoline and it would help eliminate the parking hassle. Often a market has limited space.
    Don’t park in front of the vendors unless you are really handicapped. Park, so there’s room for other vehicles. Leave the space in front of the booths for buyers walk along looking at the produce and to and from their cars.Farmers Market Cottonwood Tree_1999
  • Remember who you buy from. If you get great fruit or vegetables, you’ll want to go to that seller again. If you weren’t happy with something, you don’t want to go back complaining to the wrong vendor.
  • Take a quick walk around to all the vendors to see what’s available. Most vendors have the same kind of veggies but some look better than others. Don’t pass up something really good though as it might be gone when you walk back.
  • In Kansas, the vendors are not allowed to use scales as the scales are not accurate when they are moved around. So they sell by the box, bundle or bag. Sometimes you can bargain on the prices if you’re buying a large quantity.
  • The vendors recycle clean grocery bags by bagging what they sell in them and are very appreciative of buyers bring them more bags. Some even give a bonus to the buyer bringing back canning jars.

    old fashioned thanksgiving vintage

    Gail Martin’s homemade jellies. Photo by her sister, CJ Garriott

Further Tips & Warnings
  •  Enjoy the visit to the farmers market, get to know the sellers and make it a fun outing, rather than just another shopping trip. You get fresh air, interaction with people and good local produce.
  •  Look for booths where the produce looks clean and neatly displayed.
  •  Produce that’s in the shade stays fresher.
  •  Don’t expect the farmers to have out-of-season fruits and vegetables. Sure you would like a juicy, home-grown tomato in May, but you have to wait for the weather and growing season to reach the right time.

(This article by Gail Lee Martin first appeared on eHow in 2009)

Comments

MargaritaBobita on 11/11/2009 – Good tips. Farmer’s markets are often freshest, most natural, least expensive and fuel local economies.

DelawareGeek on 9/13/2009 – I love farmer’s markets, they offer better produce and are cheaper than grocery stores

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