There are several things every year that I get excited about, like clockwork. They include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday)
- The Superbowl halftime show/Puppy Bowl
- October, that magical time of the year when shaving your legs is no longer mandatory
- Our town’s summer Farmers’ Market
Our local summer Farmers’ Market is incredible. Open only on Saturday mornings, the vendors pour into our downtown plaza and fill it with fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, flowers, baked goods, and arts and crafts. We love waking up early and heading over there before it gets too busy, ordering freshly brewed iced coffee and breakfast, and walking around while listening to live music. It’s my favorite way to start the day.
Even before moving to Louisiana, I’ve always enjoyed shopping at local markets. And any time I moved to a new city, I would find different markets around me and check the days they were open. Not only is it great to support your local merchants, but I’ve learned that food always tastes best when the quality of your ingredients are fresh and in season.
Here’s my list of rules that I think would benefit any Farmers’ Market shopper:
10 Rules to Smarter Shopping at Farmers’ Markets
- Know your seasons. It’s important to know when fruits and vegetables are in their peak season. For instance, berries, peaches, beets, and green beans are all in season in June. It’s possible that produce in your grocery stores were harvested months ago and stored and preserved, so knowing what is available in different seasons ensure that your produce is fresh.
- Arrive early or arrive late. Arriving to the market early means that you’ll get your first pick of everything. However, if you go late, some vendors will offer discounts on items.
- Come prepared. Wear appropriate clothing and shoes and invest in a good tote bag or small cart if you plan on doing a lot of shopping. Bring a cooler if you plan on purchasing meat, and don’t forget to check the weather!
- Bring cash. Some vendors have started to accept cards, but just to be on the safe side, bring cash with you for your purchases. Plus, it’ll help with your budgeting if you’re being financially-conscious and can help prevent processing fees from on-site ATM machines.
- Plan your meals ahead of time. Planning meals for the week has really helped me in so many ways! Knowing what items I need to purchase ahead of time prevents me from over-shopping and having produce go bad and untouched the rest of the week.
- Bring your appetite. There will be plenty of samples and you’ll more than likely find vendors selling food and drinks.
- Shop around. You may be tempted to purchase the first batch of strawberries you see, but you may also miss another vendor selling strawberries for a better price. Do a walk through before purchasing if you know there are multiple vendors selling the same things. (Also note that some vendors raise and lower their prices based on the market area in which they are selling).
- Ask questions. Farmers are a wonderful resource. Feel free to ask questions and learn about their harvesting process. Ask for tips on storing and how to prepare and cook meals, or find out what wine or beer will pair best.
- Bulk is Better. Sometimes buying in bulk is beneficial, especially with fruits you can freeze or if you plan on canning and preserving. Ask vendors if they have cases at a discount – sometimes they will offer discounts for fruits and vegetables with blemishes. If you’re buying a lot and don’t want to carry it around, purchase your items and ask them if they can hold it until you head out to load your car.
- Farmers’ Market Etiquette. Be courteous to all the customers and vendors – no squeezing soft produce, be aware of who was waiting in line, and if you choose to haggle, do so respectfully.
And with that, Happy Farmers’ Market shopping!