In theory, a trip to your local farmers’ market may sound like a relaxing way to spend a Sunday morning. But once you get there it can be easy to feel stressed out. Don’t allow the crazy crowds and exotic produce selections to overwhelm your senses. Here are nine tips to keep in mind when tackling your next farmers’ market visit.
GET THERE EARLY.
Navigating a farmers’ market at peak hours can feel a little like being caught in a stampede. The best way to beat the rush is to arrive as soon as it opens. Not only will you be free to move at your own pace, but you’ll also have more time to chat up the vendors before they get too busy. Most importantly, early shoppers have first pick of the best produce.
DO YOUR RESEARCH.
Part of the fun of farmers’ market shopping is seeing what looks good and making purchases in the moment. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to come prepared. Research what fruits and vegetables are currently in season in your area so you know what to look for while you’re there. If there’s a certain product you know you’d like to buy, look up recipes beforehand and keep an eye out for the additional ingredients. Staying focused will keep you from overloading your grocery bag with more perishable items than you can eat.
INVESTIGATE THE INFO BOOTH.
Farmers’ markets aren’t just places to buy fresh fruits and veggies. Many of them also offer valuable resources, like cooking demonstrations, seasonal recipes, and rewards for new shoppers. The best way to learn about these opportunities is to pay a visit to your market’s information booth before you start shopping.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAMPLE.
The free samples you see at farmers’ markets are there for a reason. Vendors want shoppers to feel familiar with their products before they make a purchase. If you decide you don’t want to buy anything after taking a freebie, there’s no need to feel guilty about walking away. It’s all part of the experience.
When it comes to interacting with vendors, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. The people running the booths aren’t just cashiers: they’re passionate experts ready to answer any questions you may have about the items they’re selling. Don’t the know difference between collards and kale? Wondering what to make with the three pounds of ramps you just bought? The farmers’ market is a safe space to ask whatever questions come to mind.
DON’T FEEL RUSHED.
When roaming the farmers’ market, resist the temptation to switch into grocery-store mode. It’s not a race to get your shopping done as fast as possible. Make the rounds multiple times, visit the stalls that didn’t catch your eye at first, and leave yourself open to the opportunity to make conversation with strangers. If you make an effort to treat it right, a trip to the farmers’ market can become a relaxing weekly ritual rather than a chore.
INVEST IN BAGS.
Even if you go to the farmers’ market with the intention of picking up one small item, don’t be surprised if you end up taking home more groceries than you can carry. Keep a few bags in your car that can be reused with each visit. And if you’re a truly dedicated farmers’ market shopper, consider investing in a push-cart for heavier loads.
PLAN TO EAT THERE.
Sometimes the highlight of a farmers’ market is the food that’s already been prepared. Whether you’re craving breakfast, lunch, or brunch, don’t forget to visit the stalls that serving up ready-to-eat bites. A good meal can provide you inspiration for what to cook when you get home. It also prevents the dreaded, but all-too-common, conundrum known as “shopping-while-hungry.”
GET TO KNOW YOUR VENDORS.
The most successful farmers’ market shoppers are those who’ve built relationships with their vendors. Getting to know the people who grow and sell whatever it is you’re buying is a great way to learn more about where your food comes from. And as vendors learn more about you and what you like, they’ll be able to guide you towards making smarter purchases in the future.
Wondering what to do with all those fresh tomatoes you picked up on your last visit? Check out 5 Things to Do With Fresh Tomatoes for some great ideas!