I don’t know about you, but I believe that farmers' markets are some of the happiest places on earth. Vibrant produce, friendly vendors and excited patrons all converge to create a winning combination. Purchasing seasonal produce and other goods from local farmers enables you to buy quality foods that are not only at their peak nutritionally, but also in flavor. If you patiently wait until later in a particular fruit or vegetables’ season, the produce can even be cheaper than the stuff you buy at the store.
By shopping locally, you are buying directly from the source—how cool is that? The setup of a farmers' market encourages conversations and connections. When you purchase a pint of raspberries at a farmers' market, versus at a store, you are able to speak directly to the farmers about the flavor and quality of the berries, whether the berries are organic and GMO free, what types of fertilizers or pesticides are used, if the chemicals utilized are synthetic or organic, what interactions they have with co-ops or CSAs (community supported agriculture), what they do to maintain soil integrity, how they promote biodiversity and much more. You have the incredible opportunity to gain insight into exactly what goes into the food that you are eating.
Did I mention farmers' markets are also community and eco-friendly?
When you buy locally, you are not only funding future growth of many more delicious berries, for example — you are also funding the farm, the individuals and families who work there, the local food services and food hubs that buy from that farm, all while boosting the local economy by decreasing importation of goods. Less importation means less plane, boat, truck and car fuel waste and gas elimination into our environment. You see the huge impact that this can have. Walking, biking, running or carpooling to the farmers' market decreases emissions and incorporates exercise and socialization into your regular shopping trip. Do you see a downside? Definitely not!
Whether you are experiencing the excitement of a farmers' market for the first time or have been frequenting them for years, the abundance of booths and stands can sometimes be overwhelming.
Here are some tips to make every trip to the farmers' market productive, inexpensive and enjoyable:
Go early. Walk around the entire market to get a sense of the price differences and quality variations amongst the various vendors. This way you have time to scope out the availability and deals on certain foods.
Bargain. If you are buying in bulk, which I recommend for favorite produce, see if the farmer will make you a deal and lower the price because you are purchasing more.
Talk. Ask the farmers about their crop yields this year and if there are certain items that may have been overproduced and will be less expensive compared to previous seasons.
Sample. If possible, ask to taste something if you’re a first-time buyer. It’s okay to want to know the quality of the product before purchasing a large amount.
Re-use. Bring re-usable bags or cartons to lessen plastic bag and crate waste.
Bring friends! Make this a time to connect with people over awesome food. Leave the technology at home and enjoy fresh air and good conversation.
Explore. Be adventurous and pick out a fruit or vegetable you’ve never prepared before and plan a whole meal around it. You can even ask the farmer for recipe advice!