With the increasing emphasis on fresh, local and seasonal ingredients, farmers markets show no sign of going away. Last year, working with West Virginia University Healthcare, I was part of a team of registered dietitian nutritionists who conducted monthly culinary demonstrations at my local farmers market in Morgantown. We did seven in all, and this exposure increased our visibility and helped reinforce the idea of dietitians as healthy food experts.
If you're thinking of doing your own farmers market demos, planning is key.
Know the Seasons
Plan to feature recipes in cooking demonstrations that coincide with what is in season. Here, we have strawberries in May, so that's the month we made smoothies. There's not much local produce in June, so we made meatballs with local beef. Peaches are perfect in August, so we made glazed peaches. This was our monthly schedule:
- May: Fresh Fruit Smoothies
- June: Meatballs in Marinara
- July: Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil on Grainy Bread
- August: Glazed Peaches
- September: Warm Cinnamon Applesauce
- October: Crunchy Pumpkin Pie
- November: Warm Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Dip
You're Not Shopping Today
Due to the sometimes limited supplies available from the vendors on the day of the market, we purchased our ingredients in advance, or even from other area farmers and vendors who delivered to the hospital.
The apples for our September applesauce came from West Virginia University's orchards. In fact, I drove to the orchard myself to pick them up.
The Morgantown Farmers Market, with partial sponsorship from WVU Healthcare, built a kitchen storage area and purchased some cooking equipment. We had access to a three-bowl sink, hand sink, griddle, grill, tables, pagoda, awning and electricity. Some serving and preparation equipment was transported from the hospital on the days of the demos. This included a commercial smoothie maker, a soup crock (for keeping hot items hot), long extension cords, steam table lids to use as "bug guards," pans, serving trays, spatulas, dippers and pot holders.
Don't forget sanitizing solution, plastic gloves, aprons, hats and recyclable bags (ours had our hospital logo). Also, keep in mind there is no refrigeration at the market. On smoothie-making day, we used shelf-stable soy milk and froze the containers of yogurt an hour before setup; then, we kept the remainder of the yogurt cold with ice packs in insulated containers.
When to Show Up … How Much Food to Bring
Our summer market begins each Saturday at 8:30 a.m. with the ringing of a bell. We were ready and waiting for that bell. It's the busiest time of the market and the temperature is still cool to protect the food.
And how much food should you bring? We planned for 150 to 200 samples, and that usually lasted until about 10 a.m.