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Our Best Tips for Farmer’s Market Season




Of course, you know that we love all things local, and you can’t get more local than shopping at the farmer’s market. What better way to get connected with your food than to purchase it right from the source? In our opinion, weekly trips to the farmer’s market are not to be squandered. 

Here are ten suggestions for making the most out of your next visit to your regional farmer’s market.

1 Know Your Seasons

Farmer’s markets are all about finding what’s fresh and in season. Unlike grocery stores, your local farmer’s market will only be carrying what can be produced on the land at this time. Take some time to get familiar with seasonal produce to know what kind of fruits and vegetables might be available when you get to the farmer’s market. In Virginia, our climate allows farmers to extend growing seasons with hoop houses and covered crops, so you’d be surprised at the variety of foods you’ll find.

2 Make a Plan

Once you get a sense of the seasonal availability, you can do some generalized meal planning before heading out. Eggs, onions, and potatoes are staples in most kitchens, so make a list and note the amounts you’ll need of each to replenish your stock. Be flexible with your expectations. Eating fresh and local means vendors may run out of certain items or not have them ready this week. You can get creative with substitutions when you do a little planning ahead.

3 Think of the Whole Food

In most cases, produce sold from the farmers is sold whole, with little processing. Unlike the trend in grocery store produce, you can expect that potatoes and anything pulled from the ground will have dirt on them. Carrots, beets, and turnips aren’t peeled and come with their greens attached. Here’s the bonus: most of the parts that grocery stores remove are edible! You can make pesto from carrot tops, and just about any greens can be sauteed with quality olive oil and a little seasoning. Toss in some fresh garlic or red pepper flake, and you’ve got a quick, spicy side dish.

4 Bring Folding Money and Small Change

Technology has made significant advances, and it’s pretty common to use a swipe card at a fruit stand. But, you’ll be buying in the open air, and sometimes all that modern connectivity can fail. The farmer’s market often has clubs or charity groups with a stand, and those organizations won’t always have card processing. So remember to stick some good old-fashioned cash in your pocket before heading out. You’re there in part to make sure your money stays local. Having small bills and coins on hand means the farm or business won’t suffer if the internet gremlins raise their heads.

5 Bring Your Own Bags

Some markets offer bags, but one way to help the farmers — and the planet!– is to bring your reusable shopping bags. Produce can be heavy, so sturdy canvas bags are your best choice. If you are a frequent shopper and regularly buy a lot, think about getting a cart or wagon to give your back a break. We’ve even seen parents get creative with their strollers!

6 Buying in Bulk

The best deals at the farmer’s market come when you buy produce in bulk. With a little planning and the right storage, you can make a large purchase and feed yourself and a group many meals from just one trip to the market. Check out our handy guide for storing your farm purchases to keep them fresh for as long as possible. Or, if you feel adventurous, block out a day and try your hand at canning. You’ll be able to extend the bounty of each season by enjoying your farm market purchases all year long.

7 Shopping Early in the Day

Most markets’ opening and closing hours tend to be less crowded, but you should test this theory in your own region. The earlier you arrive, though, the better selection you will have. Popular small crops may sell out quickly. Become a regular, learn all the ins and outs of your region’s farms, and stay in the know about where to find your favorite products. The early bird catches more than worms; they also get the peak of the picking!

8 Shopping Late in the Day

You may not get the prime picks by coming later, but sometimes farmers and other vendors will cut you a deal in the last hour to save them from picking up their goods and carrying them back. Check your market guidelines, though, because some may have rules against discounts at the end of the day. You’re shopping locally to help the local economy, after all!

9 Try New Things

Planning first is always a good approach, but give yourself room to be adventurous. You may show up looking for pea pods, but if those luscious strawberries are calling your name, grab them! Peak freshness is meant to be enjoyed, so don’t let opportunities pass by. Try new things, too. If you aren’t sure what something is or how to prepare it, ask the vendor. They are a great source of inspiration.

10 Get to Know Your Farmers

Farm markets are a great place to learn more about your community. Having the producer right there at the table is a perfect opportunity to learn about your food, how it is grown, and what’s coming up next as the season progresses. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. In our experience, farmers are happy to share tips and recipes, and many times other shoppers will chime in with their best recipes. 

Farm Markets are a wonderful place to establish a sense of community. Don’t miss your chance to become more connected with your food supply — and your neighbors! Check out our GROW list to find one near you.

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