It’s May, which means…farmer’s markets! I’ll be going for the first time this weekend, and I am so excited. They are one of my favorite places to shop in the summer. (Some places have them in the winter too.) But if you’re not used to farmer’s markets, you might wonder why they are so awesome, why you’d want to visit one, and how to find one.
While you’re here, don’t forget to read last week’s post, Why Buy Local?
What’s a Farmer’s Market?
A farmer’s market is an outdoor (usually) gathering of local farmers. There is a set place and time that farmers come each week, usually for two or three hours. They bring all their freshly-picked produce, honey, maple syrup, fresh baked goods, pastured meats and eggs, and so on. It’s all locally grown, but it is not all organic in most cases, so make sure that you ask!
Typically, produce was harvested just hours before the market opens. Farms come and set up their stands under little tents. People can come during the specified hours and go from stand to stand, choosing the items that they want. Many people have a favorite stand for meat, another for produce, and so on.
This is also a good time to meet farmers directly. Most often, the farmers themselves are manning their stands. There are no middlemen; farms are selling directly to consumers!
How to Buy at Farmer’s Markets
If you’re going to a farmer’s market for this first time — or even if it’s a new market, or just the first time this year, walk all the way through first. In most cases, several different farms will be offering similar products. They may have different varieties or prices though. Walk through so you can get a feel for what’s available and what the different prices are before you decide to buy anything. There’s nothing worse than buying something, walking away, and seeing another farm with the same item cheaper!
Make sure you bring cash to the market, as well as your own reusable bags. Many farmers are not set up to take credit cards, and many do not have bags for you. Bringing your own bags and bringing cash means you can easily complete your transactions and have a place to keep your stuff. Last year, I often brought my kids in our double stroller and I’d store my stuff in the basket below it.
When you approach a farmer, note the prices they have. This is not a flea market; you should not haggle with farmers. They deserve to be paid fairly for what they’ve produced. With that said, if you’d like to buy a large quantity, mention this to them and ask if you can call or visit them at another time to discuss that (it’s okay to ask for a discount if you’re buying in bulk).
Tell the farmer what you want, selecting your own if the items are on the table in front of you. Then, give the farmer your cash. If they have brochures or other information available, you may want to take this so you can remember which farm you bought from, in case you like it! You may also find out — unfortunately — that the food may have ingredients you’d prefer it didn’t. (I learned last year that some sausage we liked had corn syrup in it.)
Finding a Farmer’s Market
The easiest way these days is to simply google a farmer’s market and the name of your town. If there is one, it should come up on the internet. The local newspaper may say something about it, too. If you drive around town, you may even see signs for a farmer’s market in whatever location it will be held (and should say what day/time too).
You can always check Eat Wild to see if there are farmer’s markets in your area, or ask friends if they know where there is one.
Once you’ve found one, just go and check it out! See what you can find.
What are your favorite farmer’s market products? Do you have a favorite farm or stand?