Now that summer's here, farmer’s markets are popping up everywhere. Which is great news, because eating locally and seasonally is good for you, the environment, and the community. If you’re a farmer’s market newbie or seasoned pro, here are 5 tips for to make the most of your market experience:
1. Ask questions.
Often, the farmer will be there selling his or her own product. Ask if their produce is grown organically or sustainably. Many farmers may not pay the price for the “certified organic” label, but follow similar standards. Ask if their animals are pasture-raised or if they are fed non-GMO feed. You can even ask if you can visit the farm!
The farmer-customer relationship benefits you both. When you demand high-quality products, farmers may change their practices to bring that product to the market. It shows the farmer that people are willing to pay a little more for quality.
2. Go early…or late.
At a recent farmer’s market trip, my mom and I waited in line waiting to get fresh strawberries. They sold out in less than 10 minutes of the market's opening! If there are seasonal items you want, such as berries or heirloom tomatoes, get to the market early before they sell out.
If you’re on a budget, head to the market in the last hour or so. Many farmers will discount their items, so they don’t have pack them up.
3. Stock up for the year.
Eating seasonally helps you embrace the sweetness of a fresh strawberry, and those tasteless imported ones you can buy in the winter just do not compare. Stock up on your favorite produce and freeze or can it. Buying in bulk will usually save you money as well. Freeze batches of your favorite tomato sauce to whip out in the depths of winter, turn cucumbers into pickles, or make jam out of those juicy berries.
4. Take a look around before you decide what (and where) to buy.
Each stand will typically offer unique items beyond produce, eggs, and meat, such as maple-infused jalapeno hot sauce, organic dog treats, triple nut-butters, or crafts. Try out new food stands each week! My favorite farmer’s market has a juice bar with local and organic produce, maple lemonade, gluten-free treats, and pasture-raised eggs to order.
5. Be adventurous.
Finally, show those unique veggies some love! The beauty of farmer’s markets is the huge variety of gorgeous, nutrient-dense produce. Instead of spinach and orange carrots, grab some colorful rainbow chard and purple carrots. Try out kohlrabi, or maybe those duck eggs you’ve been eyeing. If you don’t know what to do with the item, ask the farmer!
Good luck at your local farmer's market! I hope you grab your reusable grocery bag, take in the beauty of the richly-colorful produce, grab some samples of homemade chocolate, and strike up a conversation with a farmer!