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Getting the Best Out of the Farmer's Market

Posted by on Jul. 10, 2013 at 12:00 AM
  • 28 Replies

I love shopping at our city farmer's market. It's huge, filled with delicious goodies --  gourmet chicken sausage! Fresh baked goods! Vegetables and fruits picked mere hours before purchase! -- and I always feel better after shopping there than I do at the grocery store.

However, what it isn't full of is exclusively local and organic foods. There's a pervasive myth that everything at the farmer's market is local and organic, but that's not true. Sure, the people selling there are a lot more likely to be small farmers, and personally I like paying my money directly to the person who made the effort  to produce my food. But they are just as likely to use pesticides and herbicides of concern.

The benefit to the farmer's market, of course, is that you can ask the person who tended the crops. But don't simply ask "Do you use sprays?" Ask if the farmer follows organic practices, how they handle weeds, or what they do to repel pests. If they won't give you a specific answer, i.e. "We spray with pesticide X as the fruit is ripening and pull weeds mostly by hand" then move on.

Also, be aware that many large farmer's markets allow people to resell produce they bought elsewhere. My local farmer's market has a sign behind every stall with permit numbers and the word "dealer" or "producer"...dealers resell the produce, producers grew it themselves. Of course, someone being a dealer doesn't automatically mean the food's not local; it could be someone who bought, say, cherries, from the farms in a rural area and brought them into the city for the market. With everyone so concerned about local eating, they are pretty likely to be advertising where these things come from, even if they didn't grow them themselves. 

Know what's in season in your area...that's a good clue to what's local and what isn't. If it's May and you're seeing tomatoes, or August and there's lettuce, it's a good chance those were trucked in from elsewhere. One clue is to see what every table seems to have a ton of and what's cheapest...economics 101 in action! Many markets have an information table that will tell you what is in season and sometimes even where it was grown, or use this nifty interactive map.

And most of all, have fun! The point of the farmer's market is not to give the third degree to every single farmer, but to enjoy the give-and-take with the people who grew your food. They might even give you some cooking tips, or help you pick the most prime specimens. And you can feel good knowing that you helped keep another small farmer in business.

Do you shop at the farmer's market?

Image ©IStockPhotos/canbalci

by on Jul. 10, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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by Bronze Member on Jul. 10, 2013 at 1:16 AM

How to get the most out of a farmer's market? Check out their website before you go. A lot of them have interesting things that you might miss otherwise. Like a place where you can stop and eat prepared with the products that they sell. Also there could be more than one farmer's market in your area ... they are getting more popular.

by on Jul. 10, 2013 at 6:48 AM

 We have year around farmers markets here.   I go to them all the time. 

by Ruby Member on Jul. 10, 2013 at 6:51 AM

I don't typically shop at a farmer's market.  I prefer roadside stands...they're less crowded and I have time to ask questions, maybe even take a small tour of the place.

MOST of all, I have my own chemical free garden.

by Sarah on Jul. 10, 2013 at 7:10 AM
I love the farmers markets. I think they are fun to shop at. I give my kids each 5.00 and let them pick out something that looks good too. Purple carrots my so picked out once last year. He usually goes for the blueberries
by Gold Member on Jul. 10, 2013 at 7:13 AM
We have a farmers market right behind our house every Saturday ... we go over alot
by on Jul. 10, 2013 at 8:46 AM

Yes, we have several in my area.

by Bronze Member on Jul. 10, 2013 at 9:24 AM

Parking is too difficult at the farmers markets around here. I do shop at roadside stands.

by on Jul. 10, 2013 at 9:41 AM

I love my local farmer's market!

by Bronze Member on Jul. 10, 2013 at 9:59 AM

I don't go to farmer's markets.  I have a garden in the back yard and I visit local farm stands.

by on Jul. 10, 2013 at 10:00 AM

It's been a long time since we have been to the farmer's market, but they are fun.

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