How to Be a Savvy Farmers Market Shopper
Friday, September 25, 2015
A Farmers Market is one of the best places to find fresh, healthy food. Knowing how to make the most of your visit can improve the quality of your purchases and overall experience. Here are a few things you can do to become a master of the market.
Know what to expect
The key to getting the best produce at your local Farmers Market is being aware of what is in season and what grows best in your area. Keep in mind that certain fruits and vegetables only grow in specific climates. Use seasonal food guides for your area to help you determine when the best quality of crops will be available.
Have an open mind
While it’s good to have a list of things you want or need, be ready to discover new things too. Local farms tend to grow different varieties of fruits and vegetables than what you find at the supermarket. Your new favourite ingredient might just be a purchase you make out of curiosity.
Don’t get hung up on the organic label
While organic labels may sway you, don’t rule out the farmers who don’t promote their produce as being organic. The process of becoming a certified organic farm is expensive and not every farmer is able to afford it. Ask how the crops are grown. You might be surprised by the number of farms that provide chemical-free options but don’t advertise it simply because they are not certified.
Before committing to purchasing from any particular vendor, examine the product that each farmer at the market is selling. While one may be offering lower prices, another could be offering better quality.
Unlike big name grocery stores, a Farmers Market provides you the opportunity to know where your food comes from and how it was harvested. Farmers take great pride in what they do and will be more than happy to explain how they operate.
But try to avoid these questions
While a market is a more casual environment than a grocery store and questions are always invited, try to avoid asking:
Was this picked fresh this morning?
Farmers Markets generally open very early. That means the farmer and farm team would have had to get up at 2 am to pick produce in the dark, and transport it from the farm to the market in time to open. It is quite likely that the produce was picked the previous day.
Can I get a discount on this?
Running a farm is a tough business, and the produce is priced accordingly. While it is quite possible that at the end of the day, produce will be discounted for quick sale, it is up to the farmer to extend the offer.
Know the best time to shop
If you want the freshest and nicest ingredients to serve tonight’s dinner guests, consider shopping when the market opens so you can choose from the best variety. Alternatively, if you are looking for odds and ends to complete a casserole or soup, go later or just before closing. You will still get fresh produce and the vendor may even reduce the price on stock that is left for the day.
If you can, pay cash
While many vendors are equipped with debit/credit card readers for your convenience, they are also incurring extra costs to their small business. Cash purchases help to ensure that the money goes toward keeping your favourite farmers at your local market.
Get to know the farmers
Developing relationships with the farmers gives you an understanding of their philosophy and practices. As they come to know you each week, you’ll be rewarded with information, new products and a friendly smile.
You don’t have to be a farmer to enjoy the benefits of farm fresh food. Farmers Markets are full of friendly, knowledgeable people who are anxious to help you discover a new way to eat. You’ll feel good knowing that you’re putting local, healthy food on the table. If you haven’t been to your Farmers Market yet, make a trip today.
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