The Farmers' Market: Helpful Hints and Etiquette Tips

It's July and most farmers' markets across the nation are in full swing. I just returned from a visit to the lovely Marin County Farmers' Market in California, which besides being lovely was also rather hot and jam-packed. It occurred to me that we all could use a few helpful hints on how to navigate the crowds and share the market.Here's a few basic tips for farmers market etiquette. What helpful hints can you share?

Make it easier on you
• If you want to avoid the crowds and have the best selection, go when the market is just opening.
• If you want to get the best deals, go close to closing time.
• Wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and/or a wide brimmed hat, bring water.
• Remember your cloth bags and bring smaller spare plastic bags as well (many Bay Area FM are going plastic bag free).
• If you tend to overspend, set a budget for yourself and only bring that amount to the market, plus your driver's license or ID. Leave your wallet at home.
• Put your money in an easily accessible (to you!) pocket and if you did bring a wallet, keep it tucked away in a safe place.
• Take a quick stroll around the market and peruse the goods before you buy. There's nothing worse than purchasing a pound of blueberries only to find them for $1 cheaper a few stalls down.
• If your market doesn't offer at least a few chairs and a table for a resting spot, consider requesting them. Most markets have an info table where you can get more information.
• Get to know your farmers, talk to them, build relationships.
• Don't hurry. Farmers' markets are for strolling.
• Have fun! Explore! Try one new thing each time you go!

Make it easier on the farmers
• Get to know your farmers but don't hold them up with endless chatter if their booth is busy. If you want time for a chat, try coming earlier.
• Don't over-handle the goods.
• Pay attention during your transaction.
• Not all farmers want to bargain, especially in the beginning hours of the market. That said, some do, so if your interested, make an offer but don't push it.
• Try samples if they're obviously being offered and ask if they're not, but don't just start eating from the display.

Make it easier on others
• If you are roaming in a large group, be mindful that you take up a lot of space.
• Try to avoid stopping in the middle of the aisle and chatting, thus creating a traffic jam.
• Don't overly engage the farmers at a busy booth with questions and sample requests. If you want a lot of attention, go early but don't make others wait as you sample six kinds of plum slices.
• Be aware of the space and rhythms of movement around you.
• Bringing the dog, the baby in a stroller, two toddlers and Grandma with you to the market is a sweet thing. Really it is! But be sure you can keep the entourage contained.

PS: An excellent book on what it's like to be a vendor at a Farmer's Market is called Blithe Tomato by Mike Madison (Deborah's brother.) His wry and witty observations may help to guide your behavior.

Related: Farmers' Market Etiquette: How to Choose Ripe Fruit

(Image: Dana Velden)

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