It's obvious by now that we are as passionate about supporting our local farmers' markets as the majority of you are. They're an amazing resource, but depending on the city in which you live, it isn't always easy to get in, out and on with your day. They can feel like a black hole of strollers, people who slowly meander without an agenda (who always end up in your traffic pattern), and tables and tables of the same thing. We live near a busy Midwestern farmer's market and have some tips for buying fresh and local without feeling like you need a stiff drink afterwards.
We've lived all over the country and have supported farmers' markets whereever we've been. Some markets are crazy busy and some are more slow moving and laid back. But no matter which market you go to we have a few tips to help you out on your journey.
1. Go Early - As early as possible in all honesty. That's when you'll find the freshest product, before it's sat out in the heat and picked through by other marketgoers. It will allow you the freedom to move at the speed you want without being herded through like cattle.
The later you wait the more full the market will be with strollers and groups of people there for a get together whose only agenda is to be there. Which is all fine and well, but if you're looking to acquire fresh goods and get on with your day, being there before every single person, their mom, their dog and their 6 screaming children, is a good thing.
2. Visit The Same Vendors - This isn't to say that you shouldn't try new things or deviate from this idea, but because farmers are selling what's in season, for the most part, they all sell the same things. Returning to the same vendors week after week will not only score you better prices (or at least give you bartering abilities) but it can often times allow you access to the best the vendor has to offer and allow you "celebrity status" at their booth. We're not saying you shouldn't have to wait your turn, but it's nice to be seen, get what you need and get out without waiting in line (wait, that's exactly what we're saying)!
3. Have Cash - The smaller the bills the better. Paying in cash and with smaller bills allows only small change needing to be made, or no change at all. Keep it in a place that's easy to access, an outer pocket on your person or in your bag or purse. Not having to dig through an overflowing purse each time you need to pay for something will save you time and make you look like less of a target for being pick pocketed.
4. Go Often - Going more frequently will keep you in touch with all the vendors in attendance and keep your finger on the pulse of what's new and fresh this week. Skipping a few weeks means more time spent checking out all the extra happenings (it's like trying not to check your email while on vacation, although it means you're out having fun, it just piles up, waiting for your return).
5. Only Buy Local and Organic - Depending on the rules and regulations of your market, some vendors may be reselling produce and goods purchased from other suppliers. If you see something being sold out of season, it's usually a good clue that other things on their table will be imported as well. Things that don't appear to be local or organic can be purchased with the rest of your shopping at regular markets where they will usually be more inexpensive and have a better selection.
Do you have a tried and tested tip for navigating your farmers' market with ease? Share with us in the comments below!
Related: Farmers' Market Report: Opening Day Chicago