The First Thing I Always Do at the Farmers Market

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Erin Little)

Even a small farmers market can be a little overwhelming. Which way should you go first? Did you bring enough cash? Which stand is going to have the best tomatoes? Before you bail and run for the nearest supermarket, take a breath and do what I do: Take a totally noncommittal loop around the place before you make any decisions.

Here’s how I do it.

Upon arrival, I take a lap around the entire farmers market. I do this especially at a new-to-me farmers market and even at my usual go-to because there are often new vendors or old vendors with different stuff.

I walk purposefully (no dilly-dallying, as vendors might take that as an invitation to try to make a sale that you’re just not ready to make yet) and don’t make eye contact with anyone (same point). Note: I am not rude, of course! If someone says hi, I certainly respond. I may even tell them I’ll be back in a bit.

(Image credit: Gary Yost Photography)

While I walk, I look to see how many, say, tomato vendors there are, who has the best-looking ones, and what kind of deals there are to be had. I look for everything that’s on my list and consider some bonus items that aren’t on my list but could maybe help me pivot and make something I hadn’t planned on for dinner. (Mushrooms? Oh yes, I’ll be back for you later!)

Once I’ve done my intel-gathering loop, I stand off to the side (do not block traffic!) and go over my list again. Is there anything I need that’s not here? What else should I add to it? Where should I go to get these items? Then, with a rough plan in my mind, I go back through, hitting the stalls I need and skipping the ones I don’t.

By doing a quick loop, I save myself from buying microgreens from the first booth I see, only to find better-looking and less expensive stuff down the aisle. I also give myself time to change my menu, if needed. Plus, I get the chance to become a little more familiar with my farmers market, which is always a good thing.

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What’s your plan of attack when it comes to farmers markets?