Farmers Market Tips and Tricks: What to Know Before You Go
Farmers markets are a great place to score locally-grown, in-season produce at a good price. The fruits and veggies you buy here are likely much fresher than what you can get in the supermarket, and because they’re coming straight from the farmer with no middleman, they’re often cheaper, too.
If you want to start shopping local but aren’t sure how to get the best deals, take a moment to read through these simple farmers market tips and tricks.
Navigating the Farmers Market: First-Timer Tips
Come prepared. While part of the fun is discovering what’s available at your local market, do a bit of research before you go. Find out what fruits and vegetables are in season, then plan out a few things you want to buy that week to make the most of your first visit.
Go early (to get the best produce). If you can drag yourself out of bed right when the market opens, you’ll have your pick of the best fruits and veggies fresh from the farm.
Go late (to get the best deals). Toward the end of the day, the stands may be fairly picked over, but farmers packing up their goods are more likely to offer you a deal on their produce. The less they have to pack up and take home, the less they waste. You won’t get your pick of the lot, but you might save a few bucks.
Shop around. Whether you’ve chosen to go near the beginning or end of the market, it’s important to become familiar with the different vendors and prices. Stands near the back may have lower prices simply because fewer people walk all the way back there. Start with a lap around the whole market, noting the prices for the items on your list, then decide where to purchase them. Don’t try to haggle, though--this is generally frowned upon.
Wait until the second or third week a fruit or veggie is in season. The first pick of the year will always cost you a little more, so wait till the second or third week to get the best deal.
Bring your own bag. One perk of shopping at your local market is that it reduces packaging waste created by supermarkets. By bringing your own bag, you cut down on waste even more, and vendors appreciate it.
Bring small bills. Don’t try to hand a vendor $50 for a $1 tomato. And definitely don’t expect to have the option of paying by credit card.
Get to know the farmers. The best part of shopping at the farmer’s market is meeting the people who grow your food! Don’t hesitate to chat with them about their produce. Feel free to inquire if their farm is certified organic or not, what’s coming in season soon, and their favorite way to prepare new-to-you vegetables. When you build good rapport with the people you’re buying from and give them repeat business, they’ll be more likely to make it a “baker’s dozen” and toss in that extra potato.
What to Skip at the Farmers Market
Fruit with stickers or produce wrapped in cellophane. This either means your market isn’t farm-fresh like you may think, or that this particular vendor is outsourcing those fruits and veggies to give you more options. Stick with what’s homegrown locally for the best deals and freshest food.
Out of season produce. Just like the previous tip, this is a sign the fruits and veggies might not be homegrown, or it may have been previously frozen and thawed.
Baked goods. While they may look delicious, know that you’ll rarely get a bargain buying homemade baked goods at the farmers market.
Clothes and trinkets. You may see vendors selling everything from hats to dresses to pot holders. While these items may be cute, you pay extra for the whimsy of buying them at a market.
Food cart food. While it may seem tempting to pick up a hot meal while you’re out shopping, know that it comes at a higher price. Also, you can’t really turn your nose up at the price of tomatoes when you just spent $7 on a breakfast sandwich.
- Emily Polson