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Navigating Your Local Farmers Market: 10 Things to Know Before You Go

tips for navigating your local farmers marketShopping at a farmers market is the best way to eat locally. You know where your food comes from, and if you have questions, you can ask the grower directly!

Whether you are a seasoned vet or newbie, read our top 10 tips for navigating your neighborhood farmers market this season.

#1 Shop Early or Late
Farmers markets are usually less crowded right when they open, so if you want first dibs on certain food items, go first thing in the morning. If you are looking for a deal, try shopping towards the end of the day. Most vendors may be more inclined to give a small discount so they don’t have to repack any leftovers.

#2 Take a Lap
If you have the time, take an initial lap around the entire market before you buy. The worst thing to do is purchase the first item on your list later to realize you could have gotten two for the price of one at a different stall, so if you have the time, peruse!

#3 Bring Bags
Most farmers offer plastic bags, but when you are hauling home a half dozen summertime peaches and heavy home grown tomatoes, you may be wishing you had sturdier grocery bags. Grab those reusables before heading out - you will be thanking yourself later.

#4 Cash Over Cards
Although most vendors accept credit cards these days, it’s always best to have cash on hand, just in case credit cards are not accepted.

#5 Make a List
Whether you are trying a brand new recipe or stocking up on snacks for the office, make a farmers market shopping list before your trip. It will make your visit easier and a lot less stressful.

#6 Try Something New
Although a grocery list is good, don’t be afraid to go rogue and try something new. That crazy looking vegetable could turn out to be your new favorite. You will never know unless you try!

#7 Leave Space
If you decide to venture off your usual list with something new, make sure you leave enough space to haul it home. Whether you bring an extra canvas tote bag or two, be prepared for the unexpected.

#8 When In Doubt - Ask
If that crazy looking vegetable looks too crazy for you, don’t be afraid to ask the farmers, they are the experts! They usually have the best preparation tips and recipe recommendations, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.

#9 Shop for the Seasons
Learn what produce grows in your region so you know what food is in season. If you are unsure, refer to tip #8. Also, inquire what’s to come in future weeks so you can plan your upcoming trips accordingly.

#10 Come Hungry
Some farmers markets not only offer fresh produce, they have hot food stands as well. Grab a friend, go for a stroll, and share a lunch together outside in the summer sunshine while you pick up your weekly farmers market haul.

Looking for a local farmers market? Check out the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory and if you are in Chicago, here is a list of the city’s farmers markets.

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