I have a problem at farmers’ markets.
You see, I absolutely adore farmers’ markets. The problem is that I tend to get carried away when I visit them. I’m always so excited to see all the fresh fruits and vegetables that I end up buying much more than I really need. My eyes are bigger than my refrigerator.
After a visit to the farmers’ market the other day, we had fresh tomatoes, green beans, tiny new potatoes, and corn on the cob for dinner. I served all that with oven-baked walleye from the freezer. Even the fish had been caught locally — we got it last summer on a trip to Lake Erie.
You can’t get much more of a local meal than that.
Since I go to farmers’ markets so often and have been going for so many years, I’ve learned quite a few “dos and don’ts.” Now I’d like to share them with you…
Farmers’ Market Dos:
- Do eat fruits and vegetables.
- Do enjoy the fresh, local availability of a wide range of foods.
- Do try something new and different.
- Do make a quick trip around the market before you make any purchases.
- This allows you to see what’s fresh.
- It also helps you get a sense of how much each kind of food will cost.
- Once you’ve made your lap, go back to the stalls that offer the items you want at the best prices.
- Do bring cash. Growers don’t always accept credit cards.
- Keep your money easily accessible.
- This will make your transactions easier and faster.
- Do wear a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and comfortable shoes.
- Do bring water to drink.
- Do bring a reusable or recycled bag to help carry your purchases.
- Do put a cooler with ice in your car.
- This will help the items you buy stay fresh until you get home.
- Do go early in the day.
- If you’re there at the start of the market, then you’ll get the best selection and quality.
- Yes, you might get a good deal on any items left near closing time, but you also might miss out on what was available.
- Do get to know the vendors.
- Many are your neighbors.
- Become a regular.
- Spend some time talking with the growers. They can let you know what’s in season and what to expect in upcoming weeks.
- Do ask about bulk purchases.
- If you’re planning on purchasing a few items to preserve (freeze, can, or pickle) then you might get a deal if you buy large quantities.
- Again, this is the time to talk with the grower and arrange for these large orders ahead of time.
- Do keep food safety in mind.
- While you may be tempted to taste a bite of fresh melon or tomato, look around and make sure that the person offering it has used good practices.
- Good practices include washing the produce, wearing clean gloves, offering toothpicks, using a clean knife, and keeping the food items cold if necessary.
- Don’t take risks.
- Do be considerate of the farmer and the next customer.
- Do keep control of your kids and dogs.
- Do come back next week.
Farmers’ Market Don’ts:
- Don’t sample anything if the food isn’t offered to you or labeled as a sample.
- Don’t expect the farmers to deal with you on price.
- Don’t pinch, squeeze, drop, peel (like corn), or stick your fingernails in foods and then leave said foods for someone else.
- Respect the food and your fellow customers.
- By messing with the food, you may be making it unsellable.
- Don’t block a vendor if you’re not buying.
- If you’re visiting with a friend, move away from a display so others can get by and shop.
- Don’t get carried away (like I do).
- A deal isn’t a deal if the food goes to waste.
- Be sure to only purchase what you’re able to eat while the food still has good quality.
- Don’t forget, you can always go back next week.
Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University
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