9 tips for shopping a farmers’ market

fresh produce from a farmers market

My 10 year vision for myself has me waking up bright an early each morning, hitting a local farmers’ market with a mini-me in tow and getting inspired in the moment to cook up a delicious, seasonal and healthful meal for my family that day. Romantic, right? I love the idea of buying bread from the baker, meat from the butcher and produce from a farmer. For now, my shopping habits are less whimsical and more grocery store but every time I get to a market I feel a pang in my heart that connects me to my future self. Here are few tips for shopping ‘market fresh’.

9 tips for shopping a farmers market

1. the early bird gets the worm freshest produce
Get there early for the cream of the crop. You’ll beat the crowds and earn a little extra face-time with the farmers. It’s a passion and a science to cultivate beautiful produce so don’t underestimate their knowledge when it comes to how to pick and prepare whatever is in season.

2. bring small bills
Often times farmers’ markets will be cash only – do your local vendor a favour and bring the smallest bills you’ve got – you’ll save them from running out of small change and land yourself on their good side (which is a great place to be)!

3. do a once around first
Scope out the scene before you start filling up your basket with goodies – it’s the only way to discover who’s offering the best stuff for the best prices!

4. byo-bag
Everybody wins when you use a reusable shopper. From minimizing waste for the environment to saving the vendor a few cents a bag, it’s an easy way to earn some good karma (and a more reliable way to carry a melon home). Plus, we happen to know a little place that has some great reusable shoppers!

5. know what’s in season
If you know what’s in season you’re more likely to come home with the best tasting stuff. Simple. Check out the app ‘Seasons’ for an easy guide to what’s fresh when, in your region! Bonus: it even lets you know of markets happening close to you!

6. just because it’s a farmers market doesn’t mean it’s local
Take the time to read up on what kind of market you’re headed to. Read the ‘rules’ of the market for insight on what kind of produce you might be looking at. It’s not uncommon for markets to allow vendors to offer commercially-purchased and imported goods. Talk to the people behind the counters for the full story on where you’re food is really coming from – they’ll know it best.

7. organic or not organic?
Here’s another sneaky one – just because something isn’t labeled “organic” doesn’t mean it isn’t produced following organic principles. Certifications can be very expensive and can discourage small local farms from receiving the official documentation. Ask the farmers about their philosophies and make the call accordingly!

8. have a method to your madness
It’s not a bad idea to spend a little time strategically thinking about the order in which you buy stuff. Purchasing heavier items first is great because you’ll want them at the bottom of the bags but you’ll end up having to lug them around. Buying lighter items first is easier on the biceps but will require a rearrange half way through your shop. It’s a personal preference thing but worth considering!

9. take your time
Farmers’ markets are best shopped when you are not on a schedule. Try to avoid “fitting in” a trip on an already busy day - if you’re anything like me you’ll get flustered and stressed. Take the time to soak in the experience and do it right. You’ll leave relaxed and inspired to get creative in the kitchen.
carrot and tomato

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Another tip: ask the vendors and your fellow shoppers about how to prepare and serve things. You never know, you might learn a new favourite recipe or even make a new friend!

Comment by Henry — August 30, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

Here are some additional farmers’ market shopping tips!


Comment by Joules — August 30, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

That’s good article, I can learn some tips for me to right choose best season food method.

Comment by Katy — August 30, 2012 @ 6:22 pm

Great article. I recently discovered the joy that is the St. Lawrence market and it’s just amazing all the things you can find. :)

Comment by Aleksandra S — August 30, 2012 @ 8:42 pm

We have an awesome new farmers market close by that keeps growing and growing. I’ve never really shopped at a market on a regular basis, but want to. Great tips!! http://extendyoga.com/

Comment by Arlet — August 31, 2012 @ 8:16 am

Beautiful vision! Reminds me of Europe and how they enjoy and take time to appreciate food and family.
Neat app! Might have to download that one. This inspired me to head out and find our local farmers market this long weekend. I’ll be sure to remember these tips.
-Michelle {LiveLoudly}

Comment by Michelle {LiveLoudly} — August 31, 2012 @ 10:22 am

Also – ask them best ways to store or preserve. there are some great foods I’ve discovered at the markets that have a very short season and they were able to suggest ways to freeze properly. Should I put tomatoes in the fridge, what about peaches? They can give you proper storing techniques so that the food can last longer – and you can avoid that – disintegrated watery kale in the plastic bag in the bottom of the crisper! :)

Comment by lakshmi — September 2, 2012 @ 9:54 am

I travel a lot and I always prefer to buy fresh meat and vegetables on farmers markets. I must admit that most of these advices are good for just any market. Especially important is the first one. You really have to get there early!

Comment by Dean — September 5, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

Taking my time in farmer market can be effective when you know how to bargain. It is better to know the market price to get the best deal possible. Visit this site for health solution: http://www.medsempire.org

Comment by brenda willey — September 14, 2012 @ 7:51 am

I am currently living in Boston, and I have the same 10-year daydream of visiting a local farmer’s market in the mornings along with the local butcher and baker. However, that isn’t how the real world works for me just yet. BUT I do make it to local farmer’s markets on the weekends. I love being able to purchase from local farmers, especially those with fresh honey and maple syrup. Something about those fresh products tastes completely different than those with preservatives and other commercially-produced additives! I love your tip to bring small bills. This is something I always forget to do! I usually remember my reusable bags, but small bills slip my mind. Thanks for the tips!

Comment by Robyn — September 18, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

Many of the vendors also have farm or roadside markets you can visit when it’s not market day. A great way to spread the purchases out, especially when food has to be processed for storage.

Comment by Jim — September 19, 2012 @ 8:02 am

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lots of helpful facts, thanks for providing such data.

Comment by clickbank affiliate program — October 7, 2012 @ 6:23 am

I have a tip for the farmers. I feel they should invest in a credit card machine that takes credit cards, debit cards, & bridge cards and they would do even more business. They would actually do more seeing how hardly any of the other farmers have a machine. I can’t tell you just how many times I have wanted to use my cc & no one takes them. It would be well worth the investment. You have to spend a little to earn more than your fellow farmers!!!

Comment by Cerise — February 9, 2013 @ 10:20 pm

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