Farmers’ Market Shopping Tips
Sep 07, 2012 09:43AM
While many people are already experienced farmers’ market shoppers, some find the whole idea a little intimidating. Here are some “best practices” for how to get the most out of a trip to DFW farmers’ markets and enjoy the natural goodness of local produce.
Before going to the market, look ahead at what's coming up for supper. Take a list of needed ingredients, but keep an eye out for anything that looks particularly good, whether or not it's on the list. It is easy enough to change the menu if something unexpected and great shows up at the market. If it needs to be cooked, make sure to make a plan for when to serve it, so it won't get forgotten in the fridge.
Other things to bring include a handful of the plastic bags lying around the kitchen and a shopping bag. Bring a cooler so that heat-sensitive veggies do not wilt on the ride home.
Talk to the farmers.
The experience of shopping at a farmers’ market is enriched when you begin talking with the people that make the food. Some good topics are: what to look for when choosing a particular kind of vegetable; the farmer's favorite ways of preparing a particular vegetable; when the (fill in the blank) might be ready for harvest; and the impact of the recent weather on the crops. Don’t be shy, but don't monopolize the farmer’s time, either.
Other aspects of etiquette include remembering that this produce (or meat, flowers, honey, etc.) represents the fruit of many hours of labor, most likely performed by the person standing before you. The utmost respect for their handiwork is required, even if the quality is not pristine. You don't have to buy it, but don't make faces or negative comments.
If you are looking for organic produce but don't see a sign saying that something is certified organic, ask whether it is conventionally raised or what they use for fertility and pest control. It can be a sensitive topic, so tread lightly.
Usually, the price is the price, but in some places haggling is acceptable. If you want to try it, ask first. "Are you open to talking about the price on those?"
For a large quantity of an item, arrange ahead of time for the farmer to bring you a lug of say, apples that have imperfections you may not mind cutting away if you are making sauce.
Pick a strategy.
Some people like to walk through the whole market looking at everything before deciding what to buy. Others hunt and gather their way through the market, buying as they go. Some like to buy most of their produce from one vendor, while others like to buy a little here and a little there. At a new market, it may prove most comfortable to plan ahead.
Become a familiar face.
Being a "regular" at a farmers’ market is fun. You'll feel like you belong there and get to know the farmers and other regulars a little bit, and you'll be known as a loyal customer—all nice things.
Talk it up.
It's your community farmers’ market. The more you and your neighbors go—and spend money—the stronger and more diverse the market will become. If your town gets a reputation as a place that supports local food, more new farmers will want to try farming there.
Tips courtesy of LocalHarvest.com.