Fresh produce is healthier and tastes better. The nutritional value of plant-based foods begins to diminish as soon as it’s picked. Food you buy at the farmers market has been picked within 24 hours (often that same morning!), compared to days or weeks before for food that has been trucked in from afar. It’s also more beautiful and flavorful too!
You’ll save money. Studies done by researchers in Vermont and Washington have found that food purchased at farmers markets is consistently less expensive than in supermarkets.
Farmers markets teach children to appreciate fruit and vegetables. Many farmers markets (and especially large ones, held on weekends) have a festival atmosphere, with live entertainment, free samples and fun activities. Shopping a farmers market is a fun family activity that’s focused on health. Children can learn about gardening, nutrition and participate in meal planning. Plus, allowing your children to choose one new thing to try each week is a great way to encourage adventurous eating.
Here are some tips on how to get the most from your farmers market shopping experience:
- Pack right! Bring cash, including small bills and some loose change. Bring your own bags for individual purchases and something bigger (a backpack? A basket?) to tote it all home. Consider a cooler (have you seen the ones with wheels?) or an insulated bag, especially if you plan to buy meat, cheeses or other items that require refrigeration.
- Timing matters. Arrive early for best selection – go late (or in bad weather) for good prices. Also, if you want to save money, buy in bulk.
- Travel the market before you buy. Experienced farmers market shoppers like to take a lap around the whole market so they know what’s available from whom and at what price. It’s a good way to get the best stuff at the most optimal prices.
- Chat up the growers. Growers give great advice on how to make good choices, store it so it will last and predict when fruit will ripen. Plus, they can be a good source for recipes and preparation tips.
- Don’t assume it’s all organic – but don’t assume that’s a bad thing either. Organic is great because who wants to eat pesticides? But small-scale farmers may not have the funds or people-power necessary to navigate the bureaucracy of organic certification. Feel free to ask questions about their approach – what chemicals they do and don’t use and why.
- If you want to try before you buy – offer to pay for it. These farmers work hard for their money! If they’ve put out free samples, go ahead and enjoy. But if you want to taste a tomato to see if it meets your expectations, buy one.
- Take care of your produce when you get home. Buy root vegetables (carrots, beets, kohlrabi, etc.) with the greens attached. When you get home, chop them off – otherwise they’ll draw moisture from the vegetable, causing it to wilt. (Wash and dry the greens and then sautee’ with olive oil and garlic – tasty!)
- Freeze what you don’t use. Lay beans, peas, strawberries, blueberries, etc., on a baking sheet to freeze individually, then pack into airtight freezer bags once they’ve iced up. You’ll love it all winter!