This post is the first in what I hope will be a series of tutorials on shopping at the farmer’s market. Maybe you want to buy a bit more from the market or maybe you want to completely makeover your shopping experience. Regardless, a little information never hurt, right?
Making the shift from grocery store shopping to farmer’s market shopping can be a bit scary and uncertain. Will I be able to find what I need? What price is a fair price? What if I can’t find a particular vegetable? Do I have to pay in cash? What if I come up with a menu and can’t find my ingredients?
And most importantly, where can I find farmer’s markets closest to me?
In the past five years, farmer’s markets and farm-to-table restaurants have increased at an amazing rate. But if you don’t know where they are, their existence really doesn’t help you, does it? Finding the quality resources close to you is the first step in shifting your shopping habits toward eating locally.
Here are three easy steps to find out where your local markets are and decide which markets you want to visit.
1. Visit your Dept. of Agriculture and Cooperative Extension websites.
Typically, state departments of agriculture and county cooperative extension agencies are keenly interested in promoting farmer’s markets and local food products. Start by visiting your state’s website. You should be able to find the following information:
- A seasonal listing of crops grown in your state;
- A harvest schedule for such crops;
- Lists of pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farms;
- Lists of farmer’s markets;
- Names of fruits and vegetables you can grow in your area;
- Recipes using local produce.
2. Find a market near you.
Visit the Local Harvest website HERE. Local Harvest is a wonderful organization, and their interactive farmer’s market map can help you find resources in your area. They also have a terrific electronic newsletter and a blog you can follow!
3. Visit your markets online.
Before you pack your car full of recyclable shopping bags and head out to shop, check out your farmer’s markets online. It is disappointing to find a craft fair with two vegetable stands when you really want to do all your grocery shopping. You should find at least the following information on the websites:
- Description of the market (mission statement) and upcoming special events
- Hours of operation
- List of vendors
- Types of payment allowed (cash only, cash or debit, token system, SNAP)
- General policies (parking, whether dogs are allowed)
Many farmer’s markets now have Facebook pages, email newsletters and Twitter feeds. If so, sign up! You will likely receive advance information about what is for sale at the market and any special events in the future.
Next post–Questions to ask farmers!