Shopping The Farmer's Market

Friday, August 5, 2011

Here we are at the weekend again. I'll be headed to Farmer's Market -- on my list tomatoes, cucumbers, new potatoes and cantaloupes. Of course, I'll scope out what else looks good. Passing along this list which applies to both Farmer's Market AND the country cousin of the FM -- The Farm Stand. Both are wonderful places to shop for local, seasonal goodies!

1. Plan to spend some time -- slow time -- at the market. Start by walking around to see what's there before you start to shop, especially if you're new to the market. It's fine to buy randomly, choosing what looks good and appeals to you, but if you take a few minutes to stroll around, you may also find some menus and recipe ideas forming in your head.

2. If you do not recognize what it is you're looking at, or you need a tip on how to use it, ask the growers. They don't always know, but often they do, or they have recipes available. And if you ask in a loud enough voice, invariably a nearby customer or two will chime in with a few ideas. And don't forget to consult your cookbook collection.

3. Bring cash. Some farmers will accept a check, especially after they've seen you shopping at the market for a while, but many don't. If possible, try to show up with small bills.

4. If it is important to you that your food be organic, ask if it is or how it's been raised. It may be unsprayed (pesticide free) or on its way to becoming organic (transitional) or organic. Those who have been certified will most likely have their certificate on display. However, not all organic farmers choose to become certified, a process that can be prohibitively expensive and enormously time consuming. They may prefer to rest their claims as to how they farm on trust and the openness they enjoy with their customers.

5. If someone offers you a taste of something, take it! It doesn't commit you to buy. Farmers want you to taste their food. you might discover something new that you like, or you might find that what a farmer sells is not the same as what you find in the store. A taste could change your mind about a fruit or vegetable.

6. Take a feast-now approach when shopping. Unlike at the supermarket, the appearance of a particular fruit of vegetable os often short, and when something is gone, it's gone. When you find something you really like, ask how long it will be available. A favorite might only be around for a short while, so buy accordingly and enjoy.

7. If you think it will be a while before you get home from the market, bring a cooler. It will help you keep your food fresh while your stay on to visit or do other errands.

8. Bring your own bags -- I use a few canvas and oil cloth bags for toting my weekly haul.

9. Take your kids along and let them buy a few things from a farmer, too.

10. If you have a chance to take a farm tour, do! It always deepens our appreciation for and understanding of where our food really comes from to walk down the same rows the farmer does, it is also a great way to get to know your local farmers.