Have you ever passed your local farmers’ market, unsure what to buy or how to go about buying the best produce? Would you like to try to eat “locally?”
Greenmarkets started in the United States about the same time the first settlers came over from Europe. Many towns bear the name Market Street as historical testimony to this fact.
Today, there are more than 7,000 greenmarkets in the U.S, and according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of U.S. farmers' markets grew by 1,000+ this year.
If you are lucky enough to have a farmers’ market that operates on more than one day, visit on the different days to see when farmers that interest you show up. (To find a market near you, visit www.localharvest.org.)
Here are some tips on how to navigate your farmers’ market and get the most out of your visit:
#1: ASK QUESTIONS
The farmers’ market offers you the opportunity to learn about growing methods—what organic or sustainable practices do farmers use? How do they manage pests? Educate yourself in the terms organic, biodynamic, naturally raised, hormone-free, and GMO so you can ask the right questions. For instance, some farmers can’t afford the costly organic government certification process but their produce may still be grown without pesticides. Be sure to ask.
#2 GO EARLY—OR LATE
The earlier you head out to the market, the more choices you will have. “If you get there early, you can get something rare,” says Liz Neumark, founder of Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, N.Y. Farmers arrive at the market with a limited supply of goods. However, some may take special orders which can be picked up the following week.
If you don’t have a specific shopping list, it’s a good idea to visit the market at the end of the day when bargains can be had. Growers don’t want to have to bring produce back to their farm so they may mark items down or be willing to negotiate. But remember most farmers make very little if they are sustainable. Their profit margin is often slender. Know that your money is going to a good cause—keeping a small farmer in business.
#3 SHOP YEAR-ROUND
Think farmers’ markets are only seasonal? Think again. Farmers use greenhouses to raise winter greens and many have refrigerated warehouses to store hearty produce such as apples, potatoes and turnips.