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Tips for shopping at the farmers market

Posted Jun 03 2009 9:32am

temescalmarketbig With summer approaching, I know that many of us will start (or continue) frequenting our local farmers markets to buy fresh, in-season produce and unique items that you can’t find anywhere else.

There are several farmers markets in my area, but once summer begins, I plan on making a weekly trip to one that I’ve never been to, which is actually really close to my house.  It’s every Friday from 10am-2pm (which is the reason I normally can’t make it there), and it’s close enough that I can ride my bike there really easily.  The cool thing is that I’ll be able to use the basket on my bike (which is detachable) to carry all of the goodies I find.  I really can’t wait to start frequenting this farmers market, because it’s one of the larger ones in my city.

I recently read an article that was originally written for the Chicago Tribune, which gave some great tips about shopping at farmers markets that I thought I’d share with you.

11 tips for shopping at a farmers market

By Monica Eng

Chicago Tribune

Posted: 05/21/2009 11:56:23 AM PDT

Outdoor farmers markets have returned at a time when interest in sustainable produce has never been stronger.

But whether you are a market newbie or a market veteran, we’ve got some tips that will help you get the most from your farmers market visit.

1. Tear out/print out a schedule of your local farmers markets and keep one copy on your fridge and one in your work bag so you can keep track of which days markets happen near your job, home or commute path.

2. Know your priorities — minimal pesticides, organic, in-state farmers — before you go so you can find the right market for you and ask the farmers the right questions. “I don’t limit myself to certified organic farmers,” said Jeremy Lycan, a veteran of Bay Area and Midwest farmers markets and chef at Niche restaurant in Geneva, Ill. “I go with sustainable farmers whom I trust and who often practice organic methods but don’t have the resources to get certified.”

3. Make a menu plan before you go based on how many nights you are going to be home to cook. “This way you know how much you need to shop and you don’t end up wasting things,” says Shelley Young, who teaches farmers market cooking classes in Chicago.

4. Bring a cloth bag that has plenty of room and can hang over your shoulder. For frozen meat or delicate greens, consider an insulated bag.

5. Be an early bird. Get to the market early if you want the best pick of the market.  “They will often run out of things later in the day,” said Rebecca Reis Miller, leader of Slow Food Orlando.

6. It ain’t cheap. “This is not a place to go for bargains necessarily,” Young said. “But I think it’s worth it for the quality and the freshness.”

7. Scope the place out. If you have time, walk the market once through before you purchase so you can get an overview of the offerings. “I usually get a snack as soon as I arrive and then walk the whole market because I don’t want to shop on an empty stomach, and I want to know exactly what’s available that week,” Lycan said.

8. Talk to the farmers. Don’t be afraid to ask the farmers or even chefs you see at the market for recipes and tips on preparation. “I get asked that all the time,” said Lycan, who tours the market in his chef jacket. “And I am happy to talk to people about what they can do with the produce.”

9. Bring cash, “especially ones and $5 bills,” Lycan said. “The farmers really appreciate that.” Although a few vendors can take credit cards, you will be limiting your options.

10. A pricey secret. Some farmers charge different prices at different farmers markets. It’s true. See if your favorite farmer at an upscale market also sells in a less fancy part of town. Chances are the prices drop there.

11. Buy local. Some markets sell non-local produce. If this is a concern, ask. “Some areas have laws about this but others don’t, so just ask if it’s grown locally,” Reis-Miller said.

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One of the things I love buying at the farmers market, besides the fresh produce, are beautiful bunches of flowers.  Remember when I used to post Fresh Flower Fridays on my life blog every Friday?  Whatever happened to that?  I’m actually not sure why I stopped posting them, except that things started getting busy once school was back in, and the last thing I wanted to do on Friday afternoon after a long week of work was to stop by the store to buy flowers.  So my “be good to myself”  tradition stopped.  I’ve decided that beginning June 12 (my last day of school!), I’m going to revive that weekly post, only I’m going to post it here, and I’m going to call it Friday Farmers Market Finds.  Look for it next week!

What are your favorite tips when shopping at the farmers market?  What are your favorite items to buy?

Posted in feeling good, health Tagged: Farmer's Market, food, fresh produce, tips for shopping at farmers markets
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