10 Things Every Farmers’ Market Vendor Wishes You Knew
Shopping at a farmers' market can be overwhelming. Where to start? What do you need? How much cash should you bring? Here are the inside secrets from farmers' market vendors.
Farmers’ Markets Secrets—Revealed!
It’s Saturday morning and you’re feeling hungry. Why not head to the farmers’ market? It’s a great way to stimulate the local economy and purchase fresh groceries in a sustainable format. (Not sure when to go? No worries! Here are 13 ways to get the most out of farmers’ markets year-round.) To navigate your local market successfully, we chatted with two farmers’ market experts who shared their best secrets.
Take a Lap
Like Cher Horowitz said in the cult classic Clueless, “Let’s take a lap before we commit to a location.” And while she said this in reference to a high school party circa 1995, the same goes for a farmers’ market today. “Walk the whole market and see what is there first and then double back to make your purchases,” says April Yuds of LotFotL (aka Living off the Fat of the Land), a community farm based in southern Wisconsin. You may find a booth hiding in the back that you would have missed otherwise.
While there has been an uptick in farmers utilizing smartphone apps to process credit card payments, these apps generally have fees that can put a dent into the farmers’ income. “Bringing cash to the market can make for a smooth shopping experience!” says Marissa Lundin, who spent three summers working at Centgraf Farms in Wisconsin and a season with the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.
Just because this is a market doesn’t mean it’s the right place to negotiate. This is how farmers make a living, and it should be respected. Want to get creative about saving money and shopping locally? Talk to the farmers about trading work for food through working at the market or on the fields. “If you want local food grown sustainably (as in, farmers and staff make a living wage, diverse crops, holistic pest and weed management, organic certification, etc.), then it is going to cost a little more,” Yuds says.
Looking to save some dough? Check out these tricks to keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer.
Bring a Bag
Many vendors will have plastic bags to spare—but they’ll certainly appreciate it if you provide your own. Not only is it good for the environment, but it’s also easier for farmer’s, too, as they won’t have to wrangle up spare packaging.
Talk to the Farmers
Especially if you are going every week and shopping with the same farmers, engage with them like you would any other place you frequent. “The best part about interacting with the community through farmers’ markets is making connections with customers who really appreciate what you do,” Lundin explains. “Vendors always enjoy questions and connecting the customer to the product, so don’t be afraid to engage your farmer and learn about where your food is coming from!”
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Make a List, But Don’t Stick to It
Start your morning by planning out a list of recipes that you can make throughout the week with the fresh produce, meats and eggs you’ll pick up. Use this as a rough guideline for what you’ll actually buy at the market. Since many markets’ offerings fluctuate weekly, you should expect to be flexible with what you purchase. For instance, kale can be swapped in for spinach, or spaghetti squash for pasta.
Know What’s in Season
Think about the bright, juicy flavour of a summer tomato compared to one that you get during winter. You know you’re getting the best possible flavour from your ingredients when they’ve hit their peak. Ask a produce vendor what’s in season, or check out our guides to spring superfoods and autumn superfoods.
Buy More Than Just Produce
While there is an abundance of produce at the market, you can also get fresh cuts of meats, eggs, juices, flowers and so much more! “Think about how you can do more of your grocery shopping at farm markets,” says Yuds. Just make sure to bring extra bags…and maybe a buddy to help carry it all!
Ask About Our Values
The best thing about farmers’ markets is that you’re able to put a face to the product. “Think about what is important to you when it comes to your food and ask questions to find out if the vendor is selling something that meets those values”—whether that’s local, organically certified, small family farms, animals raised on pasture and more, Yuds says. Most vendors will be thrilled to share!
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Try Hyper-Local Varieties
Farmers’ markets are the perfect place to pick up new ingredients that you wouldn’t find at the store. Local mushroom varieties, colourful heirloom tomatoes and raw honey are among some of our favourites to seek out when we hit the market. You’ll be amazed at the difference in flavour that comes from buying produce from your own neighbourhood compared to what you’d find at the store.
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