There are certain things your local grocer does best, and others where Farmers’ Markets simply can’t be beat.  Figuring out what those are will help you make the most of your local farmers’ market.

Photo by Amy Thompson

Compare Prices

Price is not the main reason I shop at farmers’ markets; I’m there for quality and taste.  However, if you have a limited amount to spend, it helps to know how to get the most bang for your buck. Next time you’re at the grocery store, take note of the prices of things that are also available at the farmers’ market.  You will likely be able to get fresh greens, veggies, and fruits at a higher quality and lower price than at the grocery store.  Choose those that are cheaper directly from the farmer in order to get higher quality food for a lower price.

Decide on Your Must-Haves

Perhaps there are certain things where other variables besides price play a major role in decision making.  We prefer buying grass-fed meat and dairy.  The farmers’ market will never beat the prices of industrial meat and dairy from the grocery store, but in this area we’re willing to pay more for a quality product.  Being able to meet the farmer face to face that raised the animals is also valuable to me; it means more than a simple label that says “grass-fed.”

Photo by Amy Thompson

Get There Early

Farmers are up in the pale light of the morning, picking the ripest produce and loading their trucks.  You will have your choice of the freshest, most perfectly ripe offerings if you’re there bright and early.  This is one way to ensure you get the very best of the best.

Get There Late

If you’re looking for a deal, considering strolling through the booths just before the market closes.  Farmers likely can’t sell what is left over and will be happy to give it to you at a bargain.  Granted, it will be the picked over stuff, but you’re likely to score some great deals of some still very yummy food.

Photo by Amy Thompson

Make Connections

Get to know the farmers, the cheesemakers, the soap artisans and sheep wranglers.  Many offer CSA options, food for work trades, buying in bulk discounts or cheaper prices if you pick up food at their farms.  It’s also good to know who produces your favorite foods such that you can still buy it (soaps, meats, dairy, greenhouse vegetables etc.) when the market closes in the fall.  Knowing where your food comes from and the people that produce it is healthy for you and your community.

Photo by Amy Thompson

Enjoy Yourself!

The farmers’ market is as much about enlivening your senses and enjoying a stroll as it is about acquiring food.  Take your time, wander, stop to chat, taste the samples, smell the fruit and flowers.  Allow your time at the market to be more than running another errand, rather, give yourself permission to enjoy a mini-culinary vacation and soak it all in.

What’s your favorite part about shopping at the farmers’ market?