Thursday, April 30, 2009

Are you ready for a trip to the farmers market?

If you've been reading this blog, you know I'm excited that some of the local farmers markets will be opening this weekend, and you'll be able to find me at the Collingswood Farmers Market bright and early this Saturday morning. The picture at the left of the bag is one that will be given away this Saturday at the Collingswood market. It's one of a kind, made from last year's market banner. I want it. You can enter to win at the market info tent and the winner will be drawn at noon.

I wrote a piece just around this time last year that I thought was worth reprinting (with a few changes) here about planning a trip to the farmers market.

Finding a Farmers Market

If you don't know where your closest market is, there are some websites that will help you locate one.
Arming Yourself

There are some things that you will need to take with you to make your trip successful.
  • Cash - Most of the vendors at farmers markets work on a cash only basis.
  • Reusable bags - Sure the vendors will have plastic bags for you to carry your food, but taking your own bags helps the environment and saves the vendors a little money.
  • Smaller bags for small produce - Many times if you're buying berries, green beans, mushrooms or some other small produce item, they will be in containers that the farms keep so they dump the items into a smaller plastic bag for you. If you take your own small plastic bags that you've saved from bread or some other sources, you can save new bags from being used.
  • Your own coffee mug - Farmers markets usually don't just have produce, meats and flowers. Many of the larger ones have local coffee houses, bakeries, and crafters set up tables, too. When I get to the market at 8am on Saturday morning, I head right for the coffee table first.
Arriving Early

Things can sell out quickly at farmers markets, so if you're looking for something specific, get there early. I've seen fresh flowers gone after the first half hour of the market. The first week that corn is in season creates a frenzy that you have to see to believe.

However, arriving right before closing time may have its advantages, too. Some vendors may cut their prices so they don't have to haul everything home. This doesn't always happen, but if you can't get to the market until later in the day, you may get some bargains.

Making the Rounds

Do a quick once around before you begin purchasing. One vendor may have zucchini at 2/$1 another may have them at 3/$1. Or you may spend all your money before arriving at a vendor who has something that no one else had. Doing a quick survey of what is offered and the prices the different vendors have before you begin to purchase is a wise idea.

Asking Questions

If you're interested in buying only what is in season, buying only organic, or buying only locally, you'll have to question the vendors about their products. Just because something is at the farmers market does not mean its in season, organic or local. I know that the bananas, lemons, limes and grapes sold at my farmer's markets are definitely not local and never will be.

Don't be afraid to ask questions about the items being sold. If a vendor doesn't want to answer your questions, move on to the next one.

Some questions to ask:
  • Where was this grown?
  • How was it grown?
  • When was this picked?
  • How far did this item travel from where it was grown to this market?
  • What conditions did the hens live in who grew these eggs?
Many vendors are also more than happy to give you advice as long as they don't have a long line of customers to attend to. This past Saturday, I had a couple who run an organic farm happily answer my questions I had for my personal garden. People who are passionate about what they do are usually passionate about talking about it.

Taking the Kids

It's a great idea to take your kids. My kids will often eat vegetables or fruits they helped pick out at the farmers market that they would never eat if I just brought it home from the grocery store. Give them a dollar or two and tell them that they can spend it on whatever type of produce they want as long as they promise to eat it in the next couple of days.

Sorry about the font of this piece not matching the rest of the blog - for some reason it's all funky and I can't seem to fix it.

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Blogger John and Lisa Howard-Fusco said...

Great information. Asking the vendors questions is a great way to educate yourself. One of the things we found out by asking questions is that a number of smaller farms are organic but are not 'certified organic' because of the added expense of the certification process, which they are not able to afford. - John

April 30, 2009 at 7:20 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Which farm is organic at the Collingswood market? Or was it another farmers' market? We've just moved back into the area and would like to find some more organic farms. Thanks!

May 12, 2009 at 3:52 AM  
Blogger Robin Shreeves said...

DannLynn Farms is certified organic.

May 12, 2009 at 8:44 AM  

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