Farmers’ Market 101

Farmers’ Market 101

By Joni Garcia MS, RD, Contributing Blogger

Farmers’ markets are a hot trend in the food world with over a whopping 7800 markets registered with the USDA, so it’s likely that one (or many) are in close proximity to your home or work.  With so many reasons for visiting your local farmers’ market, you’ll never look back.

Why Visit?

    • Local: The fruits and veggies found at farmers’ markets are truly local, meaning they haven’t traveled far distances to get to you.  This helps to benefit the environment since fewer pollutants are getting into the air from transportation. Foods are also picked at their peak ripeness (usually that day) so they have more nutrients and taste better.
    • Organic:  Although an item may not be labeled as organic, it very well may be.  It can be time consuming and costly for farmers to get the organic certification, making it difficult for small shops to go through the process.  Talk to the farmer and learn about their practices for growing food, you might be surprised (in a good way) at what you find out!
    • Helpful Hints: Farmers are pretty interesting people.  They can talk to you about how they grow their food; what foods are best right now; and provide tips for storing, prep, and cooking.  If they have a food you’ve never tried before, ask them about it.  They’ll likely give you a free sample so you can try it before you buy it.
    • Teachable moments: Taking kids to the farmers’ market can be a great learning opportunity.  They can learn about where food comes from and check out fun and different varieties of fruits and veggies (purple peppers were at my farmers’ market this weekend!).   In fact, a recent article noted that kids as young as preschool age are able to comprehend nutrition concepts.  And chances are they’ll be more likely to try a new food if they have the opportunity to pick it out themselves.

More Than Fruits and Veggies
Yes, farmers’ markets do equal fresh fruits and veggies, but they’re also about benefiting the local community and businesses.  But you can also find other foods like artisan breads, local honey, and fresh coffee.  Some markets even have local restaurants or food trucks whipping up tasty fare using the fresh foods being sold at the market that day.  So while you’re stocking up on your groceries, you can sample the local flavor from your neighborhood chef.

Other Helpful Tips

      • Arrive early: Many markets open early in the morning.  Beat the heat and the crowds by arriving early and load up on the best goodies available.
      • Remember cash: Many markets don’t accept credit cards, so be sure to hit up the ATM before visiting.
      • BYOB: Bring your own bag, that is.  Grocery bags aren’t always provided by the farmer, so it helps to bring your own re-usable bag (or cart) so you can easily tote your tasty finds back home.

Want more tips on navigating your local farmers’ market? Check out Toby’s recent post.

Tell Me:  What do you love about your local farmers’ market?

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