Did you know that 90% of the American population lived on farms in the 1800s? A lot has changed since then, as big, industrial agriculture has dominated the market and the nature of the economy and society has changed.
When we support our local farmers, we are essentially voting with our dollars. We are choosing to support small farms and keep money in our local economy rather than buying the products of non-sustainable farming.
Shopping at your local farmer’s markets is one of the best ways to do this. However, the process can feel a little different than heading to the grocery store.
Are you looking for tips for getting the most out of your farmer’s market experience? If so, stick with us!
Know What’s in Season
When you go to a grocery store, you can usually find a standard collection of vegetables and fruits. However, farmer’s markets are usually only going to have things that are in season in your local area.
That means if you live in Maine, you’re probably not ever going to find pineapple at your farmer’s market. By learning your agricultural hardiness zone what is in season in your area at different times of year, you can know what you can probably get at the market and what you’ll have to head to the grocery store for.
Plan a Menu For the Week
It’s a good idea to create a plan before heading to the farmer’s market. This way, you can know exactly which fruits and vegetables you want to get along with how much of each. Without a plan, there’s a good chance you’ll end up buying too many of the wrong things, wasting money and food.
However, it can be fun to leave some wiggle room when it comes to your local harvest farmer’s market. You might find you enjoy leaving a little room in your budget for some impulsive purchases.
Do a Walk-Through First
When you get to your local farmers market, don’t just start buying right away. First, do a loop to see what is available. You can also compare prices during this time.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
One of the great things about farmers’ markets is that the farmers are right there for you to talk to. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their farm, their growing practices, and what crops they’ll have in the future. They are typically more than willing to help.
Also, you might find that some of your local farmers use organic practices but haven’t paid to become “certified organic.” By asking them about their practices, you might be able to save money on food that is organic in all ways except in name.
Go Early… Or Late
If you want to get the best selection and enjoy the smallest crowds, be one of the first people to the farmers market. If you want to save money, head over at the end of the market to snag some deals.
Go With an Open Mind
You never know what you’re going to find at the other end of a “farmers market near me” google search. This is a great opportunity to try something new that you’ve never heard of before or always wanted to try.
Bring Your Own Bags
It’s best to bring your own canvas or reusable bags to farmers’ markets. This will make it easier to carry your produce and creates less waste.
Bring Some Cash
Lots of farmer’s markets prefer to take cash, though it’s increasingly common for vendors to accept cards. It’s a good idea to bring small bills and change so that you don’t have to deal with tracking down change for a twenty.
Give Yourself Some Extra Time
Lots of times farmer’s markets have music or other events going on. It’s a great time for your kids to run around with others and for you to chat with your community members. Consider hanging around a little longer just to enjoy the vibe.
Talk to the Farmers
Going to your local farmers’ market is one of the best ways to learn where your food comes from. Not only can you learn where the food is grown and how, but you can get to know the person who grows it, too!
Buy in Bulk
You can save on your produce when you buy in bulk. However, you’ll want to make sure you have a plan for how to use all that produce before it goes bad. Consider taking up food preservation as a hobby, which includes drying, canning, freezing, and fermenting.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Rain
Many people will get scared away from a farmer’s market by a little bit of rain. If you are willing to get a little wet, you can get a great selection and maybe even find a few deals.
(Wondering if there’s a way to connect with your local farmers online? You can search for local produce here!)
Learn to Love Ugly Produce
Americans tend to have somewhat unrealistic beauty standards when it comes to produce. You might be surprised to learn how much produce gets thrown on the compost pile or in the trash because of the smallest blemish. It’s worth learning the difference between produce that looks a little weird and produce that is not good to eat, as you can save money and enjoy new varieties this way.
Are You Ready to Start Buying Local?
Supporting your local farmers is a great way to show that you care for your region, your health, and the environment. Heading over to your farmers market is a way you can purchase from several different farmers in one place, whether it be for produce, eggs, dairy, meat, or value-added products.
Are you interested in connecting with your local farmers? If so, check out Local Fresh Bag today!