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How to Navigate a Farmers' Market

Buzzle Staff
It's summer, which means that now through most of fall, there will be a bounty of produce at your fingertips at the local farmers' market. Here are some tips for making the most of it.

Did You Know?

Farmers' markets have grown in popularity, due to the availability of fresh products directly from the farm.
The local and organic food movement is growing. People are starting to realize that they want their families to eat well, and part of that means eating food without tons of preservatives and pesticides in it. That's where local food comes in.
Local farms that sell produce at the farmers' markets are not going to add preservatives to their foods because they don't have to; they aren't shipping the food far enough to warrant preservative use.
If they are organic farmers, they are also not going to use as many pesticides on their food. Of course, local and organic food can be found in supermarkets if you know where to look, but shopping at your local farmers' market is a fantastic way to ensure that your produce is fresh and local.
However, the first trip to the farmers' market can be intimidating for anyone, so here are some tips for making the most of your bounty.

Don't Shop Hungry

This is the cardinal rule for shopping anywhere, but it is especially important at the farmers' market. The delicious produce sitting outside with all of its bright colors will make you want to take it all home, but that isn't practical.
You'll also pass all sorts of vendors selling cookies and freshly baked breads and maybe even some fried food booths that will smell amazing. If you don't want to be tempted by these things, be sure to eat a light meal before you go. However, the fresh-baked breads are delicious if you do find yourself hungry while you're there.

Go Either Very Early or Late

If you're an early riser, then plan accordingly and go to the market early in the morning, so that you can purchase a variety of fresh produce at a better price.
You can also visit the market late in the evening, and get good discounts and bargains on the produce, since farmers start giving huge discounts in order to avoid taking home whatever is left at the end of the day.

What to Bring with You

The only thing you really have to bring with you is cash.
Some vendors are starting to accept credit and debit cards, but not all of them will, so you'll want to have some cash on hand in case there isn't an ATM nearby. Vendors will provide plastic bags for your haul, but if you want to lower your impact on the environment, bring your own plastic or canvas tote bags.
If you are planning to buy meat, which is usually sold frozen from portable freezers, bring an insulated bag so the meat doesn't start to thaw before you can get it home.

Talk to the Farmers

It's important to talk to the farmers and build a better rapport with them, by asking questions relating to the food quality and organic farming methods they use.
By introducing yourself to the farmers, you can also get the best deals on the produce. And whenever you want to buy in bulk, you might get a better price for your purchase.

Take Stock of What's there Before You Buy

Making a quick loop around the entire market before making your first purchase is a great way to see what's there before you buy anything.
Many vendors will sell the same kinds of produce, so you want to make sure you get what looks best and most fresh rather than buy the first thing you see and regret your purchase when you reach the next vendor.
You will also find that there are many booths that sell other things like pies, honey, flowers, and crafts. You'll want to know what your options are before spending all your money in one place. Walk around and see everything before you decide what to spend your money on.

Wash, Cut, and Store as soon as You Get Home

Since local foods aren't chock-full of preservatives, you may find it doesn't last as long on your counter as food you purchase from the supermarket. Believe it or not, that's actually a good thing! You can prevent food from rotting quickly by storing it properly.
Refrigerating or freezing food is a great way to extend shelf life. Also, if you clean and cut your produce in right away, making it ready-to-eat, you'll be more likely to eat it rather than sitting and watching it go bad. Eating a handful of pre-washed berries from a container is much easier than washing berries every time you want to eat them.
The farmers' market is a great way to get food for your whole family that's safe and healthy. It's also a great way to support local farmers and help the environment by buying locally grown produce. These tips should help you become a pro at navigating the farmers' markets in your area, so enjoy your shopping and your delicious food!