Beginner’s Guide to Farmers’ Markets

8 useful tips for success

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Union Square Farmer's Market
We'll see you at the Union Square Farmer's Market! (Photo: Tom Lin via Flickr)

Let’s face it: your first trip to a farmer’s market can be intimidating. Faced with so many options (some of them different than what you’re used to seeing in the supermarket) how do you know what to buy? And if you see something that looks good that you haven’t cooked before, how can you find out how to prepare it? Don’t worry—it’s easier than you think, and the farmers and market staff are all eager to answer any questions you might have, as well as share recipe ideas and other information.

Here are some tips to make navigating the market simple and fun:

  1. Try to go early. Everything is freshest in the morning, and it’s less crowded.
  2. Explore before buying. It’s like a buffet — don’t commit before taking a lap. Check out all your options.
  3. Stop by the information tent. They have maps, information on local activities and some have in-season recipes.
  4. Ask questions. Learn about your food. Don’t know what something is? Ask! Not sure how to prepare it? Ask! The merchants love to share their knowledge.
  5. Buy what looks good. In season produce will often be available at multiple vendors so shop around to get the best picks of the litter.
  6. Go in with an open mind. You may have a recipe in mind but find the carrots you were planning don’t look as good as the parsnips. Be open to adjusting to take advantage of the season’s offerings. Let yourself be inspired!
  7. BYO Bags. Some vendors do offer plastic bags, but it’s more eco-friendly if you can bring your own re-usable bags from home.
  8. Bring cash. Although some merchants may take credit cards, cash is easier and a more commonly accepted payment method.

Are you a recent farmers’ market convert, or are you a veteran marketeer? What’s your favorite market in town?

Find a market in your neighborhood.