There was a recent newspaper article about vendors selling store bought produce as local. And it reminded me of my own personal rules for shopping at a farmers market. Good rules of thumb to follow to make sure I am buying what I am expecting to get.
Unfortunately, just like at many events, what you see is not always what you get. When you are buying naturally grown fruits or organic vegetables, it is important to ask questions especially when you don’t know the vendor. It is also important to do some ‘background’ checking on the vendor. Are They Who They Say They Are?
Let’s face it. Many people can talk a good game. They can learn all about growing vegetables organically and even sound like they know what they are talking about. But when you dig in – ask the vendor questions, listen to the customers, do your own research – you may unearth a different story.
I am, by nature, a very trusting person. And I truly believe that most vendors at the markets I visit are reputable. But I do have certain rules that I follow. Here are a few of them…
Good Rules For Shopping At A Farmers Market
Know your farmer – ask questions!
If you don’t use any of my other rules, follow this one. Always ask the vendor questions, get to know them, their farming practices and their history. This is especially true if you are at a new market or are considering a vendor you haven’t done business with before. If they say they are certified organic, ask to see their certificate. If they say they have a farm, ask to see pictures. How long have they been farming? When can you visit their farm? What new veggies are they growing this year? Why did they pick that particular variety? How do they eat it? May sound silly to ask so many questions. But a reputable vendor will be able to fill you in on all the details and with pleasure.
When you know your farmer, you know your food.
Stick with vendors you are familiar with.
When I shop at my local farmers market, I do my best to visit almost every table. But to be honest, I usually get my produce from just 2-3 vendors. Why? Because I know them; I trust them. I trust that they are offering the quality fruits and vegetables that I want. Their farming practices are in agreement with mine. And most importantly, I know where their farms are and they are indeed local.
Check their social media.
Everyone can build a website with lots of beautiful pictures. How do I know those farm pictures are really their own? While I do look to see if a vendor has a website, I rely more on their social media pages. If they are serious about their business, they are going to promote it via sites like FaceBook, Twitter or Instagram. Look to see if they are posting new pictures or sharing news about their farm. Read the comments from their friends and followers. These posts and comments will tell you a lot about the vendor!
Speak with other patrons.
While looking at the goods at a vendor’s table, talk to the other shoppers. Listen to what they are saying about the produce. How long have they been buying from this vendor? Why? Is it as good as it looks? Are they familiar with their farm? You can learn a lot by asking others a few questions and listening to what they say.
Know what is in season in your area.
When you are shopping at a farmers market, you need to know what is in season in your local area. If a Wisconsin vendor is selling “local” peaches in May, I pass them buy. Just like chances are pretty good that fresh asparagus in December was not grown locally. It is not uncommon to see at least one vendor with out-of-season-produce at a market.
Again, talk to the vendor, ask questions about where the brought their goodies in from. What is the name of the farm? Do they use pesticides? When was it shipped in (last night or last week?)? One of my favorite farmers drives to Michigan on a weekly basis in the early summer to bring back blueberries and they openly tell everyone this. And because I trust their growing practices, I also trust the berries were grown just as they would have done.
More Thoughts On Shopping At A Farmers Market
Shopping at a farmers market is a fun thing to do! Mingling with others, visiting with friends, smelling all the delicious treats, touching and feeling your food. And most importantly knowing that what you are buying is fresh, natural and locally grown or produced. It makes us feel more connected to our food and our bodies. It assures us that we are truly doing something good for ourselves and our community.
Knowing who you are doing business with is also part of that experience. There is a lot to be said about getting to know the person who put the seed into the soil to grow the food you are going to eat! Knowing the farmer completes the circle. It puts us more in charge of ourselves and our well-being. And when we eat better, we feel better in body and soul 🙂
I’m Here To Help
Did you find this article helpful? Do you have any questions about it? Feel free to reach out to me through the contact form on the right or on my Contact page. I’d be happy to speak with you.
And don’t forget, if you aren’t sure of what you are doing in the kitchen but want to eat healthy, you can sign up for my FREE Cooking Basics how-to-tips! You’ll get an email every week for an entire year. That’s 52 helpful kitchen tips! Everything from how to make the perfect fried egg to different ways to prepare vegetables and how to freeze those fruits & veggies you find at the market 🙂
Enjoy and Be Healthy!