Yes, eggs, milk, and produce can be slightly more expensive at a farmers’ market. But where else can you get freshly-laid eggs with sun-yellow yolks; milk from a dairy farmer who knows all his cows names (and parents’ names and grandparents’ names) and vegetables that taste so good you’ll want to eat them naked (the veggies, not you)? It’s worth it to shop at a farmers’ market.
But they can be overwhelming. So, before you head out, check out our tips and tricks (and commit them to memory).
Be In the Know
If you know what’s in season you’re more likely to come home with the best tasting stuff. Check out the app Seasons for an easy guide to what’s fresh when, in your region. In Ontario, use the Farmers’ Market Ontario website to find what markets are happening close to you. In Toronto, the Evergreen Brickworks hosts their popular Farmers Market every Saturday from 9am to 1pm. Other areas likely have similar services so get Googling!
Be Prepared & Be Flexible
Come with a list but be flexible with what you take home. Buy what is fresh, in season and at its peak. Buy what you want to eat though, not everything you think you want to buy (or you’ll go home with too much!).
Bring Big Bags & Small Bills
Make sure everything gets home safely by bringing your own market-ready bags (a great one is the Now Designs Goods & Provisions Market Tote). Or a backpack can make the hauling easier, especially if you are walking or biking home. Also, a lot of markets are now selling locally made wine, so a wine tote might be a good idea as well.
Many markets are cash only—do the vendors a favour and bring the smallest bills you’ve got. You’ll save them from running out of small change and land yourself on their good side (which is a great place to be).
Talk the Talk
The best way to know what you’re buying is to talk to the guy (or gal) selling them. Farmers love to talk about their products and there’s always a story about their philosophy or their farm, winery or kitchen that they are dying to share. They are also eager to give recommendations on what is new and great or at its peak. And if you come across a product that’s new to you and want to give it a try, ask them how they prefer to prepare it.
Walk the Walk
Go early. Grab your travel mug and fill’er up. Walk the market, scoping out the scene before opening your wallet. Look at what everyone is selling and see who has the best veggies, most interesting cheeses or freshest bread…then head back around and make smart purchases. And savour the time there. Have lunch. Sit on a bench and have a popsicle. Make a day of it with the kids (it’s a great lesson to teach them about farms and where things come from). Don’t rush home, no matter how badly you want to eat that cheese and drink that wine you bought.
What are your tips for shopping your local farmers’ market?