Sunday, June 3, 2012

Farmer's Market Advice?

Next week (or the week after) Tom and I are going to try and get to a Farmer's Market. We've never really been to one before, and I'm sure there are things we should look out for and know about. 

So can you guys offer some pointers?


  1. Go there just before they close. They usually give good discounts :)

  2. I have 2 suggestions for you:

    1. Talk to the farmers ask how they grow their product. Many small places are organic but they don't certify cause it cost so much.

    2. Get what looks good and don't be afraid to try something new. There are some weird looking tasty veg out there.


  3. They vary. Most offer good veggies, some include cheeses, a few have grass fed meats, but I went to one that was mostly a glorified craft show. It was fun, but not if you're looking for food.

  4. What Matt said-I get a good price on organic produce that is not actually certified organic. I go when they first open up for best selection :) I try to always buy one new to us item each week.

    What I love is that they don't always have everything because so many fruits and vegies are seasonal. Just about the time we are getting tired of seems a new delight shows up!

  5. Like others have said, just make sure you ask how they grow their fruits and veggies. Not every vendor grows organically so that is important to know. I love the farmer's market in Topeka! They do have a lot of arts and crafts but a lot of really great produce as well. I also bought some tomato and pepper plants for my garden there a couple of weeks ago. There are clowns who work there also who are good friends of mine. They can twist balloons for your kids. :)

  6. Unless you live in an area where it grows, avoid any vendor who has oranges or bananas or pineapples. They obviously bought it somewhere else and didn't grow it themselves. Also, be suspicious if all the veggies look perfect.

    Also, bring a cooler with some ice. You might get something that needs cooling and you still have more things to do before you go home!

  7. Show up early for more selection.

    Show up late for cheaper prices.

    Always haggle the price, even if it is only a few cents.

    Get cards of good vendors, that way you can order direct (i.e. you can still get stuff when there is no farmer's market).

    The vendor won't always have his entire stock of goods at the market, so ask about specialty items. If you're dealing with a dairy/egg vendor that doesn't have duck eggs... Ask. Chances are he does, he just didn't bring them that day. Same goes for animal organs. Most meat producers have the organs, they just don't bring them because not many people actually buy organs. Remember, these vendors only bring what they expect to sell. If most customers at that specific market don't usually buy liver, chances are that the vendor isn't going to bring it.

    Bring a cooler with frozen ice packs. You're dealing with fresh foods, and often you will be at the market for quite a long time. I always bring a cooler for all meats and dairy.

    Do the rounds and check pricing before you actually buy. It is always a pain to buy something only to see that another vendor has the same thing for a buck cheaper.

    Bring a few grocery bags with you. The vendors will usually have them, but sometimes they run out. Personally, I also bring a backpack to put the bags into so that I don't have to carry them.

    Get on a first-name basis with the vendors that you like. This will pay dividends down the road and when dealing with other vendors. As time passes, they'll know what to bring because they'll know you're coming. Also, if they really like you the farmers will sometimes let you come to their farm to pick out your cow, pig, lamb, etc before he actually slaughters it. Then he'll bring it up to you on the day of the market.

    Ask about their craft. If they are a good farmer, they will tell you the entire process from beginning to end. This is especially important when buying meat, eggs and dairy. Just because it is local doesn't guarantee that it will be grassfed or organic. As others have already stated, this can go the other way, as well.

    Buy in bulk when possible. If you can freeze it, then buy as much as you can. Some items that I usually buy in bulk are meats and butter. Both of these are pricey items, but you can get a few month supply for half the price (or less) if you buy it all at once. Examples: sides of beef, whole pigs, whole lambs, buckets of butter, etc. Just make sure that you specify "butchered cuts" when buying meat in bulk, otherwise you'll get just what you ask for (e.g. an entire pig, skin, hair and all).

    1. Part II

      Try new things.

      Seek out and find the herb/spice vendor. They will have the freshest herbs and spices in town, and they will have them year round. The best part, they will be much cheaper and fresher than store bought, and you can buy only what you need for the week. This is usually an afterthought for most people, but herbs and spices can be super expensive over time, especially when you only use fresh stuff.

      If you do buy in bulk, find friends to go in half with you. There is a HUGE price difference between a whole cow vs half of a cow, but not everybody has room for a whole cow (but most people have room for half or a quarter of a cow).

      Easy on the veggies. You don't want to buy too many and have waste. Since most farmer's markets are a weekend or one day a week thing, don't think that you're going to get all of your produce in one go. You'll end up having to toss a lot of stuff. I have two markets that I go to for produce, one is on a Saturday and the other is open on Wednesdays. So, I split it between the two. If worse comes to worse, I can always pick up the odd carrot, cucumber or head of broccoli at a store if I have to in between.

      Hit the circuit. Don't just go to one market, go to a few. As I mentioned, farmer's markets are usually quite limited regarding what day it is and what times it is open. So, get to know a few farmer's markets so that you have more options. As I said, I have two primary markets that I use that are a few days apart to make it convenient for me (I know what to expect and they always have what I need). But, if you have something else going on during the day of a particular market, it is always nice to say, "oh well, I'll go to the one in *this town/this day* instead.

      It isn't super common, but it has been known to happen that some markets will have a crap-ton of organic produce, but will not have a single vendor that has grassfed beef or pastured anything. I call these markets, "a complete waste of my time".

  8. I don't know how big the market is, but from experience I can tell you that it pays to shop around and compare prices.

    Don't be afraid to ask for discounts.