I find it’s difficult not finding happiness at the farmer’s market. There’s something about local food & goodies, something about speaking with the one who produced the food you’re about to bring home to your kitchen. I try my hardest to make it to the market each weekend – whether it’s the one down the street or a new location I haven’t checked out yet.
Every Saturday or Sunday my boyfriend & I pick up some local, pasture-raised eggs, chicken, maybe some beef [if we’re feeling it], and fun produce we’ll use that week. Now, if you don’t know me, you probably don’t know that my boyfriend founded a farm-to-consumer produce delivery company with a friend a few years back. Its a wonderful company based in DC that supports local farmers by purchasing seasonal produce for distribution among customers in the area. Its the reason we moved here [if you’re interested, check it out here], and we’re super fortunate to be able to receive an abundance fresh, local produce each week because of it. But this doesn’t stop me from trying new items or stocking up from different farmers when we hit up the stands!
If your spot is anything like the ones we frequent, you might be overwhelmed by the amount of product, sellers, and other market-goers. At prime time during the weekend markets, it can be chaos – people squeezing by as you’re checking out all the goods, cute dogs everywhere, and farm stands that all seem to have the same items. So, if you’re not a seasoned visitor where do you even begin?
First, come prepared with a reusable grocery bag [or two!] so you can avoid using the plastic bags provided by most stands. If you plan to pick up meat, dairy, or eggs, throw an ice pack into the bag to keep everything cool until you get back to your fridge. Also, bring cash if you can – its a nice gesture for small farmers, as they can then avoid the fees they’d otherwise have to pay when you use your credit or debit card.
Next, give yourself enough time to browse the goods. All the produce offered might seem the same no matter where you place your dollar, but allow a couple minutes to inspect the quality and prices. Some stands with more abundant supply are able to lower their prices, compared to a farm that may not have had a great growing season and didn’t come out with a large quantity. Also, items that are super plentiful at that moment will be less expensive because the farmers would rather you buy it than have to waste the excess that isn’t purchased. There may be a couple different dairy or meat stands you’ll want to check out for prices in the meantime, also.
Its also a good idea to arrive early! You know that chaos I mentioned above? You can simply avoid it by arriving right when the market begins, which is usually no earlier than 8 or 9 AM. Come on – I know you can roll out of bed earlier than that! You don’t want to miss out on all the goodies, do you?
Don’t forget to get to know your farmer. How awesome is it that we have an opportunity to shake hands with the one who puts so much sweat and love into the food with which we nourish ourselves! Farming is dang hard, so its such an honor to be able to support those who put their all into the land that our food comes from. Its an amazing connection to make – a true example of connecting your plate to the farm and supporting local.
And always, be creative! There are so many fun fruits & veggies [cheeses, too!] on display that we may not have ever heard of before – dragon beans, ground cherries, garlic scapes. If you feel extra adventurous you could try different meats also like goat or bison, if you’ve never tried it before. You have great options to work with food you may not be familiar with, and it also gives you a wonderful chance to strike up convo with the person behind the stand by asking what they’d recommend to do when using the item.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be going back week after week to stock up for meals and new recipes. So have fun with your farmer’s market experience! In no time you’ll be a pro – zipping around the crowds and sharing a carrot with your favorite farmer.
See you at the market!