Tips for Navigating a Farmers’ Market
Farmers’ markets are a treasure trove of fresh finds, offering a wide range of items like fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, baked goods, local honey, prepared foods, crafts, gifts, and plenty of fun!
Local farmers’ markets provide an enjoyable and convenient way to boost your intake of fresh produce, experiment with fresh herbs, sample local delicacies, or purchase unique gifts. Here’s how to plan your visit:
Plan Your Trip
If the market operates seasonally, research its start and end dates, operating days, hours, and any weather-related restrictions. Some websites or social media pages may list anticipated vendors, theme days, cooking demonstrations, or special events.
Plan to have cash on hand, as some vendors may not accept cards or payment apps. Don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bags.
If it’s your first time at a specific market and time allows, do a walkthrough to identify stalls that pique your interest. Then, circle back to make your purchases.
Farmers’ markets are known for local, fresh produce that hasn’t traveled long distances. Many enthusiasts claim that onions have more flavor, fruits are juicier, and vegetables have a crisper bite when obtained fresh from the market.
Farmers’ markets across the country celebrate seasonal produce. For instance, springtime in New Jersey highlights asparagus, summer showcases corn and peaches, and fall brings out pumpkins and gourds. Meanwhile, California markets feature guavas in February, figs in July, and persimmons in October. Middle Tennessee markets offer farm-fresh melons, corn, and tomatoes in mid-summer.
You can often choose between perfectly ripe items or those that might need a day or two at home to ripen fully, allowing you to enjoy your fresh produce purchases throughout the week.
However, remember that you may need to wash farmers’ market produce more thoroughly than its grocery store counterpart.
Getting to know the vendors is another highlight of the farmers’ market experience. They can offer valuable advice on choosing, washing, storing, and preparing the produce you’re interested in.
If a vendor is local, you might discover opportunities to visit their farm for a “pick your own” experience, shop at their farm stand on non-market days, or explore additional items they grow but don’t bring to the market. Some vendors are flexible and can accommodate requests for different quantities or variety bags — just ask!
Vendors can also share useful insights, like creative recipes or storage tips. For example, I once learned from a mushroom vendor at a New Jersey Farmers’ market how to make a delicious vegetarian “crab” cake using Lion’s Mane mushrooms. He even suggested looking up the recipe online, and now it’s a summer favorite in our household.
You can inquire about vendors’ growing practices, and some may use sustainable or organic methods without official certification due to cost constraints.
In addition to produce, farmers’ markets often feature vendors selling crafts, jewelry, baked goods, cheeses, meats, and local honey. This is an excellent way to support local small businesses and potentially find a favorite shop to frequent when the market is closed.
No matter where you are in the country, a trip to the farmers’ market offers an exciting opportunity to try something new or savor the freshest versions of your favorite foods while supporting local businesses.
Janet D’Angelo, MS, RDN, LDN | firstname.lastname@example.org
“I love the daily challenges the sub-acute setting brings – seeing a variety of patients with differing medical conditions keeps my clinical skills sharp. I am proud of the dining and nutrition team and the work we do helping our patients eat well so they can achieve their rehab goals and get back home.”
Janet has been a Dietitian since 1991 and joined the HCSG team in 2017. She received her education at Albright College, Marywood University, and Saint Joseph’s University, respectively. Outside work, she enjoys anything that gets her outside including concerts, festivals, farmers’ markets, and trying new recipes.
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