• Sumo

Plan on heading out to your local farmers’ market this weekend? If you live in an urban center, and plan on heading out to a farmers’ market, chances are it’s going to be mobbed. The demand for locally produced food and crafts are rising rapidly, as people wake up to the benefits of fresh foods and supporting their local economies.

With a plethora of variation at the farmers’ market, it can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. Going in prepared will help you get the most out of your experience.

Carry Cash

Cash is the most flexible way to purchase things at the market. Bringing some will save you the hassle of trying to find an ATM machine close to the market, where you might encounter ridiculous service charges. If you do, by chance, forget some money, many markets now offer tokens you can buy with a debit card, so you won’t be left stranded. Even more are offering to accept WIC participants, and other forms of direct state assistance.

The best part about bringing cash, though, is that you’ll put yourself on a budget. Take out $20 and stick to that. With all the beautiful colors and lovely vendors, and can be difficult to reel in spending sometimes!

Bring a Bag

Bringing your own bag is just easier – it helps create a smoother flow at market, and will help you get in and out a little quicker. There’s also the added benefit of not wasting another plastic bag, and saving your local vendor a couple cents.

Mind the Season

Take a mental note of what season you’re in. This will dictate much of the produce you find at market, as well as how to prepare for the weather. Don’t let the rain stop you from heading out and enjoying a market. Crowds will be scarcer, and there will be more produce to check out.

Also note that most farmers’ markets will not have tomatoes or peppers in December, so plan your menu around this. Some veggies, like lettuce and deep greens, can be found at any market the nation over during anytime of the year, so try to take advantage of this.

Go Early or Late

Heading out to the market early will ensure that you have first pick at the cream of the crop. With markets exploding in popularity, market supplies are having trouble keeping up with the demand – espescailly produce. By going early, you’ll also get to enjoy the market at its peak beauty, filled with colors and energy.

Conversely, going to the farmers’ market late has the advantage of finding deals. Many vendors will be looking to off their products at discount prices, so they don’t have to take back goods that will eventually spoil. The market won’t look as pretty, but your pocket book will be a little plumper.

Buy Fresh and Simple

The best part about farmers’ markets is its fresh produce, hands down. You’ll be able to get fresh lettuce, squash, beets, and all sorts of goodies that were, more likely than not, harvested that morning. Peak freshness is important to maximizing taste and nutrition in vegetables. You’ll also be exposed to a multitude of vegetables you’ve never seen before: endive, fennel, garlic scapes, and any number of lettuce varieties. Be bold and give them a shot – there’s nothing like embracing a new vegetable into your diet.

Talk to the Vendors

Farmers’ markets can be exceptionally educational, as well. If you have a question about a particular vegetable, ask the farmer at the stand. They will more than likely be excited to tell you all you need to know about their product – often times bordering on too much information! It’s fun to chat with the people that produce your products, a missing link in much of capitalism today.

Shop Around

You’ll probably run into at least a couple, if not 4 or 5, different vegetable producers at the market. Look at their signage and see where they’re from and if they’re organic. The closer they are to the market, the fresher the vegetable, and the more directly your dollars will be impacting your local economy. Check out the quality of their vegetables, their variety, and their prices. Compare to get the freshest, cheapest produce you can find.

If their signage doesn’t give enough information, don’t hesitate to ask. Again, they’ll be more than happy to chat with you.