Many eager folks hop in the health food realm by paying their local market a visit. Making healthy choices involves choosing your food products wisely. If you’re curious but need assistance selecting your fare, read ahead for helpful tips concerning how to get the biggest bang for your buck at the farmer’s market.

Plan Ahead:

Clever consumers understand the value of a list whether they’re exploring the grocery store or market. You’re less likely to splurge on unnecessary items if you stick to your inventory. Planning ahead includes making a list and outlining meals for the week.

Let your grocery list aid in developing your weekly menu. Scheduling meals benefits our bellies and our wallets; we’re less inclined to waste food with an itinerary detailing our weekly meal plans. So figure out what you’re shopping for and bring an extra five for a treat I like to call “My one random splurge”. Every time we shop, I allow myself to try a new or unfamiliar food product.

Don’t forget to confirm the farmers market hours.  Although an increasing number of businesses refer to Square to accept credit card payments, bring cash just in case.

Explore the Market:

The time of day you shop makes all the difference. Friday marked the opening day of our local market. Noble Springs Dairy, my favorite dairy vendor, sold out of the coveted pimento goat cheese before 9 a.m., and the market opens at 7. Even though vendors are expected to run out of particular products on opening day, truth is, if you don’t arrive early, many items are snatched within the first hour.

On the flip side, arriving at the last minute could land you some deals with farmers desiring to leave empty handed. Choose which route works best for you.

Make a loop and look around before you shop. Strategically, the vendors located near the entrance sometimes charge higher rates for the same produce as someone else is selling across the room. If that just so happens to be your favorite farmer, then more power to you, but if you want to shop thrifty, use grocery store tactics, and explore your options. The Ecology Center of East Bay California further explains why walking the market benefits your wallet.

Ask Questions:

In order to build rapport, get to know your local farmers. Here’s a few mindful questions to consider:

Where are you from?

What methods were used to produce harvest?

What days and times are you at this market?

When was your farm established?

Could you suggest a recipe for this item?

How would you prepare this product?

Would you recommend other nearby vendors to become familiar with?

Are your products organic?

How would suggest storing/drying/saving this product?

Do you have any produce for sale?*

(Some may consider it rude to ask for a bargain, but oftentimes less aesthetically pleasing fruits and veggies are stowed away for people in search of deals. I personally think it’s rude to talk them down, but asking about the damaged products never hurts.)

The only reason I purchased a dill plant from a 9 year old was because of how knowledgeable he was with herb gardening. After he sold me the 3-pack, I had to let his mother know how proud I was of her raising such a fine, competent young man. The mother informed me he actually grew all the herbs while his parents focused on the rest of the farm. Needless to say, Sunnyside Farm located in Martin, Tennessee has landed itself another dedicated customer.

Compare Products

Once you ask questions and make several trips to the market, eventually you run into familiar faces. I’m still acquainting myself with the southern located market near Blackman, but I knew a few vendors off the bat from last year.

My favorite farmer, Catherine with Flying S Farms in Woodbury, explained to us last year how important it is to vigorously remain informed about your favorite products. She saved us from gritty tomatoes last year by introducing us to her favorite tomato farmer located in Rutherford County.

Likewise, when an unfamiliar man provided us with samples of his crystallized version of blueberry honey on Friday, I swore to stick with his product. George L. Martin networks with Pick TN Products, so I couldn’t be more excited to support a non-profit service whose mission is to “maximize economic opportunities for Tennessee farmers and agribusinesses through innovative and effective marketing and promotional services”.

If you have any other tips to share concerning shopping at your local farmer’s market, please comment below.

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