tips and tricks for navigating a farmers market
I am sure we can all agree...farmers markets are glamorous! The produce, colorful and robust; the bearded men with working hands; the ladies, strong and tanned, the sweet chalkboard signs and tented mini-stores with pretty baskets, IT'S A SITE TO BEHOLD!
Your first trip EVER will be exciting and intimidating all at once. But each time you go to your beloved market it is always exciting, each trip keeps its luster, and allows you to move about more freely and confidently.
We want you to be on your A-game whether it's your FIRST time or your 100th time.
- Go with a plan of attack if you are looking for a single ingredient. If only wanting to stroll, browse through all of it, there are always hidden gems!
- Bring cash, not every farmer will take credit cards, though a lot are beginning to, WE ARE!
- If purchasing non-produce items (breads, jams, pies, etc) make sure to read the labels, ingredients should be listed and perishable items should be refrigerated in the heat of the summer. Many items are home-made and processed and a farmer with proper labels means a farmer with proper cleanliness and organization in the kitchen.
- Make eye contact, find a smiling face...a happy farmer leads to healthy and happy land.
- Ask questions, LOTS! You won't be annoying the farmer and they should be able to answer all of them with ease.
Some questions to ask and what the answers can tell yo.
- What variety is this _____ (fill in the blank)? How many varieties of crops do you grow? - Allows you to see if the farmers has a vested interest in really knowing what they produce, allows you to see just how organized they may be at their farm, and tells you if they have a diverse farm which is a healthy farm.
- When was this _____ (fill in the blank) harvested? - Lets you know how fresh the item is and about how long it will keep for you at home
- Can I visit your farm? - They will most likely be very happy to give you a day and time that works, not really a wonderful idea to just show up at a farm unnanounced...farmers are usually busy, and we do actually want to be present for you when we are showing off what we've worked hard to create...SO call ahead at the very least!
- Do you use any sprays or chemicals? How do you manage weeds and pests? Are the sprays organic certified? - I prefer to have no sprays or chemical on my own food, organic or NOT...but there are organic sprays available and many farmers use them, EVEN the organic certified farmers. So in this case it is best to decide what works best for you and your family! Asking how they manage annoyances at their own farm can also help you at your home garden.
- What do you feed your animals? Are they grazed on pasture? How often do you rotate them? Where do you process your meat? - These are SUPER important questions when purchasing meat and eggs at the market. Good answers should be something like this: all of our animals are on pasture and rotated every few days depending size of herd/flock and the season, we also supplement the pigs and poultry (chickens, turkeys, etc) with non-GMO OR organic feed and in the winter supplement the cows, sheep and goats with hay and the rabbits with organic alfalfa pellets. It is also a great idea to ask where they get their hay, as hay can be sprayed with herbicides.
- Can I help out on the farm? - Some farms accept volunteers, some farms do not. But if you are interested in lending a helping hand to a farmer...never hurts to ask, they may be in heirloom tomato heaven, just swimming in them, or maybe they always need help planting onions in spring. Just ask, you might get to learn a bit and even go home with some of the harvest.
- Are you Certified Organic? - This shouldn't be a deal breaker (read above regarding sprays) as many small farms simply can't afford the time and money to go through the process of getting their certification, but if in a hurry always and want to be sure a farmers' practices are up to speed with your "organic" lifestyle...this is one way to find your food. We at Roots Underwood use only Biodynamic Farming principles, though are not certified, and we use no chemical sprays (organic or not).
I have always enjoyed a market!
Farmers Markets are a magical place for me to take in the people watching, learn a bit, and find some awesome purchases. I am SO SUPER excited that I actually get to be behind on of those tented mini-stores with a sweet chalkboard and pretty baskets...dream come true!
And that dream comes true Saturday, May 9th, at the St. Matthews Market at the Beargrass Christian Church on Shelbyville Road. We will be sharing a tent with Foxhollow Farm.
DO YOU HAVE ANY GREAT TIPS AND TRICKS FOR NAVIGATING YOUR FARMERS MARKET?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT A FARMERS MARKET?
LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW, I"D LOVE TO KNOW!