A Newbies Guide to the Farmer’s Market

The idea of the farmer’s market is a wonderful one in my mind’s eye—perusing wares and fresh produce sold by eager people to tell you about it and help you with your decision making. The local culture is integral to supporting a local community, and learning about where our food comes from and who produces it.


I have worked a couple farmer’s markets myself and I know that they attract an abundance of goods, foods, produce, and samplings. It’s a great way to motivate yourself on a Saturday morning to join in on the joyful bustling of the market, joining the like-minded shoppers who want to buy local and catch up on their community.


At all farmers markets you will find a wide array of local, seasonal produce, meats and cheeses, baked goods, and small business owners with their wares. Some niche vendors like leather workers, hot sauce makers, and jerky makers, as well as jewelry, tea leaves, and sometimes even whiskey can be found nestled into the many booths.


It can often be overwhelming the first visit or two, since it is an open air or open-concept type layout, without walls between the booths, so the chatter and conversation is immersive. There’s always going to be something unique, and there’s always a story to go with it. So here are my tips for experiencing your local farmer’s market to the fullest:


  1. Bring a grocery or tote bag (or two.) Not all vendors have their own bags to give you, and it’s easier to carry one or two larger ones than many smaller ones. You will have local businesses that have a brick-and-mortar presence, but you will also have more hobby businesses as well which won’t spring for the extra branding money. (Plus—it’s greener to bring your own reusable one!)
  2. Bring cash. Many vendors now will take card payments as well, but for those old school booths with some of the best goods—bring a twenty or more just in case.
  3. Do a lap first. Take a quick perusal of everything at the market first. You might get caught up with some fantastic looking apples on one end, and by the time you’ve gotten to the other end where they’re even bigger or the specific type you wanted, you’re out of room!
  4. Take time to ask questions. That’s what the makers, growers, craftsmen, brewers, etc, are there for! They have an intimate understanding of what goes into each product they are selling, and can let you know things about the process or what to expect that you wouldn’t get out of a purchase at a big-box store.
  5. Come hungry. There are always things to tempt your appetite available to purchase.
  6. Adjust seasonal expectations. Winter in the Midwest, you’ll see much less produce and fewer vendors, than in the warmer months. You will still have a selection in the colder months, as some have indoor operations to grow or have stocked up preserves for the winter, but in the warmer months you’ll find fresh, local produce and a wider array of meats and cheeses and other goods than colder months. (Now is a GREAT time to see it in full-swing).


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