1. Arrive early
Beat the crowds and get a better selection by arriving early. Produce and other products are picked over later in the day. Don’t miss out on getting the best selection of the season!
2. Bring cash
Hit the ATM on the way to the Farmers Market. You’ll pay each vendor individually and they don’t accept checks or credit cards. Small bills are appreciated.
3. Leave Fido at home
Dogs are prohibited (by law) from Farmers Markets in California. Service dogs are welcome!
4. Bring bags and a cart
Don’t forget your reusable shopping bags. You’ll be able to carry items more easily. Skipping the individual produce bags will help with the farmers’ costs and be better for the environment. More and more farmers are offering the compostable and/or biodegradable plastic bags but it’s much better to use/reuse your own. Wire folding carts or baby strollers make good shopping carts if you’ll be purchasing a lot or want to keep your arms free to snack on samples :-).
5. Keep your keys and cash safe
Use a waist pouch or whatever is most convenient to keep track of your keys and cash. Farmers Market managers say the number one lost and found item is car keys.
6. Shop around
Stroll through the market when you arrive to look at all the offerings. You’ll find many differences is price and quality for the same items.
7. Buy veggies
It’s tempting to load up on the delicious fruit, nuts, breads and snacks but those items will put a hefty dent in your wallet. If you find that you are spending too much money remember to focus your attention on vegetables. They are less expensive and very nutritious.
8. Don’t forget eggs, seafood, meat and dairy
If you consume eggs, seafood, meat and/or dairy you’ll quickly learn that Farmers Markets have the BEST eggs, fish, milk, cheese and meat. The farmers are generally from eco-friendly farms that promote humane treatment of animals. The products are from animals that have been raised without hormones or antibiotics, have been fed natural diets and who have not been cooped up in cramped and unsanitary living conditions. The products are fresh, minimally processed and affordable – you can often find seafood that was wild-caught in the last 24 hours, eggs that were gathered that morning and spared from the bleach wash that supermarket eggs are subjected to and raw milk that was collected recently.
9. Please refrain from bargaining
Your local farmers have worked very hard to sell their pride and joy for a fair price. Bargaining is generally not appreciated.
10. Be adventurous and ask questions
Try new produce, talk to the farmers who know just about everything about their seasonal vegetables, ask what their favorites are or for a recipe or serving suggestion. You can always browse for recipes in your cookbooks or online when you get home so don’t be afraid to try the funny looking new veggie. Don’t forget that most of the produce was allowed to ripen in the field and will be delicate and possibly cosmetically challenged. Never fear – those are the most delicious.