As farmers’ markets become more widespread, we hear a lot about the benefits of buying our food at these community events. To name a few: produce is local and therefore tends to be very fresh and hasn’t required extensive shipping resources; we’re supporting local growers and the local economy; and the produce is in season, which means it’s at its tastiest and most nutritious.
Even with these and many more great reasons to shop at your local farmers’ market, it’s not the ideal way for everyone to feed a family. Market prices might be higher than the supermarket, and the market’s location and hours may make it hard for you to go on a regular basis.
If you still want to support and enjoy the farmers’ market within your own means, it’s good to know of a few key items that are really worth getting there as well as some practical shopping tips. Having a special farmers’ market list will help you make the most of your produce budget while supporting local growers. Depending on where you live, not all of the items listed here might be available. If that’s the case, substitute them for something especially delicious that grows in your region. No matter what you buy at the farmers’ market, you’re likely getting a healthier, tastier, and more sustainably grown and shipped product than commercially grown alternatives.
It’s hard enough to get a peach home from the market without bruising it, so just imagine how beat up that fruit gets when it’s shipped to your grocery store from hundreds or thousands of miles away. If you buy peaches grown locally, they’ve suffered much less abuse in transport. Peaches are also among the most heavily pesticide-treated crops. By purchasing yours directly from the grower, you can learn whether he or she uses any chemicals.
There are few things as tasty as an in-season ripe tomato, but few things as disappointing and bland as its out-of-season alternative. When you buy these fruits (yes, they are indeed a fruit) locally, you get a juicy, flavorful treat instead of a bland chemical-laden imposter.
Like the wrong tomato, the wrong carrot can be an entirely forgettable experience. The right carrot, on the other hand, is sweet and vibrant. Commercially grown carrots tend to lack flavor and even have lower antioxidant values than sustainably, locally grown farmers’ market carrots. You can also often find a variety of color (such as purple and white) that adds flavor and fun to your dishes as well as nutrition.
Fresh, local berries really can taste like candy. The flavors are bold, bright, and sweet. Berries also have a shorter shelf life than many fruits, so you’ll want to get them as directly from the farm as possible. When they’re shipped from far away, you may miss the best flavor, and they may spoil sooner than locally grown berries.
Shop for a Particular recipe
If you go to the market for ingredients for a particular dish, you’re less likely to browse and spend money on food you might not eat. If you bring a recipe, however, you’ll buy only those ingredients and already have plan to for how to use them. You might also get recipe ideas from the growers—they, after all, know they’re product and how to use it better than most.
Get to Know a Grower or Two
Strike up a conversation with a grower whose produce looks particularly good. You can learn about his or her growing practices and get tips of products to watch for in the coming weeks. Ask for suggestions for your must-have farmers’ market list.