Friday, 5 April 2013

Farmers’ Market Shopping Tips

So how do you “do a farmers' market” well? Here are a few tips to get you started:

Ours is an outdoor market. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes. A good friend of mine says, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad dressing.” So stop complaining or making excuses, grab your
Canadian spirit, put on your raincoat or slap on the sunscreen, and get to the market! There are wonderful things waiting there for you.
Always bring lots of small bills and change. You will be paying at each individual farmer or artisan's stand. Most weeks there is an ATM on site, but it dispenses only $20 or $50 bills.
Bring large cloth shopping bags or baskets. Not only are they better for the environment, they will save multiple trips to your car to unload, and they generally pack better than plastic bags do. 
• Some people find that old baby strollers make good shopping carts. They fold up nicely in the trunk. 
If you use wire folding cart, what I always call a “granny” cart, put in a box or liner or your produce will work through the wire squares.
• Some people find that fanny packs are the best way to hold onto money and keys. You don't have to worry about setting a purse or a wallet down and you have both hands free to shop and carry bags. I have awesome shopping baskets with a zippered pockets on the side that work perfectly for me.
Make sure you know where your car keys are. The number one lost and found item is a set of car keys. Nine times out of ten they are buried in one of your produce bags, but it’s best to know where they are so you don’t rifle through your bags, damaging the items that you worked so hard to select and collect. Should you misplace your keys, check out our community tent on site for our lost and found.

• When you first arrive, walk through the entire market and look at all the offerings before you buy. Take in the beauty, the atmosphere… then notice the selection and the quality. There can be differences in prices for the same produce type and there can be quite a range in quality.

• Bargaining is not well received. Remember that these are the growers and creators of the things you see before you. Do not insult them. They worked very hard to sell their items at the best possible price.

• Most of the produce is vine or tree ripened. This means it can be delicate to the touch and easily damaged. Please be careful handling the fresh produce and other delicate items.

• If the vendor is not too busy, don’t hesitate to ask questions about recipes or growing methods or how something was crafted, created or inspired. You might even get to know each other's name, swap a few stories, and build a meaningful connection.

• Have patience with the vendors. They are not polished sales or marketing people: they are farmers and individual producers or artisans. Some were up late picking and irrigating, packaging and preparing, and then up early to load and drive the truck several hours to market.
• If you smile at and appreciate them, you will find them smiling back and appreciating you in return. That is what farmers' markets are really about:
  • -       Smiles and mutual appreciation.
  • -       Families growing food for families.
  • -       Communities supporting communities.
  • -       People connecting with each other.
  • -       And our wallets supporting the local economy.
   Do you have any smart market shopping tips to share? If so, I'd love to know what they are. Please comment.

Some of these points are borrowed and adapted from the Sacramento California Farmers' Market.

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Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee

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