By Emily Schwartz
There’s nothing quite like strolling through a bustling farmers market early on a Saturday morning, basket and cash in hand, looking through the rainbow array of fresh produce. With a growing trend towards locally sourced foods, it’s no wonder why farmers markets are popping up everywhere. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture estimated that the number of farmers markets exploded by over 75% in the past eight years. In 2014, there were over 8,400 markets in cities across the country. And, that growth shows no signs of slowing down!
Don’t want to miss out on the farmers market fun this summer? Here are several tried-and-true tips for making your trip to the farmers market a success:
►Arrive early. Many vendors bring a limited amount of produce each week, so head to the farmers market early for the best selection. Early morning shopping also often means smaller crowds and more opportunities to chat with farmers and fellow market-goers.
►Cash is king. When heading to a farmers market, remember to bring the cash! Although growing in popularity, most vendors don’t have the capabilities to accept credit or debit cards at this time. Some markets do accept SNAP/EBT cards and WIC vouchers. If in doubt, swing by the ATM before heading to the market. Also, vendors appreciate bills in smaller denomination.
►Bring a bag or a basket. To help keep costs down, it is best practice to bring a reusable bag or basket to carry all of the wonderful items you find. Dont worry if you happen to forget! Vendors will always have a few extras.
►Ask questions. Farmers are farmers because they love the food that they grow. They are incredibly knowledgeable about the fruits of their labor – no pun intended – and enjoy sharing information about their growing practices and favorite preparation techniques.
►Try something new. Farmers markets provide the opportunity to branch out from the traditional Russet potatoes, Roma tomatoes and Red Delicious apples. In fact, many local growers offer more unusual or heirloom varieties of common fruits and vegetables that are more suitable for our Wisconsin climate and growing season. Farmers markets provide the perfect opportunity to try something new like purple carrots or multicolored tomatoes. And, there are frequently samples!
►Get creative. One of the beautiful things about shopping at farmers markets is seasonality. Although farmers are often able to give a good prediction of what will be available in the upcoming weeks, there is little certainty from week to week. So, head to the farmers market with an open mind and prepare to get creative!
►Bring the family. With a bounty of delicious and nutritious foods, the farmers market is the perfect venue to get kids excited about fruits and vegetables. Markets also offer the unique opportunity to learn more about where food comes from, how it is grown and what can be done with it.
►Have fun! There are few activities that are comparable to shopping at a farmers market. Enjoy the lively atmosphere, befriend a farmer and have fun eating the freshest of foods!