The Farmers Market Shopping Guide

Posted On Aug 11, 2015 By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD

The Farmers Market Shopping Guide

Summer's bounty of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs line the tables of local gardeners and farmers. Unlike the grocery store, you can actually smell the ripe tomatoes as you walk by. This is one of the many benefits of shopping at a farmers market: Produce ripens on the vine, giving it more robust flavor and increased nutrient content.

Other advantages of buying from local growers include less pesticide or chemical use, even if it's not certified organic, and you know where you're food is coming from. To have the best experience possible at farmers markets, try these tips. If you've never been to one, use this as a guide for a successful first farmers market outing.

  1. Go early and bring cash and a shopping bag!

    You'll have the prime picks of the market before items run out. Most growers, especially in smaller towns, only take cash, so take smaller bills to make your purchases simpler and quicker. Don't forget your reusable grocery bag or recycle plastic bags to carry your treasures in.

  2. Buy products, especially produce, that are easily grown in your region for more economical purchases.

    They'll also have better flavor, texture, and overall quality than fruits and vegetables that are grown in climates not conducive to their required growing conditions.

  3. Don't be afraid to ask the grower what something is or how to prepare it.

    I came across Indian spinach at my local farmers market, which I'd never seen before. The grower was more than happy to talk about it and offer suggestions on how to use it. If you want to know how they grow something or their farming practices, most are very willing to share and eager to educate people about farming and gardening.

  4. Make it a family affair.

    Farmers markets are a great opportunity for kids to learn and gain a hands-on experience with healthy eating. Let your child pick out a new or different piece of produce to help prepare at home. This also shows your child where food comes from and helps develop a deeper appreciation for food and nutrition.

  5. Don't be scared off by imperfect produce.

    Unlike the grocery store, where every apple is identical in size and shape and tomatoes are perfectly round and smooth, produce from farmers markets might vary in size, shape, and color. Heirloom tomatoes come in a combination of off-colors from traditional red tomatoes, along with plenty of odd shapes and wrinkles. This is not an indication that the food is bad!

Do you have any additional tips you like to use while shopping at a farmers market? Use the comments below to share them.