Summer has finally arrived! And, Orange County has fifteen different farmers markets for you to explore. Shopping at the farmers market is one sure way to buy fresh locally-grown and in-season produce. Take a look at the following tips for making the best of your local farmers market.
- Dress appropriately – When headed to your local farmers market, dress comfortably and travel light. Check the weather report before you leave home and dress accordingly. The farmers market will be open come rain or come shine. A hooded jacket is better for a rainy day than trying to maneuver through the crowds with an umbrella and all your purchases. Wear clothes with lots of pockets; and on sunny days, wear sunscreen and sunglasses.
- Know the season – Don’t go to the farmers market in July expecting to find pumpkins. Do not expect uniform size in the produce selections either. Sizing is a supermarket tactic, but it is not the way things grow.
- Be bold and try something new - You will find heirloom varieties that you may not have tasted before. Farmers can also tell you what they will be bringing to future markets as the season progresses. Be prepared by making a shopping list, but also allow for spontaneity.
- Go early or go late – If you arrive early, the market will be less crowded and availability will be good. On the other hand, you may find bargains and reduced prices at the end of the market day. Most farmers do not want to take their goods back home.
- How will you pay? Markets are ready to take senior coupons, WIC coupons, and many have an EBT machine for accepting SNAP, but, bringing cash is your best bet. Carry small bills and change in a pocket-size change purse. Some vendors are equipped and ready to take credit cards, but cash is ideal. Leave your larger purse at home or in your trunk.
- Tour the entire market first – Stroll around and check out what is available and the prices. Most prices are uniform, but the varieties and quality may not be as consistent. Decide which vendor you will purchase from.
- Take your own bags and containers – Berries get crushed, so take a ridged container or basket. If you plan to buy fresh-cut flowers, they should be placed in water for the trip home. Although some farmers’ market vendors have bags, very few have boxes. It is easier if you bring your own containers and reusable bags with handles. Make sure that they are clean. You are contributing to the most basic recycling cause by using your own cloth bags.
- Consider a small cart or cooler on wheels – Even small bags can get mighty heavy as you walk through the Farmers Market. Places to sit and rest may be limited. Place a cooler or two in the car. Pack it with some ice or cold-packs to keep things at peak freshness. Many types of produce like melons, corn, apples, will not need immediate cooling. If you use a cart, be considerate of other shoppers. There are lots open-toed shoes out there!
- Do not over buy – Eat it while it is fresh and return next week for more. Do some mental meal planning, even if you do not write it down, and don’t buy more than you can eat in a week.
Til next time, enjoy the family! Stefanie
Source – University of Illinois Extension