Spring has finally sprung here in North Carolina and I'm excited because that means the return of farmers markets!
I first started going to one of the local farmers markets here years and years ago, because I thought it was a nice, relaxing place to walk around and I enjoyed browsing with a friend and a cup of coffee.
But ever since I switched to a cleaner diet three years ago, going to the farmers market has become a necessity.
First of all, the selection of fresh, organic, non-GMO foods is unmatched! Plus, I love supporting local farmers and it is still a nice place to walk around with a friend and a cup of (now decaf) coffee.
I HIGHLY recommend checking out a farmers market in your area. If you aren't sure where they might be held, just look up your local towns' tourism website or just google your city name with the words "farmers market" and I'm sure you'll find at least a couple. You can also check out the USDA's National Farmer's Market Directory here.
But before you run off to the nearest market, I've put together a few tips for you to get the most out of your experience. Plus, a FREE cheatsheet on how to pick the best produce, so be sure not to miss that at the end of this post!
Happy shopping! :)
Market Tip #1: Bring a Basket or Tote.
Now, most farmers markets DO have plastic or paper bags at all the vendor stands. So it's not like you're going to end up juggling your tomatoes and eggplant if you don't bring a basket. But the reason I suggest you bring a basket or tote is because you will probably end up getting a LOT of stuff and it can become annoying trying to carry all those heavy bags with the puny handles.
The best thing you can do (what I do every week) is to bring a rolling tote bag like this that is insulated. That way, your produce, meats, eggs, cheese and other assorted goodies that you pick up will stay nice and cool even on a hot summer's day. This is especially handy if you decide to stick around afterwards and have breakfast somewhere!
Market Tip #2: Talk to the Vendors!
One of my favorite things about a farmers market is being able to actually talk to the people that grew/raised the food! In the grocery store, you have to depend on what the labels tell you (which isn't exactly accurate, half the time). But at a market, you can ask the farmer exactly how they grow their food and if they use any pesticides. Or if it's meat products... how they raise their animals, what they feed them and how they slaughter them. They are more than happy to answer questions and talk about it too (it IS their livelihood, after all!), so don't be afraid to ask!
Market Tip #3: Try Something New!
Farmers markets are filled with all sorts of items, some of which you may never have heard of. But what better time to try something new, than when you're standing right in front of an expert? I've talked to mushroom growers about all the different types of mushrooms, purchased new varieties of lettuce I had never seen and even sampled some homemade kimchi. You may just find a new favorite food, so be adventurous!
Market Tip #4: Buy Your Meat & Eggs There Too.
You may think of just fruits and veggies when you think of a farmers market, but there is SO much more to be found at most markets. I always buy my eggs, cheese, butter and most of my meats at the market as well. Again, I enjoy supporting local farmers and I like that I can ask the growers questions about their products. And I have to say, they are usually tastier and last longer than the items I buy at the store. Especially the meats, which are always tender and flavorful. There is something to be said for no antibiotics, no grains, no hormones and humane raising!
Market Tip #5: Treat Yourself!
Most farmers markets have lots of other fun stuff too like flowers, handmade soaps and lotions, lip balms and even pottery. So treat yourself to something nice! At our local farmers market, there is a vendor with the most beautiful flower arrangements you've ever seen. So every couple of weeks, I like to treat myself to a beautiful bouquet for my house - just because.
Okay, you're almost ready to hit the market! Don't forget to grab your FREE produce cheatsheet, so you know how to pick out the best fruits and veggies when you get there!