Oh the joys of a local Farmer’s Market. I’ve been a farmer’s market attendee since I can remember. I spent many Saturday mornings strolling down a blocked off street, going from vendor to vendor spending the $10 or so my mom gave me. My go-to purchases as a kid usually raisin bread, goat cheese, and strawberries that I would eat before we even got home (NOT RECOMMENDED! See food safety tips below!).
Since then, I have gotten to see farmer’s markets from a new perspective. While I was living in Mississippi, I had the pleasure of working at a small farm and was the main market crew member. I would go to two different markets a week that were 45-60minutes away from our farm. My Saturdays would often start at 3:30-4:00am and end around 3pm. It was a tiring day with a lot of loading and unloading of tents, tables and produce. Nevertheless, I loved going to the markets. I enjoyed talking to the customers and was eager to share with them the produce that we worked so hard to grow. I loved the exchanging of recipe ideas and seeing folks excited about the local food system. For me, and for many, the local farmer’s market is synonymous with community.
Along the years I’ve picked up some tips, tricks, and good practices that can help you make the most out of your market experiences:
- Locate parking before you go! Some markets have limited parking so it’s always helpful to go in with a plan.
- If you have the time, make a lap around the market to compare prices and quality before you purchase anything.
- Bring your own bags! Not only does it keep plastic out of our landfills, but it is MUCH easier to carry one or two reusable bags than carrying 4 or 5 plastic ones.
- Try to bring small cash bills. This is extremely helpful for vendors who are having to make change for customers and not all vendors accept credit cards or checks.
- Food safety and selection
- Try to choose produce that has the deepest/brightest colors, these tend to be the freshest!
- Have a recipe or two in mind that you are shopping to help you minimize over-buying and prevent food waste.
- Involve your kids in the process! Kids are much more likely to be excited about fruits and vegetables when you involve them and let them make some decisions about what to buy
- If you are unsure what something is, don’t be afraid to ask! Most vendors and farmers want to engage and share what they know.
- Buy any items that need to be kept cold last so they are in the danger zone (40°F to 140°F) for the least amount of time. Consider having insulated bags or have cooler set up in the car to keep items cold. Refrigerate cold items within 2 hours to help minimize foodborne illness risk.
- Avoid eating unwashed fresh produce. Some items are portioned out into the containers they are sold in as they are being picked. This is especially true for berries since they do not keep once washed.
For a comprehensive list of farmer’s market best practices, check out https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/FS302 .
If you’d like to know more about local agriculture and farmer’s markets in Seminole County, you can find that information here- https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/seminoleco/2022/01/07/2022-local-farms-guide/ .