Thursday, June 20, 2013

Smart Shopping at a Farmers' Market by D'Ann McElhinney

Farmers' markets are one of the oldest forms of direct marketing by small farmers.  From the traditional “mercados” in the Peruvian Andes to the unique street markets in Asia, growers all over the world gather weekly to sell their produce directly to the public.  In the last decade they have become a favorite marketing method for many farmers throughout the United States, and a weekly ritual for many shoppers.

In a farmers' market, a group of farmers sell their products once or twice a week at a designated public place like a park or parking lot.  Some farmers' markets have live entertainment.  Shopping at a farmers' market is a great way to meet local farmers and get fresh, flavorful produce.

Shopping Tips

  • Go early for the best selection.
  • Check out all the booths before making your choices.  There is generally a large and colorful variety of produce and locally-made food products.
  • Be realistic about what you will actually eat.  Over shopping is a common rookie mistake. 
  • Cash is always accepted, but many of Colorado farmers' markets also accept credit cards and Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards that enable food stamp transaction at farmers' markets.
  • Bring cloth shopping bags.  They are sturdier and much better for corn!  Or, reuse clean plastic bags.  Insulated bags work well for cold or frozen foods.
  • Wear comfortable clothing, shoes and sunscreen.  Bring a camera since there are great photo opportunities.
  • Take your time and get to know your local vendors and their foods.  Many booths offer cooking tips and recipes.
  • Try a new item each time you visit a farmers' market – you may discover a favorite food.  Ask the vendor for handling and preparation instructions. 
  • Share the bounty – take some fruit or flowers to a friend or neighbor.  Extra produce can also be frozen, dried or canned for out-of-season enjoyment.
  • Go home soon after making your purchases in order to maintain peak quality.  Bring a cooler with cold packs or ice to keep perishable foods cool on the way home.  Place delicate produce, like leafy greens, on top of cold packs.
  • Most of all...ENJOY!

See more information regarding shopping at Colorado Farmers' Markets at the Colorado State University Extension Fact Sheet No. 9.379.