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5 Tips for Navigating the Farmers' Markets

Farmers’ Markets are a great way to become familiar with an area’s local flavor, feel, and culture.  Attending these events are a great way to try support local vendors and learn about the history of an area. Being intentional during your visit allows you to enjoy meeting people and becoming familiar with what an area has to offer. Eating local and supporting local farmers benefits local communities.

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Here are a few tips to getting the most out of your Farmers' Market visit.  

1.Arrive Early.  The saying the early bird gets the worm, definitely applies with farmers’ markets.  Farmers will run out of products before the end of the day, and arriving early allows you to be the first to choose from the array of products.  This is especially true for popular products like farm fresh eggs, grass-fed beef, and homemade baked goods, that tend to run out early!

2.Ask Farmers if they offer CSAs early in the Season.  Some farmers will allow you to buy a portion of their production for a monthly or season fee as part of a Community Supported Agriculture or CSA.  Essentially, you will buy a “share” of the farmers’ produce which mitigates any risk due to weather or other factors, and in return you enjoy the bounty of their farm.  It is like a membership, in that each week you will receive a box of variety of in-season produce through the growing time.  CSAs have become extremely popular due to the connection to local food.  They are a great way to get to know the farmers and the wonderful products they provide communities.

3.Bring a cooler, reusable grocery tote, or basket.  You might want to go out to lunch afterwards, so bringing a cooler or ice pack helps make the most of your time.  Since many products sell out early, this will keep things cool while you continue shopping.  It is also much easier to navigate the market if your hands are free, so bringing a bag allows your hands to be free for samples. 

4. Chit-Chat with the Vendors.  Farmers are experts at their product, and provide invaluable knowledge about what they do best.  If you are friendly and show an appreciation for their product, they are often happy to educate you about the ins and outs of their product, including cooking methods or best ways to use their product.  In addition, local vendors provide a plethora of local knowledge, such as best restaurants and events. 

5.Walk Around Before Buying.  Most markets will provide an ample sampling of products, so it is best to plan out what you will buy, especially during your first visit.  You might find two vendors that sell Asparagus for instance, and you might want to compare organic vs. conventional options.  Walking the market first gives you a sense of what meals you might prepare, as produce might go with eggs, baked goods, or protein options.  Taking this time in the beginning, allows you to take it all in before deciding what to bring home, and gives you a second to plan your budget, especially if you are using cash.

If you are visiting the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market in Arkansas, check out our prior post for more info!  Happy Farmers' Market hunting!