Getting the Most from your Market: 10 Tips from a Farmers Market Manager

crested butte farmers market

Has your favorite market started its season?  With the cost of food climbing and interest in local foods growing, you might be wondering how to get the most from your farmers market this season.  My husband and I manage one of the most progressive farmers markets in Colorado (See that beauty up there?  That’s our market.), and in those six years, I’ve come to find a few tips and tricks that will help you save money, find the best foods and make good relationships with your growers.

With the first day of our farmers market arriving on Sunday, my husband and I are finalizing layout, design work, promotional materials and a brand-new farm-to-restaurant program.  We’re busy, busy.  But I still wanted to take the time to share with you my tips for getting the most from your market.

Go Early, but Not Too Early.

The best stuff goes fast. A farmer may only have a single flat of ripe, juicy blackberries or a couple of pounds of fresh green peas, so arrive early to make sure you get the best pick of the market’s high-demand, seasonal fruits and vegetables.   Take care, though, not to go too early: some markets disallow sales prior to the official hour and the sale you ask the farmer to make early may very well slow down set-up thus reducing the sales she or he can make later.

Or Go Late, but Not Too Late.

Farmers may discount their produce toward the end of the day.   No one wants to cart a half case of unsold tomatoes or peaches back to the farm where they have row after row ready for another harvest.   If your budget is tight, attending late may yield the best deals. Sometimes, farmers discount their produce as much as 20% by the end of the day just to get it sold so they don’t have to take it back to the farm.   Of course, the rules and regulations of some markets actually disallow this sort of end-of-the-day blowout pricing, so keep that in mind if you’re late to arrive.

Ask questions.

Rules and regulations vary wildly from market to market.   Just because it’s at a farmers market, doesn’t mean it’s organically grown or even sold by the person who did the growing.  Now our farmers market has some of the strictest rules in the nation.  We require that all produce be Certified Organic or Certified Naturally Grown, that all meats, eggs and animal foods be pasture-raised and grass-fed.  Even prepared food vendors and concessionaires are required to only use Certified Organic ingredients.  We also audit every vendor to make sure those rules are adhered to.  Of course, our market is an anomoly – most markets don’t have these kind of requirements and some have no regulations on what can be sold or who can sell it.

So, take the time to ask questions.  Do  you spray?  What do you spray? What are your cows eating?  How much time do they spend on grass?  Is your farm ever open to the public?  Do you grow what you sell?

Offer to help  a market manager.

Market managers need help, too.  While customers bitch and moan about prices, or lack of out-of-season produce that has no place at a market (seriously, guys? You want oranges in Colorado … in July?) and farmers are complaining because they know their rival got the sweet spot in the market (FYI: there is no sweet spot in a market) your market manager is busting his or her hump making sure vendors have change, tents are weighed down so they don’t fly into your car during a wind gust, calling ambulances for heat stroke victims and sending that random dude who showed up trying to sell Chinese pocket knives home.  It’s a lot of work, and they need a lot of help.

By offering to help, you not only support your market and the market manager (market manager burnout is the #1 reason for market failure according to  a study commissioned by the Oregon Tilth Association), but also get to know your farmer.  And some markets, like ours, compensate volunteers with huge bags of fresh produce, grass-fed meats and pasture-raised eggs at the end of the day.

Bring Your Own Bags & Baskets

Most vendors don’t supply and don’t wish to supply customers with disposable bags.   Other markets, like ours, are designated zero-waste zones and don’t allow vendors to bring new plastic bags for customer use. By bringing your own bags, you reduce waste at the market and in your own home. Plus, there’s just something exceptionally beautiful about a basket brimming with bright green lettuce, dark red cherries, orange apricots and other lovely fruits and vegetables.

Bring a Cooler

Good markets offer considerably more than fruits and vegetables.   You’ll find meats, fish, milk, cheese, yogurt, fermented foods and ready-to-eat items that require refrigeration.   By bringing a cooler, you can keep fresh foods that need to be kept cool cold and go back to spend more time at the market – listening to music, watching the kids participate in children’s activities or lunching at one of the concessionaire’s stands.   This way your lettuce won’t go limp, your berries won’t melt and your meat won’t thaw.  When I go to market I keep a cooler in my car, load up, and head right back.

Bring Cash and Small Bills

By bringing cash and small bills (plenty of 5s and 1s), you’ll spend less time checking out and more time shopping.  While bigger farmers markets usually have a credit card machine, they are cumbersome, costly and it can be hard to track them down.   Bigger vendors will usually offer credit card and debit card processing; however, this privilege comes at the farmer’s expense.   By bringing cash and – specifically – small bills, you keep money in your farmer’s pocket and you make it easier for him to make change for the masses of folks who bring nothing but $20 bills from the nearby ATM.

Buy by the Case

You want to keep your miles-to-the-plate low and keep eating local foods year-round, so consider preserving the harvest and purchase by the case.   Buying by the case and in bulk quantities is cost-effective as most farmers will discount whole boxes of fruit and vegetables by 15-30% – you may even enjoy a further discount if you commit to buying a case or two a week for the duration of the market.  With that level of commitment, you’re getting wholesale prices.  And it’s this way that I can manage to buy 30 lbs of local organic cabbage for just $0.75/lb for homemade sauerkraut or sweet cherries for $1.50 / lb to freeze or dry.

Buy the Ugly Stuff

You can reduce your costs even further by purchasing #2 fruits and vegetables. Folks can be fickle about the food they eat and if that peach lacks just the right blush and if that apple isn’t perfectly round, they can be difficult to sell.   The flavor is the same and these fruits and vegetables are great to preserve for the winter months.   Cases of #2 produce can be discounted as much as 50%.   Take care, though, to check the produce thoroughly before making your purchase; some unscrupulous farmers have tried to pass off moldy peaches or maggot-filled sour cherries as #2 fruit (I’ve learned the hard way).  #2 fruit means that the appearance is marred, but not the quality.

Know the Crop Calendar

You’d laugh if you knew how often I have to field a question on why we don’t sell bananas at our Colorado market, or why apples aren’t available in June or why cherries aren’t available in October.   If you want to eat in season, you need to respect the seasons.   Part of the pleasure of shopping at your local market is developing an appreciation of fresh, local foods at the height of their natural season.   If you’re unsure when apricots will be in season or when the snap peas will stop producing; visit the farmers market information booth.

Many markets produce a market-specific crop calendar that will tell you when various fruits and vegetables available at your local farmers market will begin and end.   If your market doesn’t offer this service, your county cooperative extension office or your state’s department of agriculture will. Celebrate your market and your local farmers.   Buy fresh, buy local and buy in season.

Got another farmers market tip? Share it in the comments.

 

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What people are saying

  1. says

    This is a terrific post, so much great information. I applaud you, your market, and your excellent tips. I learned a lot. Thank you.

  2. says

    Great tips! Our farmer’s markets are just getting up and running for the year. I am so looking forward to being able to walk around and get to know this year’s group!

  3. says

    This is fantastic!
    My fiance and I are going to try going to the market every Saturday, however we both really dislike the crowds, shoving and pushing. Going early really is the only way to avoid that… we just need wake up energy haha.

    I had no idea about the #2 fruit, or that sometimes there can be discounts! Great tips, thank you very much :) (and thanks for visiting my blog :) )

    Blessings!

  4. says

    What helpful tips! There are quite a few there that I didn’t even think of that can go a long way to help the budget conscious.

    Thanks for sharing them in today’s Fight Back Fridays carnival.

    Cheers,
    KristenM
    (AKA FoodRenegade)

  5. says

    Oh I just can’t wait for our markets to begin! My friend is the market manager in our town and yes, it’s crazy for her. I’m going to have a booth there this year to get people talking about holistic health and yoga. Woohoo!

  6. says

    What an amazing photo of a farmer’s market. Ours is NOTHING like this. It’s like 4 backyard gardeners who excess of produce. I’ve yet to actually buy anything, but this week is the week I do. I have dedicated myself to local produce and I’m going to patronize these 4 farmers :)

    • crazy4boys says

      Our local farmer’s market is like that too! Well, we might have 8 farmers. I will most likely be driving to the next “big” city which is an hour and a half away to buy meats and eggs every 6 weeks or so.

      • Kathleen K says

        I WISH we had backyard farmers at our markets. Our “farmers” have some of their own produce, but about 50% comes from “partner” growers, up to 500 miles away. (and that is local?). They don’t know how it was raised. I’d love to support local farmers but I feel our market is a deception and so I go to pick up locally raised grass fed beef and that is it. On a positive note, it gave me great incentive to start our own vegetable garden and for the past several weeks, all our dinner’s veggies come from the back yard. Now THAT is LOCAL!

  7. says

    Very helpful post! I stumbled it.

    I go to the farmer’s market 1-2 times a week, every week. It’s my very favorite way to do grocery shopping!

  8. says

    Great tips! The market in my town doesn’t start until the end of the month, but I drove 20 minutes away (to a larger suburb) today to visit their market, which opened last weekend. So disappointing! All but one booth had truly local produce, and the others would tell me things like “It’s from Florida” when I asked where the vegetables came from (I’m in Northwest Georgia). I knew tomatoes and melons were too good to be true right now…

  9. says

    These were great tips that you shared, Jenny, good to know the “insider” tricks :) I’m hoping to get some more good local rhubarb tomorrow AM at one of the Minneapolis markets, so these ideas will help me when I go. Thanks!

  10. says

    these are indeed words of wisdom and inclusive helpfullness

    one extra thought dont buy from people you suspect are not selling their own produce ..freeze them out

    that way the integrity of the market is maintained

    p.s always specifically thank the stallholders for coming out all weathers etc ..they will do likewise ..you may even get extra information/ tips / new produce samples or be invited to become one of live new produce research team !!

    • says

      Thanks, love to hear comments like yours. Some of the farmers I know have run out of the meat they raised and bought animals they did not raise just to keep there customers. I do not practice this, if I’m out I will tell you when I will have more. I use to suggest other farmers until one started selling products that wasn’t grown by him. Know your Farmer Know your Food!

  11. Leah says

    I’ve been volunteering at our market and was happily surprised when the manager insisted I take a free farmer’s market T-shirt last weekend. It was really sweet of her.

    Interesting trivia: while all the farmers who sell at markets I’ve been to in other parts of the country (midwest, northeast) are really emphatic about their “more than organic” status (“more-ganic” in Ithaca, NY, for example), here in Louisiana, no one even bothers to say whether they spray or not.

    I’d prefer to buy pesticide-free stuff when I have the choice, and I find it so interesting that only one person at our market even bothers to specify this information (and he’s selling meat).

    Of course I can (and do) ask the farmers, but I just thought it was interesting.

  12. Amanda says

    Thank you! I loved reading this article, it’s so uplifting!
    I’m in Greece and I love shopping at my local organic farmers market on saturday mornings ….it’s how I like best to start a regular weekend.
    I enjoy the seasonal surprises and thinking about what to do with them, the pleasure of trusting the farmers and the quality of their produce, the authenticity, courage and wisdom of the farmers, the other shoppers that I meet there …and so much more :)
    Keep spreading the word for tasty, healthy, safe, environmently and globe-friendly produce :)

  13. Lauren says

    One of the best things about summer are farmers markets– and swimming.

    I made a fresh strawberry pie yesterday and the fruit was amazing! It’s so cheap right now to.

  14. Lauren says

    One of the best things about summer are farmers markets– and swimming.

    I made a fresh strawberry pie yesterday and the fruit was amazing! It’s so cheap right now to.

  15. rachel says

    Where in Colorado are you? We are going to Leadville towards the end of the summer and would love to visit this farmer’s market.

  16. says

    I often want canning quantities of seconds. So I ask the folks at the farmers booth how I can contact the farmer directly if they are not there. Then I negotiate picking up a larger quantity of produce at their farm, or having it brought to the next market. That way I am not purchasing small bunches or by the pound for perfection when what I really want is by the bushel for processing. Sometimes they will even allow U-pick, and if I have the time, I get to play farmer too!

  17. says

    We frequent farmers markets every weekend, in season which is May to October, and love it. I wanted to note that many farmers markets these days are accepting food stamps and WIC coupons which is another benefit for low income people. We also belong to a CSA and they accept food stamps on a weekly pay system which has been really great for my family.

  18. says

    These are all such great tips! I’d like to add one more: get to know the farmers who are there each week. After attending the Boulder farmers market regularly over the past 5 years, I have some of my favorite farmers for certain items. I enjoy talking with them and getting to know them a bit. Plus, sometimes when they have a bit extra or want you to try something, they’re willing to give you a good deal. It’s always great to build a relationship with those who are growing your food!

    • says

      This is my biggest tip, too.

      At our market (Bolixi, MS), there are a wide range of things – including folks with stands of bananas and other imported stuff!

      But by chatting with the folks each time, I have built relationships… the dairy farmer who provides our milk, the lovely couple who keeps chickens for eggs, and the two farmers who raise their own fruit and vegetables (along with bringing in the occasional “more distant” something from the next state over or so, which they disclose as such).

  19. says

    Also, make sure YOU know your state’s rules and regulations for the vendors. Here in KS, there are things that have to be done in a licensed kitchen even tho it’s at a farmer’s market. Some things don’t have to be from the licensed kitchen. I take out breads, pies, etc. I have requests for vegan, diabetic friendly, etc. I also take out homemade laundry soap, as well as handmade clothing.

    I don’t do “organic”, as I like my garden produce to actually survive the onslaught of bugs–Sevin is my best friend. But I do grow food, herbs, etc. I use what I grow as well in my baking, well washed of course.

  20. vickie wilson says

    I am enjoying your website and I shop at the farmers market every week. I suggested that our farmers market have a barrel available for people to drop off/pick up/ used plastic bags. The “newbies” always forget to bring bags and it is a nice way to recycle.

  21. says

    Not to take anything away from your article it is great. But from the other side of the coin as a very small grower trying to sell at farmers markets I find them to be a good old boys club where those that get in early have the right to sell the vegetables that make the money and are easy to grow while the late arrivals like myself are basically told that we can’t sell anything that we grow. So much for the free market. I have found all of the farmers markets in my area anti-free market, and competition, anti-small grower, anti-consumer.
    If growers can not make a living with competition perhaps they should re-evaluate their business model and their offerings.

    • Jenny says

      That’s a SERIOUS issue you bring up, Joe. We tend toward the free market side (as long as it’s grown according to organic standards), and we don’t restrict what you bring to market as long as you grow what you sell. USDA data (and our own market data) shows that the more people you have selling, the better everyone does. But you’re right there’s a sense of a “good ol’ boys” club in a lot of markets and market managers will say “You can’t bring X, because this other farm sells it” which I think is a disservice to customers as well as farmers. We don’t have that policy at all.

      • Bearclover says

        I can see both sides to this argument. For market managers, its a lot of work to keep track of and do all the paperwork for a zillion smaller farmers that might only have enough produce for a few weeks vs one larger producer that can last the entire season. It’s also harder for customers to get to know their farmer if the turnover is too high with a bunch of very small farms.

        From a vendor perspective, if there are too many vendors all selling the same thing at the same time, the customer base gets too diluted and no one can make enough of a profit to make it worth their while to come to the market. Fuel costs are becoming a serious issue for most vendors. If I show up to a market and there’s several other honey vendors there for a few weeks (small producers), it cuts into my profits so badly during that time, its not worth it for me to come to the market.

        • jenny says

          At our market, you come for the full season or you don’t come at all. I really don’t like it when vendors try to milk the high season. Also, if you don’t sell something unique and different from the others, our market won’t accept the farm which isn’t the same thing as actually barring people from selling what they grow. For instance, everyone at our market grows greens, tomatoes, cukes and cabbage but each farmer also sells something unique: one sells flowers, one sells chiles, one sells melons, another sells stonefruit etc. So when someone applied seeking to sell *ONLY* the crops everyone already sells with no additional unique item, we declined.

    • says

      I agree with this statement. I have been selling at markets ane a market manager together for 6 years, and we allowed anyone to join that was following the rules at our market. This would upset some vendors, (here in Houston everyone sells tamales and don’t want to compete), bt that is just tough. If we could pull off just being a tamale market, that is fine if everyone is making money. It is so hard to keep veggie vendors coming. Here in Houston it is a very odd market and growing season, so our markets are year round, but it is so hard to keep a balance between prepard foods and farm products. Texas has rules that most everything must be prepared in commercial kitchens, which also really limits vendors. I hate selling at markets that have the “exclusive” vendor policy that limits competition. For one thing, it keeps the markets so small. If you do see a market that seeems to have that policy, (and it is pretty easy to tell), then complain loud and often to the manager and others, because this is actually against many business laws.

  22. Bearclover says

    Advice from a VENDOR:
    We’re beekeepers (800-1K colonies) and sell at several farmer’s markets in California. We do both seasonal and year-round markets. We’ve been beekeepers for over 25 years and have sold at farmer’s markets for at least five years. We’re family owned/operated and have no employees (other than the ones we gave birth to).

    Go Early, but Not Too Early/Go Late, but Not Too Late:
    Excellent advice. I’ve had customers get upset with me because they took time off on their lunchbreak/hectic schedule to rush over “just to buy honey” and I can’t sell it to them before the markets begins or after it ends because at one of our markets, the market manager will kick us out of selling at the market if we do. Some market managers are very strict about this. While I appreciate your loyalty and would love to sell to you, I can’t risk being barred from the market. There are also those customers that have heard if they show up late they’ll get a better deal. Please don’t show up too late- if we’ve already loaded and everything is packed, we’re not likely to unload to sell you $5 worth of something. Farming is hard work, most of us got up very early to harvest, get there and set up, and have more work to do when we finally get home.

    Ask Questions:
    I’m more than happy to answer questions about our product as most farmers are, but please don’t use me as a replacement for Google and YouTube. If you’re interested in growing your own tomatoes, keeping your own bees, or want to know three different recipes for how to cook an unfamiliar vegetable, please Google it.

    In California, Certified Farmer’s Markets are just that- certified. The County Ag Commisioner comes out to our farms, inspects what we grow/produce, and determines how much product we’re able to produce in a year. Our market managers require us to fill out load sheets every market- it tracks what we brought to the market and how much we sold and that gets reported to the county. If we sell over our yearly amount, it’s a good indication that farmer is getting his product elsewhere and we can be fined or barred completely. Each of us is required to display an embossed county cerrtificate in our stalls at every market to show we’ve been inspected. Find out if your state has a similar requirement. It doesn’t guarantee it’s organic; that’s a different certification, but it does guarantee you’re buying directly from the producer.

    Bring Your Own Bags & Baskets/bring cash and small bills:
    Yes and YES! Bags cost us money, end up blowing all over the market, and pretty much go against what a lot of us environmentally conscious farmers believe in. PLEASE bring small bills. Not every market manager carries change for farmers (most don’t) and we aren’t keen on carrying a lot of cash in our till so we can break a hundred dollar bill for a $10 purchase. It’s dangerous to have that much cash on us, usually requires a trip into town during banking hours to get it, and conterfeit money gets circulated at markets a lot more than people realize. Credit card machines (or smartphones) are expensive. Most of us don’t own a smartphone because we live in areas with poor cellular coverage, and besides, the cost is going to have to get added to YOUR costs and most of us try to keep our prices as low as possible.

    Other tips:
    * Please don’t come to the market to graze on samples if you have no intention of buying.
    * Become a Regular: I appreciate all my customers, but there are a few regulars that I get attached to. Farmers are people too, and for the most part are a pretty friendly, laid-back bunch. We’ll go the extra mile for the customers we get to know some and become fond of. I’ve broken into my own stores of limited honey varieties that I held back for my family a few times for customers when I was already sold out for the season, have decorated and gifted a jar of honey with star stickers for the little girl of of one family when I heard she got all straight A’s on her report card, and made sure an elderly woman on a very limited income had a supply of beeswax whether she could pay me or not because she used it as a homeopathic cure for exzcema.
    *Ask the farmer if he would like you to bring back jars, strawberry baskets, egg cartons, etc. Sometimes there are laws about what and how we can reuse packaging, but a lot of times we can and it helps defray our costs. Plus, its just good for the environment!

    • says

      i have been building rapport with several of my farmers at my local market and it’s WONDERFUL. my butcher reached out to his friends and fam in italy on my behalf before an upcoming trip to see if he could connect me with anyone there. it’s a sacred part of my market experience to see the folks who grow my food and check in with them about their lives. THANK YOU for all you do :)

    • says

      Well done! I’m a vendor at a small market, and I would heartily endorse all the vendor tips above. I’d add this one:

      Please don’t set your purse, or your bag of kohlrabi, or your darling toddler daughter, onto my table full of bread and cookies. You wouldn’t believe how many people do this.

  23. Susan says

    I found that by just taking a few minutes to chat with my farmers every week, that I have formed some friendships of sort. The benefit is that I have not only met some nice people, but if I go a little later in the day, they have often given me stuff for free because they don’t want to load it back into their truck. I’ve received some stuff we’ve never tried before, some stuff that is a little bruised up and some stuff that looks like crap. But free, is free! I either put it in soup or give it to my dogs. The freebies don’t happen every week, but at least twice a month, so that’s cool!

  24. says

    I love shopping at the Farmer’s Market – I’m lucky and live in NC where the market goes most of the year. (Although the selection is much better in the summer!)
    Nothing feels better than sitting down to a meal and realizing everything on my plate was grown locally!

  25. says

    Greetings, Everyone!
    Great article about the Markets! I also learned a lot from Everyone’s Comments! Keep your farming/gardening/marketing/distribution tips coming!
    At VAL’S PORCH, our Non-profit community Camp & Organic “Munch Garden” in the small sea-side town of Coden, Alabama, we are NEW to ALL of this! (We are currently seeding & praying and wanting to share so much of our future harvest with Humanity, but still have SO much more to learn!)
    Thank you for helping us. We look forward to participating at our LOCAL Mobile, AL County Farmers Markets. Hopefully the ‘good ol boy’ mentality will be small potatoes to us! *Smiles* :-)
    *(Also, a Special NOTE in Response to the Comments Post from “Bearclover” above…I can agree with what you said, Except for: “* Please don’t come to the market to graze on samples if you have no intention of buying.” Maybe I’m an exception, but it was because of the “Generous Samples” I received from Farmers-Market Vendors at Emory University in Atlanta & from “Fruit-Truck Joe” while I was traveling the world as a “homeless woman” for over 500+ days, that I was nourished & inspired to make a Healthy change in my life AND to become a grower as well! Don’t lose faith in those Grazers…because they KNOW your product firsthand, even though they may not BUY your stuff, they can REFER their Friends to YOU! Consider it ‘free Advertisement’, if you may.
    And on your other Tips, I especially appreciate your suggestion to: *Ask the farmer if he would like you to bring back jars, strawberry baskets, egg cartons, etc. Sometimes there are laws about what and how we can reuse packaging, but a lot of times we can and it helps defray our costs. Plus, it’s just good for the environment!” EXCELLENT!
    Blessings to everyone in your labor from the grassroots!
    Respectfully,
    Rita Greenwood
    VAL’S PORCH
    Exec. Dir & “Innkeeper”

  26. says

    Great tips, will share with my clients. There are a number of sites and apps that can help with understanding what’s in season in your area. My favorite is Localvore on the iPhone. For a website, localharvest.org

  27. Cherri says

    Be sure to take children to the Farmer’s Market! What an easy way to introduce food! Let them taste, pickup veggies and fruits, listen to the musicians, buy something that they find interesting, ask them to choose the ‘head of cabbage’ they think looks good, etc., etc.

  28. Heather Munro says

    I am a vendor at the local festivals and came across a great little device called the Square for accepting credit cards from customers.It plugs into your smartphone and you just swipe their card,enter amount,they sign and you’re done. Google Square, it’s great and the cost is very low.Happy vending :)

  29. says

    There is a plastic cart sold at office supply stores, Walmart, etc. that is great for carrying home stuff from the farmers’ market and/or food club. When you’re not using it as a cart, it folds up like a briefcase and has a handle to carry it like one. Best of all: no bags. Sells for around $30 and will last 1-2 years under extremely tough carrying environments. Also, is great for public transit because you can lift it out of the way and put it on the bus/train seat next to you. Holds about $100 worth of produce, $300 worth of pastured meat/dairy, etc. I think you could get about $100 from a grocery store in there too.

    When my sister first gave me one, I thought, “Now what am I going to do with this ridiculous thing”, but once I tried it, I don’t use anything else. I’m on my third one.

  30. says

    Love love LOVE this post! The farmers market in our new hometown has so much more variety than the one back in Texas . . . it was exhilirating but overwhelming, too! So excited to go to market this Saturday with your tips in hand!

  31. katherine says

    As a woman who has gone to markets since she was a babe on both sides of the stall, buying our produce to seour family farm market, selling surplus, and now buying for my family, I find these tips dead on. I would add two: 1. Go to your market more than once a week. If your local market is only once a week, check your neighboring towns. Saturday market is an amazing and beautiful experience to bring your children to, but I also like getting the freshest I can and I don’t want to eat produce every Thursday and Friday that was picked a week before and stored in my fridge. I like going Tuesday and Saturday. 2. Ask your favorite vendors if they sell at their farm. My gtandmother always had a table with whatever was being harvested in their lawn and it. was as fresh as you could get. The corn would be refilled as they sold it throughout the day. Nothing like corn picked a few hours before you cook it!! You fav farmer might have a small roadside stand you can swing by And pick up goods during the week.

  32. says

    If you know you’ll have an upcoming need for something in quantity for canning or freezing ask the farmer for his phone number. I’ve found it best to call the farmer a few days before market and place an order. I usually get a better price this way and the farmer appreciates it.

  33. Beth says

    Great tips Jenny! One other thing I would caution is to truly reduce waste, be prepared to set aside some time when you get your market haul home to adequately store or prepare what you buy so you don’t find yourself tossing out produce mid-week. I have learned that Saturday morning is dedicated to the market, then heading home to wash & spin-drying lettuce, sometimes canning/freezing that day, prepping cut-up veggies for the kids snacks (I often find I am cramped for time later in the week…) and meal planning with what we buy so it all gets used/thawed/prepared in a timely fashion.

  34. says

    Valuable information. I always look for organic, but if it is locally grown and in season even though it may not be certified organic that works for me. How often do we forget the simple tip that asking the farmer is the only way to know. (Unfortunately, our market doesn’t have the cool regulations that yours have.)

  35. Christina says

    A few people mentioned it and in central Alberta I also find that organic is a non-issue for most people (outside of the major cities like Edmonton). But all you have to do is ask because everyone at our market grew or made their own products. My tip is to ask whether their products are available at more times than the market season. In a small town area your farmer may need to come into town for other errands and you can sometimes even get a drop-off if you’re right in town, saving the trip to the farm and giving them some extra cash during their trip/ another good reason to come to town. In the off-market season I buy eggs and meat this way. The meat is superior to grocery store meat and the eggs are not only superior but WAY cheaper than organic store eggs. Then of course you also get to know your farmer better, chatting at your doorstep! I don’t know how well this applies to big cities but sometimes you can arrange a drop-off spot in town convenient to the farmer on his/her trip.

  36. Maggie Steenmeyer says

    Is your farmer’s market in Crested Butte? I grew up in Gunnison and when I saw this picture it looked very familiar. I just found this blog because I Googled “bone broth”, I love your recipe for perpetual bone broth!

  37. says

    Wonderful article, Jenny! I started volunteering as a Market Master at a local market last spring and really enjoyed the season. Got to know all the vendors, who often insisted on giving me a discount because I was there as a volunteer (farmers are such nice people!) I think it’s a great experience for anyone looking to spend some time in the company of those who grow our food and learn more about agriculture and farming.

  38. alice says

    I have found that many of our vendors are willing to take pre-orders. So if you get to know them and get their phone number or email, you can let them know what your needs are before you get there. My goat milk and egg supplier is often sold out if I don’t get there within an hour or two of them opening. My meat supplier has freezers full, but not always the selection I want. Most are willing to hold my order until I get there. Not true with the veggies tho and “get there early” is always the way to go….and because I live in Florida – you need to get there early or the greens and many other veggies are wilted badly after a couple of hours.

  39. Garry says

    As a stall holder I was very disappointed to see your hint as to waiting to the end of the market in the hope of a discounted price. We try keep our prices as reasonable as possible by comparison to the large stores. We offer samples for you to try and know that you are hoping for a better price and often will return frequently to try another sample. We often have to replenish these samples from our sales stock. You would never haggle at the supermarket. why would you want discount from us who are supplying our best produce, fresh, seasonal. Made, grown, produced with you you in mind. For some of us this is our main source of income.

    • john says

      prices are never reasonable….really???seriously?? this is why most cant afford to keep supporting…be realistic.

      • Doug says

        Sure, let’s reward people for coming late to the market and give them deals, taking away hard earned money from farmers. At what point do you stop giving deals? Last half hour, last hour, …how about all day? Where do you draw the line here? If you want to get deals on produce, go to Costco. You want quality, go to a farmers’ market and pay what it takes to grow great food.

  40. says

    great tips! and people touched on this but i’d add:

    treat the market like a place for community building!

    i see a lot of people here in oakland treating the market like a supermarket where they have a list and they’re checking off items, shopping for what they need, and then leaving. (there are also folks who stick around and chat and linger). for me, the market is like church on sunday. a way to connect with my community, esp around food, and shared values.

    thanks jenny for another great post! i LOVE your blog. LOVE!

  41. Keith says

    Why would a market manger think it ok to spray round-up, deny it being harmful and boast about using “barrels” of the stuff?

  42. Sam Howes says

    I sincerely appreciate the time and effort you put into what you do! This is an article to share! Thanks again!

  43. says

    Go support the markets even on rainy days. They still have food to sell and really appreciate when folks shop even when the weather isn’t perfect.

  44. Catherine Woods says

    I love your tips on how to get the most from my Farmer’s Market. Thank you for sharing these. Fortunately, some of the vendors at my local one can process my food stamp card, as that is the form of “currency” my food “monies” take these days now I’m both older and permanently disabled. I love it when markets are able to accommodate people like me! And I love supporting local organic suppliers!

  45. says

    Good Article, but, the availability of organic local food is changing because of people farming year round! We have peppers, tomatoes and a collection of herbs growing in the basement right now. Heating our home off the artificial lights and breathing better air because of it!

  46. says

    I owned a market as well. Rules are crazy everywhere. It’s brutal. Vegas is a tough place for a market. Not much grown here, so exceptions have to be made.

    The toughest part for me was controlling the vendor situation. Contracts, attendance, following rules… Then keeping a balance between business owners and consumers. They need each other. A vendor gets irritated when not enough customers and vice Versa. Be committed!

  47. Bianca says

    Great post. so much good information and I had a good laugh at the bot about the man selling knives… I also have started running a farmers market and currently do all the organising on Excel. Do you have program that you use or could suggest? Excel is great but if there is a simpler way it would be great so that my time could be put to better use.

  48. Ashley says

    I live out in the middle of no where and our nearest farmers market is over a half hour away, but sooooo worth it!
    I can get apples, peaches, pears, broccoli, etc for less than 1.50 per pound. So much cheaper than the grocery store. All of our sellers are local and small and care very much about their products. We have discovered that showing interest in the family’s farm and farming habits delights the farmers and they tend to discount items or throw extras in our bags.
    We can’t go as often as we would like due to the distance, but we make a day of it when we go. Our son LOVES these days! We love our farmers!!

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