13 Things You Should Know About Farmers’ Markets

Find out how to get the freshest food possible from the the people who grow it.

By Meaghan Cameron
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    1. It's best to get here early.

    But if you can’t make it until later, what you'll get is still fresher than any that's been shipped to a supermarket, as most farmers pick produce the day of or day before its sold. In the case of perishable products, many bargains can be found at the end of the day.

    2. Many farmers depend on you to survive.

    Farmers count on the income from markets to get by; nearly all who participate in open markets run very small operations, and the profit margin is slim.

    3. If you spend $100 at a farmers' market, $62 goes back into the local economy, and $99 out of $100 stays in the state.

    If you spend $100 at a grocery store, only $25 stays here. So, where do you want your money to go?

    4. If you're not sure, ask to taste before buying.

    Almost all farmers are happy to provide a sample.

    5. Please stop saying how expensive it is.

    Local farm products would sell for much more in any specialty store, where there would be additional overhead costs and markups.

    6. Farmers don't do deals.

    With the very thin margins, the prices are often incredibly fair and there's no room for bargaining. The best way to get a good deal? Be a consistent customer.

    7. It's not really about retail sales.

    It's about cultivating a relationship with people who are willing to spend a little bit more for something a whole lot better.

    8. Standing out in the summer sun is nice, but the job isn't easy.

    Up early, loading trucks with heavy produce, being mindful of money, home late. Plus, when it rains, customers stay away and bad weather can easily damage products.

    9. Sometimes, produce vendors are only retailers, not growers.

    Ask questions if you think the vendor is a vegetable wholesaler, not a local farmer.

    10. Farmers care about where the products are coming from.

    Larger vendors may have a retail outlet, or be part of a franchise or chain business. Ask.

    11. You can't get everything all the time.

    To offer the freshest, best tasting food at a reasonable price, you have to be patient with the farmers and their growing cycles. There are seasons when certain produce isn’t available (even in California). No peaches in January, sure, but even in some regions, no summer tomatoes until late July.

    12. Watch for buzzwords: Natural, specialty, estate, artisan, local, and organic.

    Some farmers that will say their produce is organic, but in order to say that they must be certified by an organic agency, and undergo an inspection. You can always ask to see their organic certification. Most organic farmers are proud to display organic certification.

    13. The Internet has changed farm life for better.

    Customers from all over can keep connected to farm sites and Facebook pages, and can join mailing lists to hear about special crops, prices, CSA lists, and more.

    Sources: Nancy Gammons of Four Sisters Farm and Watsonville Farmers' Market, Ersilia Moreno owner of Olive Oil of the World, Adriana Silva owner of Tomatero Organic Farm, cowtownfarmersmarket.com, Mark Santoro owner of Gaia's Breath Farm


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    Your Comments

    • LobsterGator

      #5: not true! The outdoor farmers markets in my area charge waaaay more for the same food in our local grocery stores. Tomatoes in NJ should be cheap, cheap, cheap in the summer, but the local farmers charge about twice the price for tomatoes in the store. The only places I’ve found competitive pricing are at the indoor farmers markets. The quality of food and the prices are much better than the grocery stores. But the outdoor markets are trying to cater to tourists, and therefore they charge you more.

      • Amy O.

        You are right @LobsterGator, in NY is worst especially the one in the main tourist zone at wall street. I wonder why they think tourists need farmers’ food when they mostly live in hotels and depend on restaurants to eat. I tried it once and never again. There’s an indoor farmers’ market on 42nd street and 9th Avenue where it is waaaaaaayyyy cheaper and is run by farmers.

    • Truthteller

      Farmers tend to have poor attititudes, if you are that miserable, consider another line of work. Also, without inheriting the farm, you’d never have one in the first place.