The Insider’s Guide to the Farmers’ Market

Gabrielle Karol
Posted

Some things are worth every penny, and we say that fresh, healthy, local produce is one of them.

That’s why we love the farmers’ market.

Not only are you supporting local agricultural business, which means a lower carbon footprint, but you can get the most incredibly fresh, often organically grown produce.

To help you maximize your value at the farmers’ market, we spoke to farmers’ market insiders on both sides of the country. By following our experts’ tips, you’ll save money and enjoy healthy produce…so you never have to choose between organic strawberries and blueberries again.

Woman at Farmers' Market

1. A Little Patience Goes a Long Way

It’s no shock that those strawberries taste better in June than in January, but what you didn’t know is that buying “in season” doesn’t necessarily guarantee you the lowest price. “The very first cherries of the season will cost more than cherries later in the season,” because fewer farmers have them in stock, says Laura Avery, a manager of the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. Her advice? “Wait for the third or fourth week” that the item is in season, by which time the prices will have dropped. (To find out when your favorite fruits and veggies are in season, read this.)

Ask the farmer questions about how to prepare an unfamiliar vegetable, what types of recipes work best, or how to preserve the produce.

2. Ask for More

“If it’s something you really like, try to buy in bulk,” says Avery. If you can’t get enough of peaches in the summer, ask the farmer if there’s a discount for buying them by the box.

3. …  And Then Ask for “Seconds”
If you’re making something that requires a lot of produce and whose appearance doesn’t matter—like jam, pasta sauce, or salsa—ask the farmer for “seconds” at a lower price.  “Seconds,” or visually distressed produce, are items not on display because of small bumps and bruises.

4. Make Friends With Your Farmers

“Farmers are a wonderful resource,” says Nicole Berube, executive director of the Connecticut Cityseed markets, because they’re so familiar with the produce they’re selling. Ask your farmer questions about how to prepare an unfamiliar vegetable, what types of recipes work best, or how to preserve the produce. If you buy items in bulk when they’re in season and learn from your farmer how to can or pickle, you’ll be able to enjoy the tastes of summer—for less!—all year round.

5. Walk and Talk

Get to the farmers’ market as soon as it opens and visit each vendor to find out what they’re selling–and for how much. While Berube says you might get a great deal at the end of the day from a farmer eager to get rid of their leftover produce, the more appealing–and cheaper!–produce might be sold out by the time you show up. For instance, a great deal on zucchini at 8AM might be over by 11AM if the farmer sells out.

Haggling with farmers over their prices can put them on the defensive–it’s hard enough to make a living running a small farm. Instead, ask multiple vendors at the market what their prices are. You don’t have to buy all your produce from a single farmer–you can buy apples at one stand and squash at another, if the prices for individual fruits and veggies are lower elsewhere. You can, however, try to negotiate a better price if you’re going to purchase an item in bulk.

When to Buy Organic

See which fruits and veggies are worth it

CLICK HERE

6. Do Your Research

If you qualify for food stamps, find out if the farmers’ market near you accepts them. For instance, New York City’s Greenmarket takes EBT food stamps, and other markets accept coupons that help low-income women and seniors purchase nutritious and fresh produce.

To find out which fruits and veggies will be in season in your region this summer, check out our handy infographic.

(Because California and Texas are so large, we gave ‘em their own “regions.”) Enjoy!

tooltip-pulse

Southwest

Blueberries, corn, cucumbers, honey, okra, peaches, apples, tomatoes.

 

 

tooltip-pulse

Mountain West

Apricots, beets, broccoli, cherries, cabbage, cantaloupes, cauliflower, celery, corn, eggplant, peaches, rhubarb, strawberries, tomatoes.

 

 

tooltip-pulse

Mid-Atlantic

Asparagus, beets, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cherries, eggplant, peaches, peas, potatoes, radishes, rhubarb, squash, tomatoes, turnips.

 

 

tooltip-pulse

Northeast

Beets, blueberries, cantaloupes, corn, cucumbers, mushrooms, nectarines, pears, potatoes, raspberries, watermelon.

 

 

tooltip-pulse

California

Apricots, asparagus, avocados, beets, blackberries, cabbage, cherries, eggplant, fennel, okra, onions, peas, pistachios, raspberries, rhubarb, squash, tomatoes, turnips.

 

 

tooltip-pulse

Texas

Apples, blackberries, blueberries, cabbage, cantaloupes, carrots, cucumbers, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, squash, watermelon.

 

 

tooltip-pulse

Southeast

Avocados, blackberries, cabbage, cantaloupes, corn, eggplant, grapefruit, mushrooms, okra, onions, potatoes, radishes, tomatoes, watermelon.

 

 

tooltip-pulse

Midwest

Apples, cabbage, carrots, eggplant, grapes, nectarines, okra, onions, peaches, peas, potatoes, radishes, rhubarb, tomatoes, turnips.

 

 

tooltip-pulse

Pacific Northwest

Apricots, asparagus, beets, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupes, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, nectarines, peaches, peas, pears, raspberries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if you live in Alaska or Hawaii, we didn’t forget about you! Check out this site to find out what’s in season in your state this summer.

To learn how to experiment with healthy recipes while cooking with your farmers’ market produce, read this.

  • Susie

    If you live in North Carolina, the NC Dept of Agriculture has a great year-round produce schedule online: http://www.ncagr.gov/markets/chart.htm. I’ve been using it to plan out baking projects for my blog, where I use local in-season ingredients (http://confectional.wordpress.com/). It helps to plan what to buy at the farmers’ market if you know what you’ll find there!

    And for the rest of the US, here’s a site that lists produce availability by state, though I’ve found that some of the links don’t always work: http://www.fieldtoplate.com/guide.php.

  • Susie

    If you live in North Carolina, the NC Dept of Agriculture has a great year-round produce schedule online: http://www.ncagr.gov/markets/chart.htm. I’ve been using it to plan out baking projects for my blog, where I use local in-season ingredients (http://confectional.wordpress.com/). It helps to plan what to buy at the farmers’ market if you know what you’ll find there!

    And for the rest of the US, here’s a site that lists produce availability by state, though I’ve found that some of the links don’t always work: http://www.fieldtoplate.com/guide.php.

  • Susie

    If you live in North Carolina, the NC Dept of Agriculture has a great year-round produce schedule online: http://www.ncagr.gov/markets/chart.htm. I’ve been using it to plan out baking projects for my blog, where I use local in-season ingredients (http://confectional.wordpress.com/). It helps to plan what to buy at the farmers’ market if you know what you’ll find there!

    And for the rest of the US, here’s a site that lists produce availability by state, though I’ve found that some of the links don’t always work: http://www.fieldtoplate.com/guide.php.

  • Susie

    If you live in North Carolina, the NC Dept of Agriculture has a great year-round produce schedule online: http://www.ncagr.gov/markets/chart.htm. I’ve been using it to plan out baking projects for my blog, where I use local in-season ingredients (http://confectional.wordpress.com/). It helps to plan what to buy at the farmers’ market if you know what you’ll find there!

    And for the rest of the US, here’s a site that lists produce availability by state, though I’ve found that some of the links don’t always work: http://www.fieldtoplate.com/guide.php.

  • Susie

    If you live in North Carolina, the NC Dept of Agriculture has a great year-round produce schedule online: http://www.ncagr.gov/markets/chart.htm. I’ve been using it to plan out baking projects for my blog, where I use local in-season ingredients (http://confectional.wordpress.com/). It helps to plan what to buy at the farmers’ market if you know what you’ll find there!

    And for the rest of the US, here’s a site that lists produce availability by state, though I’ve found that some of the links don’t always work: http://www.fieldtoplate.com/guide.php.

  • Susie

    If you live in North Carolina, the NC Dept of Agriculture has a great year-round produce schedule online: http://www.ncagr.gov/markets/chart.htm. I’ve been using it to plan out baking projects for my blog, where I use local in-season ingredients (http://confectional.wordpress.com/). It helps to plan what to buy at the farmers’ market if you know what you’ll find there!

    And for the rest of the US, here’s a site that lists produce availability by state, though I’ve found that some of the links don’t always work: http://www.fieldtoplate.com/guide.php.

  • Susie

    If you live in North Carolina, the NC Dept of Agriculture has a great year-round produce schedule online: http://www.ncagr.gov/markets/chart.htm. I’ve been using it to plan out baking projects for my blog, where I use local in-season ingredients (http://confectional.wordpress.com/). It helps to plan what to buy at the farmers’ market if you know what you’ll find there!

    And for the rest of the US, here’s a site that lists produce availability by state, though I’ve found that some of the links don’t always work: http://www.fieldtoplate.com/guide.php.

  • http://www.smartmouthblog.com Nicole Longstreath

    The next time you’re at the grocery store, look at the labels on the fruits and vegetables and you’ll likely see that NOTHING comes from the United States. Why would you want to buy produce from South America, or even Israel and Europe?

    In reality, the most difficult part about shopping at a farmer’s market is changing existing habits. But, really, all you need to do is Google markets in your area, pull together cash and your canvas shopping bags and get up early on a Saturday morning.

    Then, just buy what looks good and tailor your meal plan around what you found. It’s really that simple.

    http://www.smartmouthblog.com

  • http://www.smartmouthblog.com Nicole Longstreath

    The next time you’re at the grocery store, look at the labels on the fruits and vegetables and you’ll likely see that NOTHING comes from the United States. Why would you want to buy produce from South America, or even Israel and Europe?

    In reality, the most difficult part about shopping at a farmer’s market is changing existing habits. But, really, all you need to do is Google markets in your area, pull together cash and your canvas shopping bags and get up early on a Saturday morning.

    Then, just buy what looks good and tailor your meal plan around what you found. It’s really that simple.

    http://www.smartmouthblog.com

  • http://www.smartmouthblog.com Nicole Longstreath

    The next time you’re at the grocery store, look at the labels on the fruits and vegetables and you’ll likely see that NOTHING comes from the United States. Why would you want to buy produce from South America, or even Israel and Europe?

    In reality, the most difficult part about shopping at a farmer’s market is changing existing habits. But, really, all you need to do is Google markets in your area, pull together cash and your canvas shopping bags and get up early on a Saturday morning.

    Then, just buy what looks good and tailor your meal plan around what you found. It’s really that simple.

    http://www.smartmouthblog.com

  • http://www.smartmouthblog.com Nicole Longstreath

    The next time you’re at the grocery store, look at the labels on the fruits and vegetables and you’ll likely see that NOTHING comes from the United States. Why would you want to buy produce from South America, or even Israel and Europe?

    In reality, the most difficult part about shopping at a farmer’s market is changing existing habits. But, really, all you need to do is Google markets in your area, pull together cash and your canvas shopping bags and get up early on a Saturday morning.

    Then, just buy what looks good and tailor your meal plan around what you found. It’s really that simple.

    http://www.smartmouthblog.com

  • http://www.smartmouthblog.com Nicole Longstreath

    The next time you’re at the grocery store, look at the labels on the fruits and vegetables and you’ll likely see that NOTHING comes from the United States. Why would you want to buy produce from South America, or even Israel and Europe?

    In reality, the most difficult part about shopping at a farmer’s market is changing existing habits. But, really, all you need to do is Google markets in your area, pull together cash and your canvas shopping bags and get up early on a Saturday morning.

    Then, just buy what looks good and tailor your meal plan around what you found. It’s really that simple.

    http://www.smartmouthblog.com

  • http://www.smartmouthblog.com Nicole Longstreath

    The next time you’re at the grocery store, look at the labels on the fruits and vegetables and you’ll likely see that NOTHING comes from the United States. Why would you want to buy produce from South America, or even Israel and Europe?

    In reality, the most difficult part about shopping at a farmer’s market is changing existing habits. But, really, all you need to do is Google markets in your area, pull together cash and your canvas shopping bags and get up early on a Saturday morning.

    Then, just buy what looks good and tailor your meal plan around what you found. It’s really that simple.

    http://www.smartmouthblog.com

  • http://www.smartmouthblog.com Nicole Longstreath

    The next time you’re at the grocery store, look at the labels on the fruits and vegetables and you’ll likely see that NOTHING comes from the United States. Why would you want to buy produce from South America, or even Israel and Europe?

    In reality, the most difficult part about shopping at a farmer’s market is changing existing habits. But, really, all you need to do is Google markets in your area, pull together cash and your canvas shopping bags and get up early on a Saturday morning.

    Then, just buy what looks good and tailor your meal plan around what you found. It’s really that simple.

    http://www.smartmouthblog.com

  • http://www.bwoodsdesign.com Bobbi Jo Woods

    Minnesota isn’t as large as California and Texas, but we have 30+ farmer’s markets in our state, and growing!
    http://www.farmersmarketonline.com/fm/Minnesota.htm

  • http://www.bwoodsdesign.com Bobbi Jo Woods

    Minnesota isn’t as large as California and Texas, but we have 30+ farmer’s markets in our state, and growing!
    http://www.farmersmarketonline.com/fm/Minnesota.htm

  • http://www.bwoodsdesign.com Bobbi Jo Woods

    Minnesota isn’t as large as California and Texas, but we have 30+ farmer’s markets in our state, and growing!
    http://www.farmersmarketonline.com/fm/Minnesota.htm

  • http://www.bwoodsdesign.com Bobbi Jo Woods

    Minnesota isn’t as large as California and Texas, but we have 30+ farmer’s markets in our state, and growing!
    http://www.farmersmarketonline.com/fm/Minnesota.htm

  • http://www.bwoodsdesign.com Bobbi Jo Woods

    Minnesota isn’t as large as California and Texas, but we have 30+ farmer’s markets in our state, and growing!
    http://www.farmersmarketonline.com/fm/Minnesota.htm

  • Joyce Parks

    Our farmers markets have just opened for the season within the last couple of weeks.  I haven’t made it there yet this season but can’t wait to get there and start in buying fresh produce to eat.

  • Joyce Parks

    Our farmers markets have just opened for the season within the last couple of weeks.  I haven’t made it there yet this season but can’t wait to get there and start in buying fresh produce to eat.

  • Joyce Parks

    Our farmers markets have just opened for the season within the last couple of weeks.  I haven’t made it there yet this season but can’t wait to get there and start in buying fresh produce to eat.

  • Joyce Parks

    Our farmers markets have just opened for the season within the last couple of weeks.  I haven’t made it there yet this season but can’t wait to get there and start in buying fresh produce to eat.

  • Joyce Parks

    Our farmers markets have just opened for the season within the last couple of weeks.  I haven’t made it there yet this season but can’t wait to get there and start in buying fresh produce to eat.

  • Joyce Parks

    Our farmers markets have just opened for the season within the last couple of weeks.  I haven’t made it there yet this season but can’t wait to get there and start in buying fresh produce to eat.

  • http://www.stylebaggage.com/ Nellene

    I love that you brought up the food stamps. I live in San Diego and a lot of our farmers markets accept them. Very smart! I’m happy those who are in need can get some fresh, healthy food too. :) If your area doesn’t allow that maybe be “the one” to rally change…

  • http://www.stylebaggage.com/ Nellene

    I love that you brought up the food stamps. I live in San Diego and a lot of our farmers markets accept them. Very smart! I’m happy those who are in need can get some fresh, healthy food too. :) If your area doesn’t allow that maybe be “the one” to rally change…

  • http://www.stylebaggage.com/ Nellene

    I love that you brought up the food stamps. I live in San Diego and a lot of our farmers markets accept them. Very smart! I’m happy those who are in need can get some fresh, healthy food too. :) If your area doesn’t allow that maybe be “the one” to rally change…

  • http://www.stylebaggage.com/ Nellene

    I love that you brought up the food stamps. I live in San Diego and a lot of our farmers markets accept them. Very smart! I’m happy those who are in need can get some fresh, healthy food too. :) If your area doesn’t allow that maybe be “the one” to rally change…

  • http://www.stylebaggage.com/ Nellene

    I love that you brought up the food stamps. I live in San Diego and a lot of our farmers markets accept them. Very smart! I’m happy those who are in need can get some fresh, healthy food too. :) If your area doesn’t allow that maybe be “the one” to rally change…

  • http://www.stylebaggage.com/ Nellene

    I love that you brought up the food stamps. I live in San Diego and a lot of our farmers markets accept them. Very smart! I’m happy those who are in need can get some fresh, healthy food too. :) If your area doesn’t allow that maybe be “the one” to rally change…

  • http://www.stylebaggage.com/ Nellene

    I love that you brought up the food stamps. I live in San Diego and a lot of our farmers markets accept them. Very smart! I’m happy those who are in need can get some fresh, healthy food too. :) If your area doesn’t allow that maybe be “the one” to rally change…

  • http://mischievouskitty.blogspot.com Stephanie

    LOVE my local farmers’ market!  Unfortunately it only runs May – October, but I can get locally-grown organic produce that’s fresher, tastier, and often cheaper than the conventionally-grown produce at my supermarket. 

    And while I’m fortunately not in a position to need food stamps, my farmers market does accept them, which is nice since access to fresh, healthy food can be an obstacle in a lot of poorer neighborhoods. 

    Oh, and a lot of the vendors will ofter a discount on your purchase if you return the empty jars, egg containers, etc. from a previous purchase.  Of course the key is remembered to bring those empty containers with you!  I am well on my way to earning some jar of jam if I continue to accumlate empty jars at this rate. ;-)

  • Kaya

    I added a delicious and unique (and healthy!) veggie lasagna to my “always work” recipes when my boyfriend went veggie-happy at the farmers market and I had a kitchen full of beautiful vegetables and no idea what to do with them (neither did he, he just couldn’t resist the fresh, ripe everything)… Ever since then, I encourage him to go nuts at the Farmer’s Market, then we search for something new to make with what he’s brough home… It encourages me to think outside of the box and make some (mostly successful) new dishes :-)