10 Tips for Navigating a Farmers' Market
Markets are a great way to learn about a country's culture and cuisine. Get the most out of your shopping experience with these tips.
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Invest in Foreign Markets
Research ahead of time if there’s going to be a farmers’ market near you. Use the website Local Harvest to find farmers' markets throughout the U.S. When traveling abroad, markets are the perfect way to really get to know an area, be it your own city or one in another country. It’s a great way to practice language skills and learn about local culture, meet people, find out about good restaurants and learn about what else is going on during your stay. There’s plenty available to snack on even if you’re not planning to cook during your visit. If you’d like to bring any produce home from other countries, check the federal customs regulations first.
Farmers markets can get crowded, and cumbersome wagons can become more of a burden than a help. Markets are often set up on dirt or gravel lots, which can be difficult with smaller wheels, too. Consider collapsible rolling carts or caddies with larger wheels that have a more manageable profile. Backpacks are also handy when traveling.
Cash is King
More and more vendors can accept credit cards via smart phone apps, but these frequently still have connection issues, and many vendors choose not to mess with credit cards at all. Small bills will always be greatly appreciated.
Talk to People
This simple outing can teach you so much about different cultures. Ask questions at every booth. Get to know fellow shoppers and learn what their favorite recipes are, what foods they eat the most, and what booths or vendors you can't miss at the market.
Made in the Shade
There’s often precious little shade at farmers markets, especially as the day wears on, so make sure to prepare with hats, sunscreen and water for everyone in your party. Comfortable shoes will be appreciated, too.
Paws Before Taking Fido
Farmer’s markets can be a great time to spend walking together with your best furry friend. But many markets have asked that dogs stay home, if not out-right banned canines. Check if the market is dog-friendly before going. Some markets may even have a dog park or area set up that has water and shade. If not, make sure to bring water for your dog, and consider the temperature before leaving your dog in a vehicle while you shop.
Keep It Cool
Bring reusable ice packs to keep your purchases cool as you peruse under the summer sun. You can also keep a cooler in your vehicle for storing purchases, if it’s convenient, so you don’t have to carry them around. Insulated lunch boxes can be carried in backpacks, bicycle panniers and other bags for ease. Often, you may want to go out to breakfast or lunch after the market, and a cooler with ice packs will keep your purchases fresh while you enjoy the rest of your day.
When vendors aren’t busy ask about their farms and if they supply local restaurants, if they are online and if they invite the public to visit their farms and buy direct. Establishing a relationship with local food producers helps you get the best produce and creates closer ties with the local growers’ community.
Good Things to Come
If you're staying in a country for a semester or longer period of time, ask vendors what produce they’ll have later in the season, and start researching recipes. They may also recommend other vendors' produce and share recipes. Ask what they do during the winter months for fresh, local food.
Consider volunteering at the local farmers’ market on your next trip. It's a great way to meet people. From setting up booths to engaging with social media, there are plenty of areas in which to help out. Booking live music, answering SNAP and EBT questions, setting up chairs, greeting visitors and answering general questions are all areas where volunteers are needed. Find the market’s information booth (staffed by volunteers) and ask about how to help.