These days most communities have farmers markets and they can be both a fun and fresh way to stock up on wholesome, locally produced foods. Farmers markets are really popular in large cities such as Los Angeles.
If you’re not sure where to find a farmers market near you, check your local newspaper. There are also plenty of websites that list both weekly or monthly markets as well as what farms, both organic and non-organic near you may sell directly. Type in keywords, such as ‘local farmers markets’ along with the name of your town, or ‘where to buy organic produce,’ for the best results. For the city of Los Angeles, you can see the complete list of farmers markets taking place throughout the week by visiting the FarmerNet website.
Some farms even offer “co-op shares” where, for a set price, you are entitled to a percentage of each week’s harvest. This is a terrific way to really get the freshest, most seasonal foods.
It’s important to remember that even if a farm isn’t certified organic, they may use many organic practices in their farming. Don’t be shy about asking questions. Farmers proud of their farming practices are happy to tell you about them.
Farmers markets aren’t always just about fruits and vegetables, either. Depending on your location, you may find vendors selling fish and seafood, meats, prepared foods such as quiches or pâtes, freshly baked breads, honey, preserves, artisan cheeses and much more.
The best way to get the most out of your trip to the farmers market is to be prepared. It’s easy to get carried away when you walk past table after table laden with enticing offerings. So, before you go:
- Make a list and buy only what you can actually use.
- Buy only what you can comfortably carry.
- Carry cash, ideally in small denominations.
Thinking ahead to how many meals you plan to make and how much food you can realistically use will lower both your cash outlay and any waste due to spoilage.
Don’t let that inexpensive bushel of tomatoes or apples tempt you if you can’t carry it back to your car. Canvas or fabric bags with straps that go over your shoulder or even backpacks are a more comfortable way to tote most purchases. If you’re not comfortable carrying it, do what the Europeans do. Bring along a basket on wheels, which makes carrying heavy, bulky items such as melons or squash a breeze. Even a child’s wagon or a container strapped to a fold-down luggage cart will do. If the ground is rough or muddy, larger wheels make pulling a lot easier.
Don’t whip out a fifty-dollar bill for a loaf of bread and expect a smile in return. Most small farm markets aren’t equipped to break large bills like a retail chain. Bring plenty of small bills and don’t assume everyone can take your credit card.
Get there early for the best and biggest selection. Getting there late means items are often well picked over. On the other hand, at the end of the day, you might just pick up some bargains from vendors who are anxious to unload the last of their goods rather than pack them up and return to the farm with them. But a bargain isn’t a bargain if the items are past their prime. Even canning and preserving requires the freshest, least blemished items.
If you see something interesting but are not sure how to prepare it, by all means ask. Most vendors will have excellent tips on how to best prepare their goods. You might stumble upon a new favorite!
Checking out the local farmers market is not only fun but also a great way to get the freshest food straight from the farm to your table. You can really taste the difference that freshly picked produce makes.
Farmers markets are a great place to pick up fresh, seasonal ingredients for your next meal. To learn more about seasonal cooking and delicious recipes, set up your very own private cooking class today!