Tag Archives: farmer’s market

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Farmers’ Market

26 Jan

farmers' market

Now that January is half over, I’m finally getting back in my normal “routine” of everyday life. I loved the break and the traveling of the holidays, but I definitely missed going through some of my weekly traditions. One of the things I was most excited about was getting back in the habit of going to our Old City Farmers’ Market. It’s such a great opportunity to interact with other people in our community, get inspired by all the local/seasonal food, and enjoy making new discoveries (from produce to plants).

Although I know some of you may be veteran farmers market shoppers, there are others who haven’t ventured out or found yours. It can also be a little overwhelming sometimes, with all the people hustling and bustling, so I want to share some tips to help you get the most out of your trip.

pickles and more

Find the Market That Works Best for You

While some towns may only have on farmers’ or produce market, many have multiple places that you can go, on different days of the week. Even in St. Augustine (which is a fairly small city), we have three, each on a different day of the week. Local Harvest has a great resource for locating your nearest farmers’ market. You’ll be surprised how many might be nearby that you had never known about. Be sure to check if there are seasonal dates–the further you get up north, the more likely that your markets are only open during certain months. Nonetheless, many markets are open well in to the fall and spring, even in the coldest climates.

Once you’ve located the nearest markets, try to visit each of them to get a feel for what the vendors are like. Pick the day that works best for you, and be aware of vendors that may only go to one market. If there’s someone you like who only sells at a market you can’t make it to, try and find a friend who visits that market who can help you stock up on what you need.

Each market is different, but even the smallest can offer some incredible deals and things that you’ll never find in a big-box store (or even local grocery).

locally grown

Go Early and Get to Know Your Vendors

Every vendor is different–whether they’re selling raw honey, local produce, or fresh homemade bread, they all have a story and (hopefully) a passion for their products. Take the time and ask about the things you’re looking at. Generally, vendors love to help and answer questions. Whether you have no idea how to cook the heirloom eggplants they’re selling, or you’re curious how they tend to the bees that make their honey, just ask! Getting to know the vendors you buy from not only gives you confidence in what you’re buying (and who you’re buying it from), it also makes it more likely that they’ll hook you up with a good deal now and then.

Remember, not all farmers market vendors are created equal, especially when it comes to produce. Find out where their food is grown and how they grow it. If there are specific concerns that you have (organic, free-range, sustainable, etc.), just ask! Sometimes it’s worth paying a little more if you know you’re getting a quality product, but if they’re buying the same stuff as the grocery store, it’s silly to pay a premium price. Most market vendors have incredibly reasonable prices (I usually get much more produce at the market than I do at the store, for the same amount of money), but the ones who do charge more usually have solid reasons for doing so.

The best way to build a rapport  with your vendors (and to make the best finds) is to go early. Try to hit the market within an hour or two of its opening time. It’s usually less crowded and you’re more able to chat and ask questions. Plus, the earlier you’re there, the better pick you’ll have of food/products!

folk band

Pack Accordingly

You don’t have to bring anything special to the market, but there are a few things that will make it easier:

Cash — You can’t get very far with a debit card: most vendors only take cash. And don’t just grab a twenty! Vendors love small bills, and giving them ones or a five will almost always guarantee a smile.

Your Own Bag (Canvas or Reusable) — Most vendors will have plastic bags if you need them, but bringing a larger canvas or reusable bag makes it easier to carry what you buy. It also eliminates waste and gives you more room for all your stuff.

Your Camera (even if it’s just your phone) — You never know what you’ll find at the market, from crazy produce to music or entertainment. Our market has a group of folk music players who get together and play a wide variety of bluegrass and folk music, and the RAM in Jacksonville has incredible street performers and musical acts. Take a moment to capture what you see, even if the only camera you have is your phone (I forgot to bring my “good” camera to this week’s market, so all of the photos on this post are from my iPhone).

sorbet cart

Make a Budget, But Don’t be Afraid to Treat Yourself!

It’s best to give yourself a budget when you go to the market. Decide on a set amount of cash that you’ll bring, and make a mental (or physical) list of the things you’re on the look out for. Sometimes you may not see the produce that you need and have more to spend on raw milk, local free-range meat or fresh caught seafood.

Finally, don’t be afraid to grab a treat! There’s always something tasty–we have a homemade sorbet vendor, fresh cut boardwalk fries, fish tacos, sweet potato burritos, custom juice blends, crab cakes and more. With the money you’ve saved and the investment you’ve made by buying local, you can spare a buck or two ever now and then for something to savor. Plus, sometimes it’s impossible to ignore the tantalizing smells that waft by as you walk through the market.

I hope these tips will help you venture out and enjoy your local market! It’s so much fun and such a great way to support your local economy and local farmers.

Do you regularly visit a farmers’ market? What’s your favorite market discovery?

Real Food Wednesdays

Day Sixteen – The August Break

23 Aug

Folk Music at the Market

At the Farmers’ Market this weekend. The guy with the banjo was pure folk awesomeness.

Real Conversations About Real Food

28 Jul

Conversations. I’m noticing more and more that we just don’t have them as much these days. Maybe it’s a result of how much easier it is to send quick message to people online, or the way you can look up anything and everything on Google (so why ask someone else?). Text messages, Twitter, Facebook, email–they’re all forms of communication that help us stay connected with people we care about. Unfortunately, they can also build a technological wall around our interpersonal skills.

So, what does this have to do with food? Plenty! If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent loads of time reading blogs, articles, and forums about food. Recipes, ideas, tips and tricks are everywhere on the internet, and I’m so glad that I have such a huge resource to draw from. However, it’s easy to get isolated in an internet or blog community and forget that some of the most valuable information (and relationships) you can find are in good old-fashioned real life.

Next time you’re out and about, here are a few conversations worth having:

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Farmer's Market

At the Farmer’s Market

Farmer’s Markets are almost always teeming with interesting  people. They’re also a great place to have a chat without feeling like you need to get drawn into an hour-long discussion. Vendors are almost always happy to tell you about what they’re selling. Find out what’s coming up in the season, how to cook that crazy baby eggplant, how they get their basil to grow so well or just how they ended up on a farm/selling flowers/keeping bees. Everyone has a story, and the only way to learn is to ask.

You’ll also usually find other real food lovers at the market, and they can offer great information about good sources for local food, methods for cooking or just become a new friend! When it comes to friends (new and old), bring them with you to shop! There’s nothing like making a great discovery or tasting something incredible with someone you love, and it’s easy to turn a weekly market into your own tradition.

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Grocery Store

In the Grocery Store

All the choices at your local grocery store can often become overwhelming. When you’re trying to decide what do buy, sometimes it helps just to take the leap and ask an employee. If you’re in a big box store, that can be difficult, but if you have questions about items at the bakery, deli, or meat counter (where it’s definitely good to know more about where items came from or how they’re made), ask away! Employees in those departments can usually answer your questions with a fair amount of accuracy, or at least find out from a manager.

In smaller grocery stores (like Publix), employees tend to be more approachable and ready to help–especially if you’re interested in the store brand. They can also give you some great insight on similar (but better) products that might be located in a different part of the store (like Ezekiel bread, which is located in the freezer case rather than in the bread aisle).

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Slow Food

With Folks Who are Older (or just Wiser)

A great way to learn more about something is by talking to people who have been doing it longer than you have. Their insights and tips can be invaluable and they can explain things to you in ways that you just can’t read in a book or on the web. Groups like the Slow Food Movement and the Weston A. Price Foundation make it easy for you to connect with other real food lovers. Whether you’re just learning about real food and how to eat better, or you’re looking for tips from seasoned cooks, chapter and group meetings are a fun way to push yourself (and a great place to make lasting friendships).

Real Food Wednesdays

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