How to Rock the Farmer's Market

I have a tiny obsession with the Farmers Market.

I love the idea of perusing produce grown just down the road, usually picked early that morning. The tomatoes still warm. Potatoes speckled with fresh dirt. Apples that don't all look perfect. 

I've been trying to buy as much local food and produce for the last 3 years now (since we started trying to eat more real/whole foods), but its taken me a little while to get comfortable and really understand how it all works... 

So here are a few tips I've gathered: 

Come early: our Farmer’s Market gets cra-zy around 9. Its like the fair or something. So I try to get there early so that I can talk to people and not feel so rushed or wait in lines. (and its not so dang hot). Its kind of become my Saturday morning ritual.

Ask questions: Before you get to know your famers and who you can trust, a good way to cover your bases is to nicely ask, Tell me about your farm? What kind of practices do you use?

They’ll usually say whether they spray or not, but if they don’t go ahead and ask if they spray their produce (with pesticides) and use chemicals in their fertilizers.

Note: Its okay if they are not labeled Organic. That label is extremely hard to get, including lots of money and paper work required by the government. This may be the only time "naturally grown" is a fantastic label. A lot of farmers are not able to label themselves as organic but they are by far the most organic you’ll ever get.

Join a CSA: This stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Usually, you sign up for a crate to pick up twice a month with whatever produce they have in season. Its a way to push yourself to eat foods you may not normally eat. This is great if you don't want to "shop" every saturday—you can just pay once up front and pick up your box and be done.

Ask around: Farmers know which other farmers are legit. So ask, “Do you know where I can find some good eggs?” or “Who else has good carrots since you are all out.” They’ll be happy to point you to someone they respect.

Ask how to cook+ keep fresh:
Most farmers will tell you how to cook anything you don’t know what to do with. They have a wealth of knowledge. Right now, there’s this vegetable called kohlrabi.  I have never seen it in my life, but Farmer Bradley gave us a few options for cooking it and putting it on salads.

They also are great to ask how to keep veggies fresh for the longest period. Like de-stemming strawberries and putting them in a container in the fridge or keeping basil fresh by putting it in water with a little bag over it. (who knew?)

Take Cash:
A lot of stands now use paypal so you can use cards, but its better to be safe.

Be nice + Be loyal:
This ones is self explanatory. These folks work so hard, get up WAAAY early and have put blood, sweat and tears into their harvest + product. It's their livelihood. I have been buying eggs from the same guy for a while now— we have created a relationship so that if I know I'm going to be running late, he'll save me 2 dozen because his go so quickly. I love telling them how much I love and appreciate their hard work!

Now that we’ve moved to a smaller town, the prices are way better. I used to spend around $6 for a dozen eggs (in Dallas), and now I spend $3. Crazy. (a little perk for small town living.) I would say that for the most part, the prices are comparable if not cheaper than the grocery store (if you're used to buying organic at the store). The “organic” labeled farmers will have higher prices though. (for reasons stated above.)

About meat:
Ask how its raised:
- Any growth hormones?
- If its soley grass-fed (and preferably grass-finished)- BEEF
- If its free roaming and out about in the sun? (poultry, pork)
- If the feed is non-gmo (if given any)
- Is it cured or contain nitrates (uncured/no nitrates is best) PORK
About eggs:

Ask how the chickens are raised. Are they free to roam, have access to sun and grass, and given non-GMO feed (if they must give some to supplement)? My “egg-guy” sells out of his by 8:30. They are delicious, have the most orange yolk (which is a good sign of high vitamin D) since those little gals get to roam out in the sun.

I have a few reasons I choose to buy local, fresh produce. One, I love knowing that what I’m feeding my family is chock-full of minerals and nutrients because the soil is rich, its being picked when ripe (and not sprayed with ripening chemicals), and no pesticides/chemicals have been used. So many of us are extremely mineral deprived (i.e. magnesium) because the land and soil we get our food from has been so depleted.

And really, I just think it tastes better! Buying local is pretty trendy and everywhere you go you can usually find a Farm to Table restaurant or a store proud of selling their Local (fill in the blank). I think we're all finally catching on to the fact that there maybe something to all of this Local talk. I didn't even realize it, but I had been buying apples from Kroger (organic) that were grown in SWITZERLAND. Whaaat? (Now, if I'm being honest, I'll probably still buy them if I'm in a pinch, but come on...)

Here is a list of other nobel reasons to buy local HERE.

 Farmer's Market carrot meet bagged carrot

No, its not always convenient. At all. Getting all your groceries, toilet paper, diapers, etc. in one place at one time is a luxury. Back in the day (and not even that long ago) people knew their butcher. Their farmers. Their bakers. And they trusted them.

This is not a rant against Walmart or Kroger (or a political one at that). I shop at both of them and am grateful how super convenient they are. But in regards to the quality of product I want to feed my family, I just love knowing what we’re putting in our body. But shoot, there are many a weeks that grabbing some frozen veggies or bag of carrots from Kroger is just going to have to do. Also, we cannot solely eat from the Farmer's Market (obviously)—  we supplement a lot with produce we cannot find there (like avocados, bananas, herbs, etc.)

To me, the farmers market is about the experience. I love talking to people and creating relationships. I’m pretty sure Jacob thinks that one of the farmers is his third grandfather. He'll ask about him throughout the week and get so excited when we go see him. Mr. Mike lets him touch (and drop) his prized peaches without batting an eye. He'll throw in a heirloom tomato or two that he wants us to try as a thank you, and always helps us to the car.

Now, ya won't find that at a Walmart, will ya?

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