How to Get the Most Out of a Farmers’ Market


If I were to describe my perfect weekend day, it would definitely involve a farmers’ market.  Perhaps my fondest memory of living in D.C. was when my friend who is a chef came to visit, and we went to the market and then came back and made a fantastic dinner from the colorful heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, house-made pasta, and locally-grown meat.

Ever since watching the Cooked documentary series on Netflix, I have become even more passionate about the idea of Farmer’s Markets.  Not only is it better food, but I love supporting small businesses. Plus, buying locally cuts down on transportation, which helps the environment!  All around, good things.

In addition to the amazing produce, farmer’s markets often boast artisan breads, flowers, local liquors, candles made in someone’s basement, cheeses and homemade lotions.. So fun!

It’s very en vogue to be anti-food industry these days, but the more I learn about it, the more I find that I’m actually agreeing with many of the stances these hippy-dippy folks are talking about.  I won’t go in to detail here, but would recommend you watch the following documentaries, in addition to Cooked, which I mentioned before:

  • Food, Inc.
  • Fed Up
  • Cowspiracy

Here are a few tips for saving some money at Farmer’s Markets.  All-in-all, you will likely be paying more at a Farmer’s Market than you would at the grocery store, but think of it as a way to support many good things.

Get to know the farmers/vendors.  Ask questions. Find out their growing techniques.  Go every week, and make it so that they know you too.  Heck, even venture out to their farm if you can.  Farmers are very passionate about their work, and always appreciate people getting to know what they do.  While this won’t necessarily get you discounts, nor should you get to know the farmers because you want discounts, they are more likely to cut a deal for a familiar face.

Psssst: Check out his website at: http://www.oliveoiloftheworld.com

Go at the end of the market.  This is especially true if the market is on Sunday.  Typically, farmers need to get rid of their produce on Sundays because another market isn’t likely happening again until Wednesday or Thursday.  A friend once told me that she happened to be walking through a farmer’s market at the end of a sale, and they were literally giving away grocery bags full of tomatoes.  She took them home and made a ton of amazing spaghetti sauce out of them to freeze.

Ask for discounts on “ugly” items.  Many veggies can come out unfortunate looking.  Simply ask, “Any chance you’ll take $x for this?”  The worst they can say is no!

Sample sample sample!  OK, maybe this isn’t a cost-saving tip per se, but you can almost have an entire meal’s worth of food if you hit up all of the samples.  Yummm

Actually watch the cooking demonstrations.  Again, this isn’t necessarily a cost-saving tip, but information is a very valuable thing.  If you can get information for free, consider that you have saved big bucks on a cooking class!  Watch.  Ask questions.  Take notes.  You’ll be amazed at what you can learn.

Ask for discounts if you’re buying a lot from one vendor.  Truth is, the farmers want to sell their produce.  If you’re helping them sell stuff more quickly, ask for a reasonable discount.  Again, the worst they can say is no.

Cook your food ASAP.  Obviously, food is going to go bad eventually, so don’t dawdle… But I find that the best farmer’s market experiences involve a meal plan in mind, preferably that takes place that very day.  The meal below involved many items from a farmer’s market and was absolutely delicious:

  • Chopped brussels sprouts tossed in EVOO, spread on a baking sheet and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake at 400 until crispy, stirring occasionally.
  • Locally-grown chicken,  just a little chopped garlic, olive oil, dried oregano, salt and pepper. I added a little vinegar but I’d use lemon if you have it, with the zest (from Chef Gabe Giella)
  • Penne pasta, cook al dente and rinse after draining to halt the cooking.  Retain some of the pasta broth.  Pistachio pesto is: equal parts roasted, salted pistachios (from Traders) and peccarino romano cheese, 1/2 clove of garlic, finely minced, and enough olive oil to get the food processor moving.  It should be grainy.  Toss on the pasta.  Add pasta broth if needed.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Casey Robertson | 14th Jun 17

    Another tip – bring cash to the farmer’s market. While most farmers accept cards these days, if you make it known you are paying with cash, sometimes they will excuse the change or give you a little more for your money. There is a farmer I went to when I told him I was buying my dad food for his birthday, he basically gave me a whole thing of bacon for free because he knew us so well at that point.

    • stellabritt@gmail.com | 15th Jun 17

      Yesss! Great point! Thanks for sharing!!

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