It’s that time of year again, where farmer’s markets all across the country are starting to pop back up, and seasonal produce and goodies are at their BEST!!
A few weeks ago, I shared on Instagram that I went over to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. In LA, the SM Farmer’s Market is one of the biggest and baddest markets around…many local chef’s go there to grab fresh produce to cook THAT NIGHT in their restaurants.
Farmer’s markets are one of the funnest places — not only to people watch (yes, I am a people watcher, for sure!) — but, also to explore new foods and find the best seasonal produce. Nik and I have always loved going to any of our local market to find new things and stay up to date with the local happenings around our city,
There are so many local farmers to choose (and learn!) from, and many times, there are other activities going on as well — live music, entertainment, or activities for kids, like face painting and more.
If you’re not prepared, the amount of options can sometimes be overwhelming. So, I wanted to give you some of my favorite tips for making the most of a trip to your local Farmers’ Market!
Shop early for selection, Shop Late for Deals – This is crazy true at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, but just about everywhere else too. Like I said, the local chefs’ go to the SM market for their restaurants, so, if you don’t get there early, a lot of the really great produce will be gone. Produce is freshest first thing in the morning and it may be slim pickings later in the day.
However, if you decide to sleep in, or you go on a rainy day, you may be able to negotiate deals with a vendor or two as they’re getting ready to pack up before closing! It never hurts to ask — and they would much rather get rid of anything they can, than packing it all back up!
Bring CASH — Most of the farmers and vendors are small-town operations, and even though many are now using services like Square to accept credit cards, they still have to pay a processing fee of about 3%…and that BIG for them. Make things easier for the vendor by bringing cash — farmers will LOVE you if you pay with small bills.
Bring your Own Bags – First off, it’s obviously so much more eco-friendly, and second, the farmers have to PAY for their bags, and they don’t get the deals that huge chain grocery store get either — so, why not help them out, too!
These eco-friendly bag/boxes are amazing with handles on the sides and reinforced bottoms — they can be used at a box OR a bag — perfect for really heavy market trips! Or, if you’re looking for something a little more chic, you can try these…Or re-use some from another store — like Lululemon or Lorna Jane!
I also love using reusable produce bags as well. (p.s. I forget mine when I went to the market this time, so I had to use plastic! But, when this happens, I use the bags to line my juicer for easy clean up, or in a small trash can!)
Shop Around – It can be overwhelming when you first get to the market, and it’s really easy to go to one vendor and buy all of your things at once — but then you walk around a little more and see that another vendor is selling the same thing for a little less money, or has better looking cauliflower than the vendor you bought from.
I like taking a lap around the entire market before zero-ing in on what I buy. I want to see who has the best berries, the types of local honey they offer and the price, what kind of meat cuts are offered this week, before making my decisions. Just because someone has oranges at their stand, doesn’t mean they are the BEST oranges at the market, look for a citrus vendor who specializes in citrus fruit — take your time, and enjoy your time there!
Try Out the Samples – A great thing about farmer’s markets is that they ALWAYS have samples. Taste test before you buy. The citrus stand at the SM market had literally 20 different orange varieties, and each one had samples. It makes it easier to find the flavor you’re looking for. Also, a lot of the honey stands have flavor-infused honey, or honey from a specific plant — like avocado honey!! (YES, it’s a real thing here in California! And it’s AMAZING — super smokey-tasting, and great for grilling meat!)
Try new things you’ve never had before, or taste the same product from different vendors to see who has the best product — BUT, on that note, don’t be that person that just walks around for only the samples, REMEMBER, this is their livelihood. Respect that.
Try New Items — This goes along with sampling — try something new each week! This is the perfect place to try new things. There are always new items that are constantly changing throughout the year — so it’s easy to find something to try. And again, the farmers and vendors are so helpful and are always willing to give you ideas of how to prepare anything new. Every time I hit the farmer’s market I try to find at least one new thing each week.
Choose Organic (most of the time) — This goes without saying, HOWEVER, because a lot of the farmers at local markets are much smaller compared to commercial farmers, they may not have certified organic product — this is because it’s actually very costly to get certified. You can always talk with the farmers or vendors, many times they will tell you they use all natural fertilizers or organic pesticides — they just aren’t certified organic — and that’s totally fine, too!
Look for Local Honey – You may know my love of local honey — there are SO MANY benefits, such as relief from local allergies. Not to mention, there are SO MANY different flavors honey can take on. I’ve lived in 6 different states in the last 5 years, and each and every place I’ve lived has had different honey varieties and different honey tastes…some more florally, some smokier, or spicier, some softer in flavor…you’d be amazed at just how different they can taste.
I always to pick some up, and always sample different kinds — it’s probably one of my FAVORITE things to do and try at farmer’s markets.
Talk to the Farmers – The farmers and vendors are SO knowledgable when it comes to their products. Many times they can offer amazing new ways to prepare something that you wouldn’t have thought of yourself.
A vendor I talked to at Rutiz Family Farm, helped me choose between a few different varieties of beets. He told me that some are better for cooking, while others are better for presentation or have a more mild flavor. They’ll also be able to tell you about the seasons for each item, or when the item will be at it’s peak, so that you can plan to pick some up later.
By in Bulk – When you can, buy in bulk. You can usually negotiate a deal with the farmer or vendor when you buy more, so that’s great for your wallet. But also, when you buy it, it will be so much more fresh than buying it in the grocery store. You can freeze any excess you may get, like extra meat, or cut up your fruits and veggies and make few pre-made smoothie packs — you can even try your hand at canning, if you’re feeling adventurous!
Last but not least —
Check the Flower Stand! – They always have the freshest, most beautiful flowers…so much better than the ones at the supermarket. They last much longer, and you get way more for you money!
Well, I hope with these tips you will fall in love with farmer’s markets just as much as I have! Remember it’s about the experience. Make a day or entire morning for it, enjoy your favorite coffee as you walk around, or meet up with a girlfriend to catch up!
Do you have any other tips for shopping at farmer’s markets?