How to Shop a Farmers’ Market

They?re good for the environment, they help pad farmers? pockets, they increase fresh produce consumption and strengthen community bonds. Seriously, is there nothing a farmers’ market can?t do?

To follow up on all our recent chatter about the benefits of farmers’ markets, we found this helpful video about what you can expect from your local farmers’ market, the benefits of keeping it local and how to get the most out of your retail experience.

via YouTube via

Some take-home messages:

1) Don?t be scared to ask questions ? Farmers are generally happy to discuss their growing process and can also tell you first-hand which produce is the best (or even give you serving suggestions!)

2) Think farmers’ markets are just for vegetables? Think again! Many farmers’ markets are also home to vendors selling meats, cheese, eggs or other products.

3) Don?t write off your local farmers’ market in the winter months ? even though growing conditions may be bleak, many farmers will bring in produce from more far-flung locales, allowing you access to the foods you want while still allowing them to earn a living.

4) Although it?s preferable to eat locally-grown produce, regional climates, seasonal changes and growing cycles can seriously limit your selections at certain times of the year. A better policy is to stock up when an item is in season, but be amenable to subsidizing your selections with out-of-season items.

5) Don?t get hung up on price. You may pay more for organic or local produce, but the freshness (sometimes picked that same day), value and the knowledge that your supporting your local farming industry (and decreasing your carbon footprint) should more than make up for the slightly higher cost.

If you?re interested in learning more about farmers’ markets in your area, visit this USDA web page.

Further Reading:

Community Supported Agriculture

Urban Gardening

10 Ways to “Eat Green”

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7 thoughts on “How to Shop a Farmers’ Market”

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  1. I always shop at my local farmer’s market whenever I can, and am also fortunate to have a daily local produce stand I can walk to. You just can’t compare the freshness and flavor to supermarket produce. Where else will you have an egg vendor who also sells Balut(steamed fertilized duck eggs w/embryo)! I always found the prices only slightly more but competitive with the supermarkets. I haven’t seen any increases but expect to see them due to higher fuel prices and the fact most of the participating farms are about 2-4 hours from the SF Bay Area.

  2. In my experience, local produce that’s sustainably grown but not certified organic is usually priced somewhere between supermarket conventional and organic. I pay $2.85 for a dozen real free range eggs, about $1 more than conventional but almost $1 less than Eggland’s Best.

    I am fortunate enough to have a farmer who sells year round although the winter selection of produce is limited to apples, squashes, potatoes, onions, and if the weather isn’t too nasty, kale from outside and spinach from an unheated greenhouse. I supplement with frozen vegetables rather than buy “fresh” stuff that’s been trucked in from elsewhere. It looks and tastes like spring now that the kale is finally gone for the season, replaced by asparagus, lettuce, and mesclun.

    Strawberries will debut later this month as the first fresh fruit of the season. I’ll have to hurry and finish up that mushy stuff in the freezer this week.

    You at Mark’s Daily Apple are blessed to enjoy California’s bountiful year-round agriculture.

  3. This is great information! The tips are great and I shared them with my readers so they can have a good understanding of how to navigate through the market.

  4. I am lucky enough to be able to shop at a Farmers Market only 5 minutes from me. The prices vary from about the same to slightly more expensive, but the produce is fresh, organic/biodynamic (all stall holders have to be at the one I go to), the producers are excited about their product/s, and I feel happier knowing my hard earned cash goes straight to the producers. And eating seasonally is the way to go! Thanks Mark for a great site!

  5. I began to volunteer at a CSA 3 months ago, while I look for work. I love the fresh air and watching the veggies I help plant.. grow. The farmers and volunteers feel more like family. As a token of appreciation, the farmer has given me a 1/2 share for the year. It is only me and my hubby so I will need to quickly learn how to blanch/freeze an over abundance of veggies. Looking forward to trying new veggies, making Primal life an easier transition.

  6. Farmers markets can be very expensive, just like farm and organic shops.

    I don’t see this as a viable option for those on a budget, it’s unrealistic.

    Here in the UK, food prices have increased significantly in the last few years. Two organic chicken breasts from the supermarket cost nearly £7, and I’ve yet to find a farmers market that sells them for much cheaper.

    The best priced and best quality meat (as far as look and taste/smell) is from my local butcher, but I’ve yet to ask exactly how the animals that the meat comes from has been fed and reared.

    Last Saturday I bought some venison burgers at only £1.00 each. Although I was told venison is considered a lean meat, they did seem a bit fattier than i had hoped. However, they contained a lot less fat than average supermarket burgers that are in the ‘Healthy Options’ or ‘Finest’ range.

    Still, they were delicious and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were ‘organic’.

    1. In many cases, the growers qualify as “organic” but do not wish to pay the cost of the inspections and certifications which would be an expense they would have to pass on to customers.