Have you visited a local farmers markets yet this year? Whether you’re a first-time market goer or a regular shopper at farmers market, here are three tips for shopping at small town farmers markets.
Go with an open mind
This year in Minnesota, it’s been a slow start to producing many vegetables due to the rainy spring. Most small-town market vendors plant directly in a garden making planting in the rainy season challenging, compared to larger vegetable farmers that have greenhouses and low-tunnels to start plants growing earlier in the season and to protect them from the elements. Although it’s been a slow start, there are many vegetables at the market by July and more arriving each week. When you shop local, it’s important to adapt with the seasons.
There’s more to a farmers market than produce. At the Faribault Farmers Market, there are fabulous bakers, a variety of jams, jellies, pickled vegetables, eggs, meat, honey, maple syrup and more. There are wonderful woodwork designs, handmade jewelry, crochet items, homemade soaps, succulent plants. While most vendors attend the market weekly, some vendors are seasonal, so the market changes throughout the season.
When I say to go with an open mind, that means don’t expect watermelon in July. Not all eggs look the same. Baked goods vary depending on the baker’s mood. While you may have a list of items that you’re looking for, consider trying something new at the market too, like elephant ears, duck eggs, leeks or corn cob jelly to name a few of the unique foods found at the Faribault Farmers Market.
Small town farmers markets are made up of small-town folk. Some vendors don’t have an email address, more less a smart phone to process credit card purchases, so it’s best to carry cash to the market. While most vendors are prepared to offer change, it’s also helpful to carry some smaller bills to make transactions easier.
Talk with the vendors and visitors
One of the things that I love about farmers markets is talking with the people. As a vendor, I really appreciate it when people stop to inquire about our products or our farm. No question is a dumb question. As a shopper, I enjoy talking with the vendors to learn more about their products. If you’re looking for a specific vegetable, talk with the vegetable farmers to ask if they’re growing it and when it will be available. If they don’t grow it, they might know someone that does. If you’re interested in a certain type of jewelry or wood design, ask the vendors. They might be able to make it for you. Talk with the vendors and with the other market-goers. One of the great things about farmers markets is building community.