Shopping at a farmers’ market is the best way to know the most about the food you eat — where and how it’s grown and who grows it.
But it can also be intimidating to approach a stranger and ask them questions about the food they grow.
The good news is that most farmers and producers who grow, raise and make the food they sell at farmers’ markets want to talk to you. After all, they spend hours nurturing and caring for the food they grow so you can have a fresh, local product on your plate.
Here are a few tips to more comfortably navigate a farmers’ market:
To best take advantage of what the region has to offer during any season, and to get the most of a farmers’ market experience, try new things, explore new foods and inquire about the unknown.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again — I have yet to meet a farmer who does not like to talk about the food he or she grows. But while farmers are some of the most innovative thinkers I’ve met, they cannot read minds.
Walk into a farmer’s stand and ask for one bunch of radishes and they will gladly bag them up and go about their business. But simply ask the farmer their favorite way to prepare or eat radishes, and they offer more than one way they enjoy them. Farmers are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the food they grow because they eat the food they grow.
I always take a lap around a farmers’ market to browse and see what each vendor has before I buy anything. It gives me a sense of how I want to spend my dollars and inspires me before I do a second lap to buy my produce.
Not everyone thinks like a farmer. But download a free app like Seasonal and Simple app from the University of Missouri Extension to think more like one. The app has a list of regional produce by season and a nice library of recipes to accompany each.
Most farmers’ markets inform customers in advance what produce and goods will be at market that week, so visit a market’s Facebook page or see if they have an email sign-up to track when and who will have what.
And remember that not all farmers’ markets are created equal. Some markets only have local goods, while some allow regional goods and others allow vendors to resell produce they get from wholesalers. The best way to know if the farmer grew it, how they grew it and where they grew it is to ask.
Never hesitate to be curious.
Raised by generations of cooks, farmers and green thumbs, Andrea Shores is an enthusiastic eater and curious cook. She loves sharing her passion for local food by telling farmers’ and food purveyors’ stories.