It’s that time of year again! As each day gets warmer and the sun gets brighter, an often overlooked highlight of summer is the emergence of the best quality fresh produce around – at your local farmers market.
A farmers market is a great place to try out new kinds of produce and can serve as an excellent starting point for individuals looking to live a healthier lifestyle.
“Going to a farmers’ market automatically puts you in the mood to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables,” explains Dana Slatkin, a chef and culinary teacher based in Los Angeles, CA, and author of the cookbook, Summertime Anytime. A weekly farmers market trip can also serve as an eye-opening learning experience. Growers can provide suggestions on effective preparation methods for their produce and allow customers to taste samples.
Good vendors are marked by their accessibility to answer customer inquiries regarding their farm, produce, and growing practices, explains Laura Avery, a farmers market supervisor in Santa Monica, CA. Customers often decide to shop at farmers markets due to the superior quality of their produce. Avery described farmers market produce as having “superior flavor, ripeness, and (being) sustainably grown. . . Farmers markets are the best way for consumers to be connected with their food and how it is grown. There is absolutely no substitute, other than growing the produce yourself at home, to get the flavor, freshness, and quality of produce than buying at a farmers market.”
In addition, farmer’s market produce is usually grown organically and with few or no pesticides. Slatkin advises customers to check that farm vendors are either certified organic, or that they grow their produce without pesticides. In many instances, farmers lack the necessary funds to obtain an official state organic certification but they still operate as an organic farm.
Prices at farmers markets can vary significantly. Avery stressed that many produce items, such as herbs and turnip tops, are likely to be found at farmers markets but not at supermarkets. Some items may be more costly due to short supply. For instance, cherries may cost $5 per pound. Some high prices are due to long traveling distances for the vendors.
Despite this, many customers feel that the prices are well worth it for what they get in exchange. Anne Bannon, a wine blogger at OddBallGrape.com and food enthusiast based in Southern California, said, “I just feel better about shopping at the farmers market. . . There’s something insanely satisfying about walking away from the market with my bag full of delicious, fresh veggies, knowing that my husband and I will eat well for the next week.”
As a frequent customer, Bannon recommends that individuals scan the entire farmers market to compare prices before purchasing. Customers should avoid attending a farmers market at a time when they feel rushed, and instead should go when they can take as much time as necessary to make informed decisions. Bannon also pointed out that if you wait until closing time, some vendors may be willing to sell items at a reduced cost.
Bannon encourages customers to “experience the market with all of the senses. Smell the fresh strawberries, . . . taste the oranges, look at the bright colors and enjoy the solid feel of a potato in your hand.” Browsing the rich variety of colorful fresh produce in the summertime outdoors can bring excitement to the otherwise mundane chore of weekly grocery shopping.