Farmer’s Market 101: Produce

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We as a family try to make at least one trip to the farmer’s market every week. If you haven’t been to your local farmer’s market you’ve got to try it!  Imagine:  the fresh air (okay, ours is in a parking under the freeway, but a girl can dream), lots of delicious produce, meats, cheese and other local items, beautiful displays. It’s a great place to spend a Saturday morning with the family or to take a girl on a date (date idea is added in case my dear brother happens upon this post: 🙂 ). You can purchase almost everything you need for a delicious home cooked meal. It’s always a great time. Being outside, talking to local farmers, and of course purchasing lots of REAL food. When I say real food, I mean food that isn’t made in a factory consisting of ingredients you can hardly pronounce. Real food is fresh, nutritious, and of course tastes amazing. For food other than produce I love to shop here.
 
 

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 Over the last year we have been buying less and less processed food in our home (yay!), but this choice requires a different kind of eating and shopping (shopping at farmer’s markets has become particularly important). This series about shopping locally is going to be a 4 part series consisting of buying produce,animal products and novelty items followed up with a segment about how we fill in the gaps at the grocery store! I’ll include lots of pictures!

Okay! Let’s begin! When you think a farmers market the first thing you think of is beautiful, fresh, delicious produce, Right??? It’s true! Fruits and veggies make up the vast majority of what is selling at the market. So how do you decide who to buy from? How much should you expect to pay?

“HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A PEACH THAT WAS GROWN WITHOUT PESTICIDES??”

One of my favorite people, Kellay, always says this when you talk about pesticide free food. Peaches are one of the main offenders of the so called “dirty dozen” because they are almost impossible to grow without harsh chemicals. And the above statement is the kind of thing you’ll hear often from farmers who use pesticides, chemical fertilizers, etc.

So what’s the point??? Don’t expect your farmers market produce to look just like what you might buy at the supermarket. It’s not going to look “perfect” and that’s a great thing! That means the farmer didn’t blast your grapes with chlorpyrifos-a neurotoxin. Or, drown your broccoli in acephate- yep it’s a known carcinogen. No thanks.

This might make you cringe, but this week I was tearing a bunch of collard greens for soup (white bean collard soup to be exact) and there were little bite marks all through the bunch. Maybe it was a snail? I obviously gave them a good wash but it was reassuring to know that the collards were pesticide free. And what’s so bad about sharing a little of my leafy greens with some hungry little bug?

So when you go to the market change the way you think about produce. Be glad when your carrots are covered in dirt and your apples aren’t shiny or perfectly round. You are buying real food and just like humans, it’s not going to be perfect and yet each piece of produce is unique and beautiful in its own way. I also guarantee that it’s going to taste a whole lot better. Barbie is to a grocery store apple as Einstein is to a farmers market apple. Think about it.

 

“HAVE YOU EVER TALKED TO OLD MCDONALD??”

I’m laughing to myself right now because I have some good friends who are farmers and they aren’t old McDonaldy at all. Seriously though, talking to your farmers is one of the best things about going to the market. David and I have become pros about asking farmers questions about their produce and we’ve found that most farmers love to share how they grow their food, even if we don’t always like the answer.

I wish instead of listing food as organic, farmers instead would be asked  to list the chemicals and pesticides they DID use. Wouldn’t that be great?!? Well, that’s not the case but just because they are NOT labeled as organic doesn’t mean you should steer clear. A lot of small farmers choose to forgo the hassle and cost of being organically certified yet they are indeed sustainable and pesticide free, often even exceeding the parameters of organic. That’s why it’s so important to ask questions. It’s as simple as asking, “Were your apples sprayed?” or “What kind of practices do you use to grow your food?” That usually starts up the conversation. If you don’t get an answer you like, simply thank the farmer and keep shopping.

It can also help to know the so called ‘dirty dozen and clean fifteen’. If you would like a refresher or you have no clue what I’m talking about. Click here.

“IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY, HONEY”

Not really. When you shop at the farmers market you might be looking to save money but I would argue that’s not the most important reason to shop locally. However, you can get some great deals on excellent produce. If you are really interested in making this most of your money, try going at the end of the market because many farmers will sell what they have left over at a discount. It’s just like shopping the clearance rack! Keep in mind that many farmers sell out of popular items so going late means getting what’s been picked over.

One of my favorite money tricks is to always make my purchase a round dollar amount. It goes just like this:

Seller: “Your total for the mandarins will be $3.20.”
Me: “If I throw in a couple more can we make it $4.00?”
 

The answer for me has always, always been, “YES”. It’s a win win. I don’t have to bother with coins and the farmer makes more money whilst selling more.

Brussel Sprouts! Yum!
     

Well there you have it, my best tips! Do you have any farmers market tips or tricks you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

2 Comments

  1. Julia I love this post! Farmer’s markets are so amazing. You are so right that most people are thrown off by the produce because they think it has “gone bad” when in actuality it is what a non-genetically-engineered-slimy-waxed piece of produce looks like!

  2. Candice

    The best part about our local farmers market is the very back where they sell buckets of bruised produce for 99 cents! Like you, I don’t mind imperfect produce, and we feed such a large family (there are 7 of us) that we eat the produce within a couple of days:-) Last week I got three heads of cabbage, two buckets of tomatoes, two buckets of okra, and a bucket of oranges for six bucks! I made corned beef and cabbage, stir fry, fresh salsa, and tomatoes and okra…yummy!!!

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