Shopping at the farmers' market is nothing like shopping at the grocery store--and this is great news! There are no fluorescent lights, no plastic-wrapped, food-like substances, no cleverly-crafted marketing ploys to get you to buy food that's not good for you. At SFC farmers' markets, we're all about indulging all five senses: the sound of friendly conversation, the scent of basil and other fragrant herbs, the taste of chef-prepared delights and hot coffee, the sight of brightly colored and beautiful food and flowers, and the touch of smooth, plump tomatoes and heft of summer fruits and vegetables. If you're new to the market or not a regular shopper, it can help to know some tricks to getting the most out of a weekly stop. Even seasoned shoppers can benefit from a few new tips--read on for ideas for shopping the market like a pro.
- Ask questions. The farmers are there because they want to engage with the customer. Don't be afraid to ask for advice. If you see something that looks super interesting, or that's a real bargain, but you don't have any idea how to prepare it, just ask the farmer. Recipe for leeks? The grower probably has one. They know best how to prepare what they grow.
- Bring small bills to the market, like $1’s and $5’s, so that the farmers or other vendors don’t have to make change. There is also an ATM machine on site, so that you can use your bank card to get cash (but only in $20s).
- Wear comfortable shoes, and a hat or sunscreen in the summer. Though the SFC Markets have shaded areas, the sun can be hot.
- Bring a refillable bottle, and use our re-fill station at the sky blue Info Booth to get some filtered water.
- Bring an ice chest if you think you might have a few stops after the market before you get home and keep your frozen items frozen and things like milk and eggs cold.
- Go early or go late. Markets tend to be less crowded right when they open or just before they close (there are exceptions to this, so try going to one or our markets at different times to figure out the best time for you). For the best selection, go to the farmers market early. The best goods go first and if you arrive even one hour after the market opens, your popular but limited item may have sold out! Later shoppers may get a more limited selection, but many farmers reduce prices in that last 30 minutes or so in order not to take the produce home.
- Plan for a treasure at the market and take advantage of it. You need to leave a bit of wiggle room for surprises and take advantage of things like strawberries or a new type of mushrooms and snatch them up! Trying new things or getting the first of your favorite thing is part of the fun of going to farmers’ markets.
- Make volume deals. Farmers will give you good prices if you buy in bulk. You'll enjoy the best flavors and the best prices when you buy lots of whatever is at its harvest peak. How to use it all up? Try new recipes with favorite vegetables or learn the lost art of preserving foods. Freezing, canning, and drying are just some of the ways you can save seasonal tastes you find at the farmers market for later in the year.