Buy Local: Shopping at the Farmers Market
This article was originally published on July 18, 2013 and expired on September 27, 2013. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.
Summer has finally arrived! And, the
growing season in right in our neck of the woods. Did you know that Illinois
ranks third in the nation for the number of Farmers Markets? "Shopping at the farmers market is one sure
way to buy fresh locally-grown and in-season produce," says Drusilla Banks,
Nutrition and Wellness Educator for the University of Illinois Extension. Banks
offers the following tips for making the best of your local farmers market.
When headed to your local farmers market,
dress comfortably and travel light. Check the weather report before you leave
home and dress accordingly. The farmers market will be open come rain or come
shine. A hooded jacket is better for a rainy day than trying to maneuver
through the crowds with an umbrella and all your purchases. Wear clothes with
lots of pockets; and on sunny days, wear sunscreen and sunglasses.
Know the season
Don't go to the farmers market in July
expecting to find pumpkins. If they are there, ask where they came from because
they were not grown in Illinois. Do not expect uniform size in the produce
selections either. Sizing is a supermarket tactic, but it is not the way things
grow. You can print a beautifully illustrated chart of "What's In Season" free
from the Illinois Department of Agriculture at: http://www.agr.state.il.us/markets/farmers
Be bold and try something new. You
will find heirloom varieties that you may not have tasted before. Farmers can
also tell you what they will be bringing to future markets as the season
progresses. Be prepared by making a shopping list, but also allow for
Go early or go late
If you arrive early, the market will be
less crowded and availability will be good. On the other hand, you may find
bargains and reduced prices at the end of the market day. Most farmers do not
want to take their goods back home.
How will you pay?
Although some markets are ready to take
senior coupons, WIC coupons, and many have an EBT machine for accepting
Illinois LINK, bringing cash is your best bet. Carry small bills and change in
a pocket-size change purse. Some vendors are equipped and ready to take credit
cards, but cash is ideal. Leave your larger purse at home or in your trunk.
Tour the entire market first
Stroll around and check out what is
available and the prices. Most prices are uniform, but the varieties and
quality may not be as consistent. Decide which vendor you will purchase from.
Meet the Farmers and ask questions
Shake hands and offer praise for the
beautifully grown selections on display. Most farmers and family members like
to talk to their customers. They are willing to talk about the variety of
produce they have grown, how it was grown, how to store it, how to ripen it,
and even how to cook it. They have a wealth of information.
You can even make arrangements to buy
large quantities if you are planning an event. Buying in bulk can be a huge
savings if you are planning to do some canning, freezing or drying. You may
need to pay in advance. If you are looking for organic produce, ask the farmer
how things were grown.
Take your own bags and
Berries get crushed, so take a ridged
container or basket. If you plan to buy fresh-cut flowers, they should be
placed in water for the trip home. Although some farmers market vendors have
bags, very few have boxes. It is easier if you bring your own containers and
reusable bags with handles. Make sure that they are clean. You are contributing
to the most basic recycling cause by using your own cloth bags. Consider a small cart or
cooler on wheels
Even small bags can get mighty heavy as
you walk through the Farmers Market. Places to sit and rest may be limited.
Place a cooler or two in the car. Pack it with some ice or cold-packs to keep
things at peak freshness. If you buy meat or eggs, they must be kept separated
from produce and cool until you get home. Many types of produce like melons,
corn, apples, will not need immediate cooling. If you use a cart, be
considerate of other shoppers. There are lots open-toed shoes out there!
"Don't over purchase, Banks suggested. Eat it while it is fresh and return
next week for more. Do some mental meal planning, even if you do not write it
down. Don't buy more than you can eat in a week".
University of Illinois Extension provides equal
opportunities in programs and employment.
If you need reasonable accommodation to participate in this program,
please contact the Extension office at least two weeks prior to the event. University of Illinois Extension offers
practical, research based programs that help people improve their lives and
address critical community issues involving youth, families, economics, and natural
Source: Drusilla Banks, Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness, email@example.com
Pull date: September 27, 2013