Preparing to go:
- Make sure you have a cooler in your car. A fairly good sized one. I have one of those fold down ones so it takes up very little space in the car. And then I have another one that is a bag that folds way down. I bring both of those. The market is usually not very close to your house. And especially on hot days, by the time you get home, even with the air on, you can usually smell the produce ripening (not a good thing LOL!). Once, I left out a container of strawberries. It ended up going bad after only one day whereas the one that go put in the cooler lasted 4 days before going bad.
- Make sure you have lots of cash. Bring smaller bills. Yes, it is a bit more difficult, epscially with kids in tow, to count out a lot of ones. BUT, when the farmer's see lots of bills, they are MUCH more willing to bargain.
- Some sort of wagon or carry-a-long is a great idea. Especially if you are there shortly before closing as they are really in the mood to make a deal and you will get a lot of good produce and not be able to carry it. :)
- Bring the kids! My 8yr dd has developed the best sense of smell for melons. She picks the most delicious ones by nose alone. That did not hapen with her staying at home sitting on the couch. :) PLUS, farmer's sometimes like to give away freebies to the kids. Each of my kids got a free pint of strawberries today (yes, today was our trip to the farmer's market).
At the market:
- Most farmer's are not certified organic. But that does not mean that they are not growing their produce organically. It costs money for the farmer to pay for the certification. Which makes them have to raise their prices. When you ask if they are organic, they usually say they are pesticide free, or that they are conventional. If they say pesticide free, you are pretty much safe. If you feel more comfortable, you can ask if they use organic methods to grow their produce.
- Do not be afraid to ask for a deal. The worst they can say is no. Usually, if you have the cash out when you ask, they are more willing to accept the deal. You will usually not get a deal on one item. An example from today: Cantaloupes were $2 each. I got three and asked if they would take $5 for three.
- Don't let them talk you into a deal that is not a good one for you. I asked for a deal and was told that I could have it if I bought $5 worth of basil. That was SO MUCH basil, and I don't use enough, so that would not have been a good deal for me. He eventually gave me the deal along with another deal and I ended up with $18 worth of produce for only $10!
- Ask around while you are there! Usually there are others there who go to other farmer's markets in the area. They can tell you which ones are good and which one's are bad. I had been planning on going one that actually happened in the evening (the only one in the area) and was told to avoid it because it was very disappointing.
- They don't want to have to haul it all back to the farm. Remember that. If you go early in the day, you might get the best picks (especially if you are asking for seconds#), but you are also going to pay for it. Getting there about an hour before closing will allow you to get some REALLY good deals. Usually they are letting you know about the deals as you walk past them (in order for you to shop with them rather than continue walking). If you walk over as a result of what they told you, you get some really nice service. And they are more likely to even give you a better deal. Especially if no one else is around.
#Seconds are usually a case of produce (fruit or veggie) that is not as pretty as they rest of the produce they are selling. Some have bruises and or scrapes. Or they grew in an odd shape. Most of the time, you do have to buy in bulk to get seconds. Seconds are usually NOT out for you to see, so you do need to ask. I love to get seconds on fruit because you can clean it, cut it (removing the bad parts) and freeze it to use all year long, or make jams/jellies right away with it. You usually have to get there early for seconds as everyone wants them. :)
I hope this encourages you to head to your local farmer's market. Especially with the rising prices of groceries, farmer's markets can offer you a deal!!