Because we're all such huge fans of seasonal produce--like the amazing collection of goodies available during the spring--it's no surprise that we get excited about the amazing fresh selection that can be found at the local farmer's market. Farmer's markets offer an oasis of fresh fruits and vegetables, local honey, crafts, and so much more. Alas, the riches of the farmer's markets also attract some not so pleasant things--and by "things" I actually just mean people who don't understand farmer's market protocol. If you happen to unknowingly be one of those people (no judgement), bear with me as I go through some of the don'ts and do's of navigating your local market with grace.
1.) Don't try to haggle with farmers on their prices. What's shown on the sign is what the price is, unless the vendor offers a lower prices (which they often will as it gets closer to closing time). A farmer's market is exactly that--a market, not a garage sale or an OBO post Craigslist. Your local farmers labor to bring their best produce to the table and they generally aim to price fairly. If you don't like their price, don't buy their produce.
2.) Don't leave your cash at home. While some vendors do have card swiping capabilities, plenty don't--so if you find yourself without cash, you'll likewise find yourself without a lot of options. And when you do prepare your cash for the market, try to avoid only packing larger bills. If you can, keep it down to $1's and $5's to make for easier change making.
3.) Don't show up too early or too late [with the expectation of shopping]. If you show up before the market officially opens, vendors may not be completely set up, which means they're not ready to sell. Respect their time and stay out of their stands until opening time. While I'm sure most sellers appreciate the enthusiasm and some light morning chit-chat, they do need to prepare for the day. On the flip side, if your market ends at 2pm, don't try to catch the farmers at their truck 45 minutes later and ask to have a peek at the leftover produce.
4.) Don't expect the same conveniences as a grocery store. Although many do, it's not the vendors responsibility to provide disposable shopping bags. If you're planning to buy a few different items, bring your own bags with you. A large canvas tote bag that you can toss over your shoulder to keep your hands free is ideal.
5.) Don't touch without asking. Some stall vendors might be OK with you picking up their produce, but some won't be, so always ask first. On the same note, be sure your hands are clean. If you're feeling up all of the heirloom tomatoes, that suggests that you're interested... and I can promise, nobody is interested in your germs f you change your mind.
6.) Don't get too happy with the samples. Some farmers will offer free samples so that you can get a taste of their product--and that's all it is, a sample taste. You will have to make your decision as to whether or not you want to buy without coming back around for a second or third bite to help you "make up your mind."
7.) Don't let your dog run loose. Farmer's markets are often it's a pleasant place to bring your [well-behaved] four-legged friends if that's permitted, but just be sure that you have a handle on the situation. If your dog is skittish around people, enjoys barking like a lunatic at other dogs, or has proven to be a downright produce thief... take fido on his or her own special outing after you return from the market. If a mishap does happen, don't hesitate in remedying the situation. Offer to pay the farmer for any damages done or produce eaten.
8.) Don't block a stall with your cart or stroller. There may not be a lot of room to move between stalls, so be respectful of everyone else trying to shop. If you hover in the same location for too long without buying anything, simply move along until you decide to buy and let other people through. It can be difficult to maneuver around carts and strollers during peak market hours, so be mindful of your surroundings.
9.) Don't steal. This should be a no-brainer, but accidents do happen, especially in busy chaotic situations. Be aware of what you're holding in your hands so as not to mistakenly walk away with a bag of produce that wasn't paid for.
Now that we've gone through a list of what not to do at your local farmer's market, what should you do?
1.) Do keep an open mind. There may be items for sale that you've never tried to cook with before. This is a great place to get inspiration for new dishes, new recipes, and new ways of preparing local items. Make it a point to venture out of your comfort zone and maybe purchase one thing that you wouldn't normally buy at the grocery store, something that intrigues you. If you need an extra boost of confidence, ask the stall vendor what their favorite way to prepare it is.
2.) Do be prepared with a list of what you want to find, small bills easily accessible, sunglasses, a water bottle if you plan to stay for a bit, and your own produce-toting vessels (as mentioned above). Shopping the market is an infinitely more pleasant experience if you go in ready to have a good time.
3.) Do be kind to others and do your part to promote a positive atmosphere. Sellers benefit when you buy and you benefit from what they sell--it's a win-win situation. Recognize it and get excited about the support you're lending to local farms in your area.
4.) Do have some fun! Oftentimes, farmer's markets serve as community hubs for live music, food trucks, drink stands, and more... so gather up a group of friends and enjoy it.
Do you have a favorite farmer's market that you like to go to? Let us know about your farmer's market experiences in the comments below!