We talked to the farmers themselves, and here’s what they told us.
Farmers Market
Credit: Getty / Aleksandar Jankovic

Farmers' markets are inherently happy places. The fresh and colorful produce, the cool(er) morning weather, fun new finds that you can sample, and smiling people out enjoying it all seem to generate an air of joy. Then there's the added benefit of knowing where your food comes from and chatting up the talented people who grew or made it.

As you can imagine, these folks have worked hard to cultivate and create their wares (not to mention the physical toil of setting up displays at the market at ungodly hours), so it's only fitting for us patrons to show appreciation with courtesy and kindness. 

Some of us learn best by being told what *not* to do when it comes to adopting proper behavior. So without further ado, here is our no-no list for the farmers' market, straight from the farmers and makers themselves. Once you've committed these rules to memory, you can begin the fun of farmers' market recipe planning—yum.

1. You haggle with sellers

It may be customary to negotiate a bargain at the car dealership, but at farmers' markets, the best practice is to honor the listed price, as it typically reflects the cost of making the product plus a little extra for the purveyor to take home. Some vendors may feel more inclined to cut prices at the end of market hours—or may be willing to cut a deal if you're interested in buying large quantities, according to The FruitGuys Community Fund, a nonprofit that awards grants to small-scale farmers. Just remember to be kind and respectful if you do attempt to haggle. If you're trying to be money wise at the market, here are our best tips.

2. You hog samples

"I used to think to myself, 'This isn't Costco!'" says Betsy Fernandez, regarding the sheer amount of samples customers would consume at her booth of salsas, jams, pickles, and relishes in Atlanta. Yes, sellers want you to try the literal fruits of their labor, but if you're the type who likes to make a meal out of samples, you'll need to recalibrate your appetite before embarking upon the market.  

3. You rough up the merchandise

It's tempting to get handsy with produce to find a perfectly ripe peach or tomato, but this practice can easily harm delicate fruits and vegetables. "I don't know how many times customers will pick up produce to squeeze, smell, or poke it to see how ripe it is, only to damage it and then set it back down," Shelby DeVore, founder of agricultural education site Farminence, told Allrecipes.com. Another reality is that farmers are bringing the produce that's ready to enjoy right now, and you can trust them to select the perfect fruit or veggie for you. Just tell the seller what you're looking for and how you plan to use it.

4. You contaminate samples

Overdoing it on samples is one thing, but being careless with food safety is another, more serious farmers' market infraction. We're talking double dipping, not using the proper or provided utensil to procure your sample, or touching samples you don't intend on eating. "I didn't witness a lot of double-dipping," Fernandez says, "but it did happen, and that meant we had to trash that sample and start again." With a pandemic just barely in our rearview mirror, it's more important than ever to follow basic public health precautions.

5. You let kids and pets run amok

A farmer's market is a melting pot of people, pets, and purveyors, and that's a beautiful thing. Kids learning where their food comes from, meeting farmers, and trying local produce is powerful. That said, "Kids are notorious double dippers," Fernandez says. If you have kids–or pets–in tow, keep a close eye on them to ensure they're sampling appropriately, not creating traffic jams, or generally inciting mayhem. Over time they will become fabulous farmers' market visitors and supporters.

6. You visit the market while sick

"Even if it's 'just allergies,' if you feel a sneeze or a cough coming on, walk away and then come back," DeVore told Allrecipes.com. "Sneezing or coughing on the produce isn't only unsanitary for us and our produce, but it turns other potential customers away from our booth." Though markets are often outdoor affairs where germs can more easily disperse, they are typically crowded. And mixing germs, food, and food sampling, is generally just not a good scene. If you feel unwell, take care of yourself and your neighbors by sitting this week's market out.  

Armed with these don'ts, you can avoid farmers' market faux pas and shop with confidence and kindness while supporting your local economy.