These days more and more people are shopping at farmers’ markets and while it’s not feasible to expect to get everything you need there, the farmers’ market is your best bet for finding the freshest, most seasonal food in your area.
We’ve lost touch with the origin of our food and what we’re eating— its journey from the farm to our plate. We eat apples that have lived in a truck for the better part of a week, instead of apples just picked in the next county over and we eat conventional tomatoes in December instead of fresh ones in July. But we’re finding our way back.
Going to the farmer’s market is about a human connection—the relationships we form with the people growing our food. They’re not hiding behind a colorful ad on a box or a long, indecipherable ingredient list. They’re at the market and they’re ready to meet us. And now is as good a time to go as any.
It’s good to get in touch with what’s fresh and in season. A varied, colorful diet is key to good nutrition and knowing what’s in season and how to properly care for your food are valuable tools to navigating the farmers’ market. Here are a few tips for successfully making your way through the market.
Lucky 32’s Guide to Navigating the Farmer’s Market
- Go early! You know what they say, the early bird gets the worm. So get out of that bed and down to the market!
- Bring cash. Some vendors have caught onto the new card reader fad but many still aren’t that equipped. Even for the vendors that do carry them, it’s still a rather pricey transaction so cash is always best. If you forget cash, the market may have an ATM, but be advised, it’ll probably charge you extra.
- Think about what makes you hungry. Look for inspiration as you peruse the market and let what’s available guide you rather than an ingredient list for a specific recipe. That will determine what meal you’re going to make. Think outside the box and get creative—try something you’ve never tried before! Shopping at the market should be fun, not stressful!
- Quality is worth it. Some items at the farmers’ market may cost more than at the grocery, but those fresh local strawberries are always going to taste better than the ones shipped from California.
- Ask questions. Engage the farmer in conversation—ask questions like, “did you grow this,” and, “what is the best way to keep this fresh?” Knowing how to take care of food is paramount in avoiding waste and making the most of your bounty. Don’t be intimidated by produce that’s foreign to you. If you’ve never tried sunchokes before, you probably don’t have the faintest clue what to do with them. So ask the farmer to recommend something for you. Chances are, they’re going to have some good ideas and they’ll be glad you asked.
- Research your markets. Be wary of re-sellers—not all farmers’ markets are producer-only markets, which means you may as well be shopping at a grocery store. Not all produce is organic or free of pesticides either, so if it’s not specific, then ask.
Some markets we like:
501 Yanceyville St., Greensboro, NC, Saturdays 7 am-12 pm (year-round), Wednesdays 8 am- 1 pm (from May thru December)
2914 Sandy Ridge Rd, Colfax, NC, Monday-Sunday 7 am-6 pm
Cary & Raleigh Farmer’s Markets:
1225 Morrisville Carpentener Rd, Cary, NC, Saturdays 9:30 am-12 pm December-March and 8 am-12 pm April-November
1201 Agriculture St Raleigh, NC, Monday-Saturday 5 am-6 pm, Sundays 8 am-6 pm
(At City Plaza) 400 Fayetteville St Raleigh, NC, Wednesdays 10 am-2 pm April 24-October 30
301 Kinsey St, Raleigh, NC, Saturdays 9:30 am-1:30 pm
- Find other NC farmer’s markets by using the North Carolina Farmers’ Market Directory.
- Find out which markets accept SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
- Follow the Triangle’s roaming market truck, LoMo, which makes daily rounds all over the Triangle and features loads of goodies from local farmers, food purveyors, bakeries and restaurants.
- Download the free Farmstand app—co-founded by Greensboro’s John Ford— to scope out the latest at the farmers’ markets in your area, find restaurants serving local food, register with a CSA and more.
Some of our favorite resources for the food we buy at the market:
- Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods, by Sandor Ellix Katz
- The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes, by Sheri Castle
- The Taste of Country Cooking, by Edna Lewis
Do you have any helpful tips for shopping at the farmer’s market?
Posted May 2013