Shopping at the farmers’ market is a way to support local commerce, try new produce and even make new friends. Oak Express sat down with Anja Mast, co-owner of Trillium Haven Farm, CSA in Grand Rapids, Mich., gives some tips to roaming the open aisles with success.
Q: What should I bring to the farmers’ market?
Bring your own bags (not a basket) and carry young kids in a baby carrier or sling. Part of coming to the farmers’ market is being part of a community, so be considerate of the rules of your local market. Also, try to make sure you buy something — it’s a social place, but it’s also a local business.
Q: How can I support this local commerce?
Buying at the farmers’ market means you’re supporting small farmers in your area who are still growing food, which is less than .01 percent of the population. Don’t just buy a few things and leave, consider buying in quantity and fully supporting the farmers during that season. If you don’t know how to store, eat or prepare a particular vegetable, ask the farmer!
Q: How can I make my market experience fun?
Make a plan to try something new every single week. Go in with the intention to always be in the beginner’s mind-set — break out of the rut that the grocery store imposes on us. Find a farmer who has some cooking knowledge or who works with a local restaurant and ask what to do with your new food. Chances are, you’ll begin to build relationships with a few farmers and become part of the farming and culinary communities in your area.
Q: How do I find the right farmer for me?
Finding a farmer that fits you is like finding a restaurant you like — notice the vibe, rapport with the other farmers, the employees, the product, your comfort level with them. Remember, you’re not just buying food. You’re forming a relationship, and you might just find a new friend as well.
Q: Besides fresh produce, what else can I find at the market?
Any kind of handcrafted product can be found: from goat cheese to salsas, jams, jellies, preserves, soaps, homemade breads, fresh flowers and dried beans. Look for people who love certain products and who focus on that one specialty item.
Q: Is the farmers’ market cheaper than the grocery store?
Some items are more expensive; some are cheaper. Think about the fact that you’re paying more for something that is less than 24 hours old (the produce in the grocery store can be up to two weeks old) and the flavor is better because it didn’t get shipped around. Also, consider the farmer as a serious professional who cares about the quality of the product and the quality of the farm. Their profession is farming, and if they do it well, the quality is second to none.
Below are some general guidelines to help you navigate fresh, local produce. But check with your local farmers market to see what’s growing in your area.
Spring: asparagus, green onions, leeks, lettuce, maple syrup, mint, mushrooms, new potatoes, peas, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, strawberries, wild greens
Summer: basil, berries, cherries, cilantro, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, fennel, green beans, kohlrabi, melon, okra, peaches, peppers, plums, tomatoes, summer squash
Autumn: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, cranberries, grapes, kale, pears, persimmons, pumpkins, Swiss chard, winter squash
Winter: apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, citrus, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, turnips
Taken from Simply in Season by Lind and Hockman-Wert
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