How to Tackle a Farmers Market

By Danielle Staub, MS, RD, CDN

Shopping your local farmers market is the best way to ensure that what you’re buying is seasonal, fresh, and local. Not only do you get better quality food, but you’re also supporting local farmers, stimulating the local economy, and helping the environment.  

Are you a farmer’s market newbie? No problem! We’ve got you covered with this quick farmer’s market “how-to” guide.

  1. Do your homework and have a strategy

    Before heading to your local market, do some research on what’s in season in your area. Put together a rough list of items you’d like to buy, but stay flexible since you never know what will be available.

    Make sure you use the ‘farmer’s market shopping strategy’:   make rounds before purchasing to see which vendor has the best price and quality, (especially if it’s a large market with many vendors); you have to be more flexible than you would otherwise be shopping in a supermarket.  You’ll need plenty of time to browse the market and don’t forget to bring cash as most markets don’t accept credit card!

  2. Bring your own gear

    Pack your own canvas bags or woven basket ‒ you’ll avoid a collection of tiny plastic bags from each vendor and be able to effortlessly (and fashionably) carry your farm fresh items.  Pack soft items such as berries on top of hard fruits and vegetables such as squash or watermelon.

  3. Set you alarm and shop early!

    The best goes first and farmers may run out of items by the end of the day.  During the summer the quality of unrefrigerated produce can decline quickly in the heat. 

  4. Make friends with your farmer

    How amazing is it that you can speak directly with the people growing your food?  When I go to the market, I always ask to try new varieties of fruits or vegetables that I don’t recognize and inquire how the farmer’s themselves like to prepare them.  Asking questions and sharing tips at the market will make you a better shopper and a superior cook! 

  5. Store

    If you can, head straight home to avoid wilted produce from the summer heat.  Try not to overbuy, so you can use your items while still as fresh as possible. Buy some items that need to be eaten in the next two or three days, and other, less perishable foods that will carry you through the end of the week or until your next trip to the farmers market.

  6. Get Creative

    Check out my favorite farmer’s market cookbook that provides plenty of delicious and healthy recipes featuring seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients!

If you feel inspired by the Farmers market, don’t be afraid to try growing your own herbs or vegetables at home! Often the farmers market will sell starter seeds that you can easily plant in your backyard. See above for a photo of Dr. Chabot’s—the Director of the Pancreas Center—beautiful herb and vegetable garden! 

Where is the nearest farmer’s market located? Grow NYC has a complete listing by neighborhood. If you work or live near Columbia University Medical Center, stop by the Fort Washington Greenmarket on Tuesdays from 8am-4pm.

What are your favorite ways to tackle the farmer’s market? 

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