Here in Ontario, farmer's markets are in their prime. At least, in my opinion. I'm a sucker for fall food - squash, onions, tomatoes, apples, potatoes - and LOVE supporting local. To make the most of your trip to the farmer's market, check out these 10 helpful tips.
2. BYOB bags. Instead of toting around plastic bags from each vendor, bring your own reusable bag. After all, shopping local is about sustainability!
3. Shop around. We always do a loop before we commit to our purchases. You've got to see what's available first. Also, one vendor may have what you're looking for a little less than another.
4. Go with a list. This is extremely important so that you don't go overboard. There's only so much produce you can eat before it starts to go bad. Or, if you just can't resist, go with a friend and split it!
5. Try new things. Plan for spontaneity. Yes, your trip will go much faster if you have a plan, but sometimes it's always fun to try something new. For example, we treated ourself to some sheep's milk cheese and plum-filled donuts, something we don't usually purchase.
6. Remember where your money is going. We love supporting local, and since all vendors at our farmer's market are local, we try and spread our money throughout the market rather than all at one vendor.
7. Get advice. See a vegetable that you've never tried before? Ask the vendors how you prepare it or if you can try a sample. Our farmer's market was handing out samples of giant beef steak tomatoes. They were so delicious, we now enjoy eating them with our lunch.
8. Local does not mean organic. Just because it was produced locally, doesn't mean it is organic. Then again, just because it isn't labeled organic, doesn't mean it wasn't produced following organic principles. If you're curious, make sure you ask the vendor.
9. Timing. Go early or go late. Markets tend to be less crowded right when they open and are about the close. For the best selection, go early when popular items will still be available. For the best deals, go late when some vendors will reduce the prices to try and rid some of their inventory. Also, take your time. Farmer's markets are best shopped when you're not on a schedule. Take your time and appreciate the beauty the place you call home can produce.
10. Know your seasons. If you know a bit of what to expect when you go, making decisions at each vendor will be much easier. Learn what grows in your area when and talk to the vendors about what will be coming in the next few weeks. For those that live in Ontario, and surrounding states and provinces, Foodland Ontario has a great availability guide to use as a reference.
Do you have any local farmer's markets in your area? What you're favourite farmer's market find?