6 tips for a better farmers market experience

by Kaiser Permanente |
Person handing someone a basket of vegetables at an outdoor market

If you’re trying to eat healthier, farmers markets are a great place to buy produce. Fruits and vegetables are in season and at peak freshness. Markets also help you shop locally, which is good for the environment. And whether you’re talking with a farmer or a neighbor, you can enjoy a community atmosphere.

If you’re new to farmers markets, here are some tips so you can get the most out of your shopping experience.

Shop for what’s in season

Aim to create a shopping list based on the fruits and vegetables that are in season. You can research online before you go or ask for recommendations at the market’s information booth when you arrive. In the spring, you’ll find many vegetables, including asparagus, kale, and broccoli. There’s also a variety of delicious fruits available, such as apricots, oranges, and strawberries. If you’re not sure what to do with the produce you just bought, find inspiration and recipe ideas on our Food for Health blog. For example, a great springtime meal is an asparagus and citrus salad.

Walk through the market first

Take a stroll through the entire market first. Then you can see everything that’s available. And you can compare prices at different food stands, so you get a better deal. If you’re on a budget or didn’t bring enough bags, you can prioritize your shopping list. Maybe you can buy the artisanal jar of honey next time.

Bring your own bags

Not all vendors provide bags, so it’s a good idea to bring a few reusable ones with you. Insulated cooler bags will keep items like free-range eggs fresh. And avoiding single-use plastic bags helps the environment. If you’re planning to buy a lot, you can opt for a small cart. It also helps to bring kitchen towels or dishcloths. That way you can protect delicate heirloom tomatoes or wrap carrots that still have some dirt.

Carry cash

To make sure you can buy the rhubarb you’ve been eyeing, be sure to carry cash with you. Credit card apps are becoming more popular, but not all vendors use them. It also helps to bring small bills in case vendors run out of change.

Go early (or late)

Want to beat the crowds? Go early. Farmers markets are usually less crowded when they first open. You’ll also enjoy the best selection of produce. Not an early bird? Then shop later, near the market’s closing time. Not only is the market less busy, but many vendors offer special discounts toward the end of the day.

Try the samples

Vendors often offer samples that you can try before you buy — so you can taste just how juicy and sweet a blood orange really is. You can also try unfamiliar foods. For instance, a pomelo, to see if you like it. As you taste, ask the farmer about the produce. Never tried fennel? They might even have a few recipes in mind.