Farmer’s markets are popping up everywhere, which is great news! This means increased access to locally-grown, in-season foods — which also means better taste, quality, and nutrition. Sounds like an across-the-board win! From supporting local farmers to loading up your plate with good-for-you nutrients, there are so many reasons to love farmer’s markets. That said, not all areas have them — so farmer’s markets may be totally new to you! And if it’s your first go-around, they can sometimes feel overwhelming or intimidating. The good news is that we’re here to break that barrier, so you feel confident and comfortable shopping at any market. Consider this your Farmer’s Market 101 Guide!
Ahead, we’re sharing how to find a local farmer’s market, what you can buy, and of course, all the benefits. Read on for all you need to know!
The Benefits of Shopping at a Farmer’s Market
Quality, Taste, & Nutrition
Locally grown, seasonal foods are healthier, tastier, and harvested at peak season. If you’ve ever taken a bite out of a fresh juicy peach or picked up a bundle of locally harvested carrots, you know there’s just no comparison. Farm-to-table food means little transit and storage time, which means higher nutritional value and fresher quality. Unlike out-of-season foods — that travel miles to get to your plate — local farm-grown foods are less likely to endure the same heat, oxygen, and sun exposure (things that damage the nutrients in your food).
The average meal travels 1,500 miles to get to your plate — read that again! Think about all the resources and fossil fuels used in the process. By shopping at the farmer’s market, you’re supporting mother nature and significantly reducing your carbon footprint. Farmer’s markets are a great way to minimize the impact on mother earth — just don’t forget your sustainable shopping bags!
Supporting Local Farms and Vendors
By shopping at the farmer’s market, you’re supporting small local businesses, vendors, and family farmers. Plus, you’re strengthening the economy and your local community!
Diversify Your Diet & Discover New Foods
Farmer’s markets are a great way to discover new seasonal foods you may have never tried (or heard of). From quail eggs to purple sweet potatoes to kohlrabi and zucchini blossoms, there are so many nutrient-dense selections to discover! Some markets even offer samples, so you can try before you buy! And if you have questions, don’t be shy. Get them answered in real-time by your local farmers — they’ll be happy to share all their knowledge.
Give Your Body Seasonal Support
If you think about it, there’s a reason water-rich melons are ripe in the summer, and comforting root veggies are in season during fall and winter. Nature is working to supply you with the proper nutritional needs!
Cool-weather veggies (like pumpkin, beets, and sweet potatoes) are heartier, helping to keep us grounded and satiated during the winter months. The same goes for fruits — around the same time, you’ll notice vitamin C-rich citrus foods come into season, helping to boost your immune system during cold and flu season. On the other hand, summertime produce is light and water-rich, helping to keep you cool and hydrated during the peak heat!
How to Find a local Farmer’s Market
Farmer’s Markets are often filled with local vendors and small business owners. If you own or operate a small business, then you know the cost of doing business isn’t cheap! Expenses add up, and resources are limited. That said, many growers forgo the expense of marketing and social media. Instead, many market their small family farms strictly by word-of-mouth. For that reason, local farms and farmer’s markets can be hard to come by! Luckily, there are some great resources.
If you’re looking to find and shop a farmer’s market near you, Local Harvest is one of the best resources. Simply head to their website, and select ‘Farmers Market’ under the ‘Local Food’ drop-down. Then, type in your zip code and let the database work its magic! You’ll find the schedule for each market and any known vendors. It even tells you the produce and crops in season!
If you’re not near a market, don’t get discouraged — there are more ways to load up on real food from real farms! In addition to farmer’s markets, the Local Harvest database includes local CSA’s, co-ops, and farm stands. Plus, you can save this resource and use it to inspire any travel plans! It’s a great way to load up on nutritious whole foods when traveling. And, you’ll get to experience the local community.
What You Can Expect to Find at a Farmer’s Market
While all farmer’s markets are different (depending on the size, location, and vendors), here are some things you can expect to find:
- A wide range of in-season, fresh local produce — such as fruit, vegetables, and herbs
- Locally farmed dairy products, such as milk and cheese
- Local wild honey, jam, chutney, and other farm-fresh preserves
- Small-batch dried fruit
- Sustainably grown and raised animal products, such as wild-caught fish, grass-fed meat, and pasture-raised eggs
- Locally foraged mushrooms
- Artisanal baked goods, such as bread, cake, and pastries
- Locally produced juice, kombucha, wine, spirits, and other functional beverages
Planning Your Grocery List? Here Are The Farmer’s Market Must-Haves
#1 In-Season Fruits & Veggies
Fresh, in-season fruits and veggies just hit different! It’s as if you can taste the time, labor, and love that goes into growing them. Have you ever had freshly picked berries or a juicy heirloom tomato? Compared to standard store-bought varieties, they taste like different foods!
While all fruits and veggies are encouraged, some of our favorite market selections include locally grown:
- Heirloom Tomatoes
- Herbs and spices, such as turmeric and ginger
#2 Yogurt, Kimchi, & Other Fermented Foods
Homemade in small batches, these probiotic-rich foods are fizzing with gut-supportive properties. From yogurt to kombucha, fermented foods are always on our list! Plus, buying local means you’re more likely to get higher quality ingredients without additives.
Here are our favorite homemade fermented foods to stock up on at the farmer’s market:
- Coconut yogurt
- Greek yogurt
- Sourdough bread
Once you’ve tried locally grown mushrooms, you’ll never go back to store-bought! Not only are they cheaper, fresher, and more nutrient-dense, but there are also so many varieties to choose from!
#4 Local Honey
Buzzing with enzymes, antioxidants, and minerals, this sweet selection is a must-have! While raw or manuka honey is nutritious, in general, local honey is a must-try when shopping at your local farmer’s market. It will taste completely different than the store-bought varieties (in the best way!) Consider using it as an all-natural sweetener in your coffee or tea or drizzling it over a morning bowl of oatmeal. Once you taste local honey, you’ll never go back to the store-bought versions!
#6 Pasture-Raised Eggs
For one, local farmers treat their chickens more humanely. If they’re selling pasture-raised eggs, the chickens are exposed to sunlight and often have large areas to graze. Plus, if they’re organic eggs, you don’t need to worry about hormones and antibiotics in the feed or water. And, of course, there’s the taste and quality! Incomparable, if you ask us. Test it yourself! Try comparing the yolk of a locally grown egg to a store-bought egg. You’ll be amazed at both the quality and taste.
#7 Grass-Fed Meats & Locally-Caught Seafood
Similar to eggs, getting your meat and seafood from a local vendor is ideal. Local meat and seafood products are often more sustainable, not to mention healthier and tastier. For the best quality and health benefits, talk to your farmer and make sure they are selling grass-fed and wild-caught meat and seafood.
The Need-To-Know Farmer’s Market Shopping Tips
Bring reusable bags! Keep reusable grocery and produce bags in your car so you can shop sustainably without having to use plastic bags.
And bring cash! While some farmers accept debit or credit, many only accept cash.
Keep it seasonal: Know what foods are in season and shop accordingly (to soak up all the flavors and nutrients while you can).
Plan your grocery list in advance: Think about what you want to eat during the week and any meals you want to prep. While you can always add or modify in the moment, a list helps you stay organized.
Go early (for the freshest food): The early bird gets the worm, especially if you want the freshest picks and widest selection!
Go later (for the best deals): If you hit the tail-end of the market, you’ll get the best deals. Farmers want to sell as much as they can, so they’ll often reduce their prices or be open to negotiation!
Try new food: This is the perfect time to try something new! It’s typically homemade or homegrown, meaning you’ll get the best taste and quality.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! If you’re curious about the taste, nutrition, price, or quality — ask!
Fuel Your Plate with Farm Fresh Foods
Whether you’re looking to support your local community or fill your fridge with fresh, nutritious foods, farmer’s markets are the way to go! The benefits are endless — you’ll have access to a wide variety of seasonal foods, you’ll support local families, and you’ll benefit the environment. A win-win-win. Use this guide to help you get started, and don’t be afraid to try something new!