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Farmers' Markets Dos and Don'ts
I have a problem at farmers' markets.
You see, I absolutely adore farmers' markets. The problem is that I tend to get carried away when I visit them. I'm always so excited to see all the fresh fruits and vegetables that I end up buying much more than I really need. My eyes are bigger than my refrigerator.
After a visit to the farmers' market the other day, we had fresh tomatoes, green beans, tiny new potatoes, and corn on the cob for dinner. I served all that with oven-baked walleye from the freezer. Even the fish had been caught locally -- we got it last summer on a trip to Lake Erie.
You can’t get much more of a local meal than that.
Since I go to farmers' markets so often and have been going for so many years, I've learned quite a few "dos and don'ts." Now I'd like to share them with you...
Farmers' Market Dos:
Do eat fruits and vegetables.
Do enjoy the fresh, local availability of a wide range of foods.
Do try something new and different.
Do make a quick trip around the market before you make any purchases.
This allows you to see what’s fresh.
It also helps you get a sense of how much each kind of food will cost.
Once you've made your lap, go back to the stalls that offer the items you want at the best prices.
Do bring cash. Growers don’t always accept credit cards.
Keep your money easily accessible.
This will make your transactions easier and faster.
Do wear a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and comfortable shoes.
Do bring water to drink.
Do bring a reusable or recycled bag to help carry your purchases.
Do put a cooler with ice in your car.
This will help the items you buy stay fresh until you get home.
Do go early in the day.
If you're there at the start of the market, then you’ll get the best selection and quality.
Yes, you might get a good deal on any items left near closing time, but you also might miss out on what was available.
Do get to know the vendors.
Many are your neighbors.
Become a regular.
Spend some time talking with the growers. They can let you know what’s in season and what to expect in upcoming weeks.
Do ask about bulk purchases.
If you’re planning on purchasing a few items to preserve (freeze, can, or pickle) then you might get a deal if you buy large quantities.
Again, this is the time to talk with the grower and arrange for these large orders ahead of time.
Do keep food safety in mind.
While you may be tempted to taste a bite of fresh melon or tomato, look around and make sure that the person offering it has used good practices.
Good practices include washing the produce, wearing clean gloves, offering toothpicks, using a clean knife, and keeping the food items cold if necessary.
Don’t take risks.
Do be considerate of the farmer and the next customer.
Do keep control of your kids and dogs.
Do come back next week.
Farmers' Market Don'ts:
Don’t sample anything if the food isn’t offered to you or labeled as a sample.
Don’t expect the farmers to deal with you on price.
Don’t pinch, squeeze, drop, peel (like corn), or stick your fingernails in foods and then leave said foods for someone else.
Respect the food and your fellow customers.
By messing with the food, you may be making it unsellable.
Don’t block a vendor if you’re not buying.
If you’re visiting with a friend, move away from a display so others can get by and shop.
Don’t get carried away (like I do).
A deal isn’t a deal if the food goes to waste.
Be sure to only purchase what you’re able to eat while the food still has good quality.
Don’t forget, you can always go back next week.
Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University
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