Introduction to Farmers Market
Get Fresh, Organic, Produce from Local Farmers Markets
Get ready for one of the freshest, most enjoyable grocery shopping trips you’ve ever made! Farmers markets are a whole lot of fun, with all of the benefits of buying and eating local, too! Local farmers markets are at your fingertips with our guide on how to find local farmers markets and what you should be asking to get the most natural food there is.
Searching for farmers markets
Farmers markets are definitely experiencing a renaissance, making them easier to find than ever. That said, if you’re not plugged into the local food movement, locating your very own farmers market can be a bit tricky. Just follow these steps to finding one in your neighborhood:
- Directories: Most medium to large farmers markets in North America are listed in a directory of some sort. Use one of these popular online farmers market listings to search by city/town.
- Chef2Chef (US)
- Eat Well Guide (US and Canada)
- FarmersMarket.com (US)
- FarmersMarket.net (UK)
- Global Trade Watch (Australia)
- LocalHarvest.org (US)
- USDA Farmers Markets and Local Food Marketing (US)
- Local searches: Do a Google or Yahoo search for “farmers market” with your city or town name. Often there will be a listing even if it doesn’t show up in the farmers market directories.
- Ask around: Ask at your local health food store or green home store if they know where there’s a local farmers market.
How to get the freshest, organic food from your local farmers
Once you get to your farmers market, you may find that there are numerous vendors, many offering the same types of food as their neighbors. Spying for the greenest and most sustainable offerings might not be possible from just glancing at the food (though the dirtiest produce and the most unique varieties might give you some clue), so here are some things you can ask the vendor before buying:
- Are your crops organically grown? You’ll know they’re serious if they talk about organic certifications. But safe bets may include farmers that mention IPM (integrated pest management) or terms like “ecologically grown.”
- How recently has the produce picked? In many cases, it will be as recently as a few days ago (which is ideal). Try to stay away from produce that’s months old.
- How do you fertilizer your soil?The ideal responses include composting, composted manure, cover crops, mulching, crop rotation, and crop diversity.
- How do you manage pests? Good practices are those that encourage soil health by using holistic soil and plant management and diverse habitats for beneficial insects. Some may use things like natural pest repellents (hot pepper wax, garlic juice) or organic pesticides. If they mention chemical pesticides, stay away.
- Where is your farm located? Ideally it should be within 100 miles of the market, though if they’re a regional or national farm, that’s preferable to produce shipped from other countries in most cases.
- What size is your farm? Family farms and small to medium corporate farms are best. Large corporate farms and monoculture agribusinesses should be avoided.
- Who owns and operates the farm? Again, look for those run by families or small organizations.
- What are your labor practices and policies? Listen for buzz words like “cooperative of small farms,” “livable wages,” and “safety conditions and training” through OSHA. If they provide employee benefits and perks all the better. If they can’t tell you, they may foster below minimum wage and unsafe conditions.
Of course, most of the above questions pertain only to the buying of produce. If you’re looking for dairy, beef, poultry, pork, and so on, check out these Sustainable Table guides for talking to local producers. For a much more in depth view of what makes a sustainable farm, check out Yale’s Sustainable Food Purchasing Guide.
To make your farmers market experience even more affordable and sustainable, follow these additional steps to a greener local shopping experience:
- Use reusable shopping bags and reusable produce bags. Reusablebags.com has a wide variety of sachets you can use for all of your local produce buying ventures.
- Shop in season to choose produce that’s grown and picked as recently as yesterday. This not only ensures amazing flavor, but health benefits, too.
- Take your in-season produce home and preserve it so that you can enjoy the flavor of the choicest foods year-round.