Real Food Tips: 10 Pointers for Farmers’ Market Shopping

Farmers’ market season isn’t quite over yet, and we’re actually lucky enough to have a market close by that goes all winter long. It took me almost a year from the first time I ever stepped foot in a farmers’ market (which was just at the beginning of last year!) to figure out there is definitely a method to the madness. So following are some of our best tips to help you navigate and optimize your local market!

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Matthews Farmers’ Market near Charlotte, NC
  1. Find and shop at a grower’s only farmers’ market. This ensures all products are local. Here in Charlotte we love the Matthews Farmers’ Market (pictured) because it is the biggest grower’s only market in the area. I once went to the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market, which allows third party vendors, and saw blueberries from Chile for sale.
  2. Ask if the market manager sends out an email or newsletter showing what you can expect to find on upcoming market days because it can be a big help with meal planning.
  3. Arrive as close to the opening time as possible because the “good stuff” can run out fast. I also prioritize my shopping list. For example, if it is the first weekend that greenhouse tomatoes or field-grown corn are available, I go to those vendors first because I know they’ll be gone in no time.
  4. On the flip side if you show up at the end of the market you might find some smashing deals because I guarantee no farmer wants to take their produce back to the farm.
  5. Map out which farmers are certified organic or are not necessarily certified but follow organic practices and be sure to give them most of your business. All you have to do is ask if they use chemical pesticides/fertilizers or more natural methods instead and if you’re at a grower’s only market they will surely know the answer. If you find yourself struggling between the choice of local/conventional produce vs. organic/well-traveled produce…I hate to tell you there is no perfect choice.
  6. If you have kids let them tag along and give them a buck or two to buy something. My 6-year-old daughter would never eat cucumbers at home, but for some reason she likes to buy one herself at the market and take a couple big bites out of it while we are shopping!
  7. If you are looking for something specific ask questions like…Does anyone sell ground beef around here? Do you know where I can find goat cheese? Just because you don’t see a sign for something doesn’t mean they don’t sell it.
  8. Don’t be fooled by the baked goods. Sure the muffins for sale are a far better option than the highly processed ones you’ll find at Starbucks, but chances are most of them are still full of refined grains and sweeteners (like sugar) so just know what you are buying.  It all goes back to asking questions!
  9. Don’t forget to bring cash and reusable shopping bags or a cooler with ice packs if it is a hot day.
  10. Enjoy the sense of community and get to know the hand that grows the food you feed your precious family!

    BONUS TIP (added 6/2015): Once you get the hang of things ask your favorite farmers if you can “reserve” eggs, produce and meat prior to market day (many give out an email address for this purpose). This will save you the trouble of showing up just after they sell out of whatever it is you need – and might even allow you to sleep a little later, too!

If you have any other tips of your own please leave them in the comments below.

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77 thoughts on “Real Food Tips: 10 Pointers for Farmers’ Market Shopping”

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  1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

    Hi Caitlin. Yes, both but often plan menus around a lot of what we will be fairly certain to find at the farmer’s market. We do weekly visits to the grocery store, as well. :)

  2. I like to make my meal plan for the week, write out a shopping list, and then go shopping but I am not sure how to do this with a farmers market. If they don’t have all the produce items that are on your list, do you just get the rest of the items at the store? Thanks!

  3. Why do we want to run to the government for them to tell us something is organic? Have you seen the organic in the stores? Follow the manufacturers, companies…get the government out of our food chain…

  4. Being a farmer, I love to see posts like this. But I have to add a few things, as a grower. Hopefully, if you know both sides of the coin, you can make the best choices for you & yours.

    You suggest the option of going at the end of market to get deals because growers don’t want to take things home. Be careful with this one. Our farm attends 4 weekly farmer’s markets, in addition to having our own all-local, all-sustainable store in town (supplied by 20+ local growers in addition to our farm.) Understand, there are some farmers who will discount end-of-market produce. But, there are many who will not. For some growers, this is a big pet peeve and they consider it an insult when people expect big discounts, just because they waited until the end of market.

    As a grower, your profit margin is pretty slim, so you have to have a plan for unsold produce. For us, anything unsold becomes a value-added product at another market (zucchini becomes zucchini bread, berries become cobblers or jam, tomatoes become salsa, etc.) For other growers, unsold produce is feed for their livestock. Some have arrangements with restaurants to buy anything that doesn’t sell by the end of the day. And then, there’s the growers that supply our store. Many of them stop off at the store after market day to drop off anything unsold. (Just because it didn’t sell at market doesn’t mean it’s no good any more…most of us seasoned growers know how to keep our produce fresh, even through a hot summer market day.)

    None of this is to say that asking if the grower has any deals at the end of the day is a bad idea. It’s not. There are growers (and some types of produce) that really do need to sell same-day. Just be careful not to insult your growers. Remember – this is what they do for a living. Would you want your employer to discount your pay, just because it’s close to the end of your day?

    And as for trusting whether a grower is telling the truth or not about their growing practices? There are some things to help you decide your level of trust for a given grower. Look for the folks who are there EVERY week (or at least, most every week.) Let me tell ya…we know each other. People ask us questions about our neighbor vendors all the time. If a regular vendor were out there spreading bull about their products, they wouldn’t get to stay long. The other vendors would spread the word, their sales would drop, and no grower will attend a market that doesn’t make them enough money. (Most markets have a market agreement all vendors must sign for liability purposes – and most of those have rules about properly representing your products…liars don’t get to stick around long before the market managers catch wind of it.)

    Conversations with your growers go a long, long way toward building the trust you need. I know a lot of growers/farms who opt to forego USDA certification because of cost AND the amount of control over the decision-making process for their farm they have to give up (if you deviate from your approved farm plan, like replanting a damaged crop, you have to get ‘permission’ from your certifying agent first.) Take questions like “do you use petroleum-based fertilizers” to the next level. Ask them what they use instead. Ask them how they manage pests, rather than simply ‘do you use pesticides.’ You’ll get a pretty good feel from your very first conversation whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Organic growing is far, far more than just the type of fertilizer you use or whether you use pesticides – regardless of whether you’re certified organic or not. Organic/sustainable growing focuses on building soil health, maximizing water resources, building micro-organisms in your soil, attracting beneficial insects, and breaking the lifecycle of harmful pests/diseases. The inputs and pest control practices we use are just scratching the surface of what it means to grow organically.

  5. I love living in Florida because the growing season is year round and so are the farmer’s markets. It’s so much easier to get high quality local produce and so much more. (I also like the sunshine and warm weather, but that’s not what this post is about.) *wink*

  6. I am a local farmer that sells at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. And yes, we use organic growing methods. You can find other farmers that are doing the same there. There is a huge group of farmers that go to Charlotte Regional Farmers Market every Saturday morning. Now when they sell out they leave. So, if you get there at 11am, you might not find that many “organic” farmers still there. As of right now (July 2013), there aren’t any certified organic farmers at that market that I know of. But there are a number of ones that use organic growing methods. Here are the ones I can remember.

    Shady Creek Farm – Dallas, NC –
    Laughing Owl Farm – Richfield, NC – find him on
    A Way of Life Farm – Bostic, NC –
    A Little Bit of Heaven – Vale, Nc
    Underwood Family Farm – vale, NC
    Glencora Farm – Grover, NC
    Lost Arrow Ranch – Ellenboro, NC –
    Spellcast Farm – Maiden, NC –
    Rosemary Pete Herbs – Charlotte, NC
    Grateful Growers – Lincolnton, NC –
    Baucom’s Best –
    Windy Hill Farm – Albemarle, NC
    Bountiful Harvest Farm –
    New Town Farm

    I know I’m leaving someone off. but that list will get you started. You need to get to know your farmer. Most farmers that truly use organic methods have a sign telling you so. Also, most of those farmers above have an email newsletter you can sign up to get a weekly email finding out what they’ll be bringing to market and a little about what happened that week at the farm. Also, only a few farmers are in the big enclosed building at the Charlotte Regional Market. Most of the farmers are in the open shed. Please don’t stay away from the Charlotte Regional Market just to only avoid the not grower only market. You shouldn’t have to travel 30 more minutes out of your way to go to a grower only market. I hope this helps.

  7. Sadly there are no growers-only farmers markets in Calgary, so you have to be careful with your shopping. You cannot assume that everything is locally grown/produced and neither can you assume that it is all organic or follows organic production practices – there is one stall at the Calgary Farmers Market that sells imported fruit and vegetables from Mexico for example.

    One tip I would add… talk to the stall holders and get to know them. We get discounts at several stalls because we chat to them every wee. And one time, we were not only talking to the stall owner, but to a potential customer and extolling the virtue of his product. We scored a free packet of elk liver because we got him a sale!

  8. We really don’t have very many farmer’s markets around here to choose from, but I did try to use a local butcher shop once (instead of getting meats from the big box stores that came from who knows where). But one time I tried to ask some questions and the lady immediately started acting like she was being interrogated. Me: Can you tell me where the meats came from? Her: With startled expression: Depends on who’s asking!….why do you want to know???? Oooooooo’k nevermind then…. Haven’t been back since.

    1. Caree-
      You know what’s worse…The ‘Local’ butchers market used to buy a ton of meat from the bigbox store(I worked there at the time, and saw him every week!) but no one would know that. It makes me crazy mad to this day when people say they went there.

  9. Jenny – I’ve wondered the same thing! I love my local farmers market, but the skeptic in me can’t help but wonder who these people are and why I should trust them.

  10. I’m curious how you know the vendors are telling you the truth about their pesticide use. Wouldn’t it be really easy for them just to tell you what you want to hear in order to get your business?

    1. I would just pose the question then, how do you know that the packages at the grocery store aren’t.

      1. Because the businesses and farmers that go out of their way to meet USDA standards to get an organic label on their produce would face tens of thousands of dollars in fines and possible jail time if they were found to be defrauding the federal government by using false USDA labels. A local grower with no labels on his/her food can claim its organic but then it is his/her word against your since there is no actual documentation. Get to know the local grower, visit the farm if possible and they say they are organic. I’m sure most people are being honest. Word would get around the farmer’s market pretty quickly if it was found out they were lying.

      2. At our growers’ market, the market directors actually do farm inspections–planned and surprise inspections. If they don’t meet the market standards or if they are selling third party items, they are not allowed to return to the market.

  11. Ask the berry farmers if they have “pie berries” as these will not be as pretty but you can get them at a deep discount. If you are using them for smoothies, baked goods & berry sauces….these are the way to go! :)

  12. We have a few grower’s only markets here, but I’m always so intimidated by them. So, I walk through and leave! I went last weekend looking mainly for eggs and left with nothing! I KNOW several vendors sell them because they are on the website, but because there was no one yelling “EGGS! GET YOUR EGGS HERE!” I guess I didn’t find them. I have now found a great egg supplier through Craigslist, so my next goal is local honey!

  13. Hello, I’m new to this site and I love what I’m reading. Interested in trying to take the 10 day real food pledge, hoping on a college student budget I can do it! However I did have a question, what is the difference between a Grower only and Producer only Farmers Markets?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Nikki. Honestly, I’ve perused various sites looking for something definitive and have come up with very similar ways of defining each. Both seemed to be growers, producers, creators of the products they sell…not third parties? Any readers with other info, please chime in. ~Amy

  14. I started going to farmers markets this summer. I usually like the food, but I am finding a less than desirable experience due to the attitude and rudeness of some of the vendors. I find it a bit infuriating because I am spending extra to support local farms and our local economy. It seems the prices are so hard to find, vendors turn their nose at you if you don’t buy right then (ie. price compare), people butting in front of your in line (oh yeah while I am sporting a crying baby!), and finding out info about how the food was grown can be like pulling teeth sometimes. Something that used to be a fun family outing has turned into a hassle. I hate to say it because I really believe in supporting local food. Anyone else experienced the same? Please tell me the market is an anomaly.

    1. Mandi,
      yes, I have had this experience! I used to go to this poultry stand that met all my credientals, but the man in charge of it was R-U-D-E! Their poultry products was WONDERFUL, some of the best I’ve ever had, but the fact that the man running it would constantly look at me like I was stuck on stupid and answer my questions about his products and other vendors like it was paining him to converse with me made me take my buisness elsewhere!And he would not even bother talking to my kids! Oh, and special requests on how to cut the meat? A big inconvience to HIS day!
      I ended up finding another poultry stand around the corner and down some from him, that’s not quite 100% up to my standard, but the guy is beyond nice and has no issue with special requests, talking to my kids or anything!He’s brutally honest with how he produces his polutry products,too, which helps. He makes us enjoy going to the farmer’s market again and gave me the hope I needed to keep going. My advice is don’t give up. If you’re going to a (bigger) farmer’s market, try finding a smaller one, or looking at other stands there. Not everyone at that particular farmer’s market may act that way. Good luck! :)

  15. Is it possible for Lisa or Jill to share a list of organic farmers (whether certified or not) that sell at the Matthews Farmers Market? For those of us that are in the Charlotte area (& have recently become addicted to this blog and are making big changes!:-)), I thought that a helpful guide from someone who has already asked all of the farms about their growing practices would be great! I definitely plan to start shopping at the Matthews market and would love to have a cheat sheet of Lisa’s favorite organic farmers. In the interim I will be asking as suggested. Thanks!!

    1. Hi there! As I sat here and thought about your question I realized I don’t even know most of the farm names by heart…we shop by booth location and familiar faces (kind of like giving driving directions when you realize you don’t know any road names!). I did go on the market website though and looked at their vendor list to help jog my memory and these are most of them that I am PRETTY sure follow organic practices. Hopefully it’s at least a start for you:
      – Big Oak Natural Farm (seasonal produce) Fred Mundie
      – Carlea Farms (seasonal produce) Carl and Leah Wagner
      – Fisher Farms (heirloom tomatoes and seasonal produce) Dane Fisher
      – Grateful Growers Farm (pastured pork and poultry products) Natalie Veres
      – New Town Farms Organic (certified organic seasonal produce, free-range chicken eggs) Sam Koenigsberg
      – Tega Hills Farm (hydroponic lettuces, micro greens, tomatoes and other assorted produce) Mindy and Mark Robinson

  16. It’s quite a project, but I am in the midst of organizing my recipes. First I went though all my cookbooks and highlighted the recipes that were made up of real foods. I am now in the process of making a master list of the recipes by ingredient. Then, when I go to our farmer’s market, I can buy whatever looks good. When I get home, I can look up the foods on my list and find recipes for all of them. This way I can buy local and seasonally and not have the food go to waste because I don’t know what to do with it.

  17. Great timing on this article! My mother and I were just discussing local farmer’s markets and I told her that they made me nervous because I have no way of knowing how the farmers grow their products. So many people around here trust them as being wholesome, but how they farm is not well advertised. How do I know if they are using organic practices? I don’t even know where to begin to research something like that. Thank you so much!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      I usually just ask at my local market as to whether or not they use pesticides. Eventually if you frequent the same one you will get to know the farmers. Jill

  18. Sadly in Az were I live our Farmer’s Market is from Sept-April. So it Just ended and my and my boyfriend are starting 100 days of real food on Monday. Our dog eats all natural food and she is on a raw dog food diet and is thriving. And our newborn when she starts food will be on all natural. I’ll be making her food at home. So I figured we should both be eating all natural as well. I am excited to get the processed foods out of our house. I just hope his parents are supportive. Thanks for all the work you have done by putting everything in one easy place for all of us.

  19. Yes, I agree with the PP. The Charlotte Regional is awesome. We go every Saturday morning and get local (and some organic) sweet potatoes, cilantro, swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, etc. They also have a great side with flowers and plants. Today I picked up local feta cheese and free range eggs, too! Love talking to the actual people who grow our food each week. Please don’t deter people from shopping there. :)

  20. So excited for the farmer’s markets up here to get back into full swing! I was reading some previous comments, and wanted to share something wonderful about our local farmer’s markets and food stamps. They have a booth/office spot with a machine, and then run the cards and give people tokens. The individual vendors don’t have to invest personally in those (expensive!) machines. People use the tokens at the booth like cash, and the vendors are reimbursed. They also give people double bucks to help support Michigan produce (spend $20 in food stamps, get $40 in tokens to spend). I think it’s pretty creative, and as a social worker I am glad to see an aid program benefiting the whole community. Not sure how far reaching it is, but Grand Rapids area has a few options. How wonderful it would be if other communities picked it up as well!

  21. I’m a farmer here in Charlotte, NC & while I agree that there are resellers at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market – there are also many local farmers. To name a few, Nise’s Herbs, New Beginings Farm, Rosemary Pete, Underwood Family Farms, Grateful Growers, Baucoms Best, Proffit Farm, Poplin Farm, Way of Life Farm, Puzzle Piece Farm, Red Dirt Ranch, Daddy’s Girl Dairy, Small City Farm, Gilcrest Farm & Bosky Acres. The market is open year round, but the local farms are there on Saturdays only. Please come out to market – we really need your support!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I am so glad you shared this because I think I went during the week, and it sounds like a lot of the locals wouldn’t have been there. Thanks so much for the comment!

  22. We have the biggest Farmer’s and Crafter’s Markets in British Columbia here in the Okanagan. It runs twice a week April to October. Last year they began having an indoor market at a centrally-located recreation centre every two weeks through the winter. I would definitely recommend those who buy from the markets to build a case for similar opportunities in their own community during the “off-season”.

    Since coming across this (amazing) site, just more than a month ago our family has began eating real food and I have been at our Farmer’s market lots and building relationships quickly with several local vendors. I too adore the sense of community and shared sense of place and time (if that makes any sense) that our Farmer’s Market creates.

    1. In Iowa we have an indoor winter market, too (not weekly, but a few times throughout the season). Not much produce to be seen (squash and things like that) but lots of canned and preserved goods for those of us who didn’t take the time to do it ourselves!

  23. I would love feedback on organic versus non-organic purchases at farmers markets. I am not sure if it is on your website (I haven’t looked around much). You did touch on it here… but I see a lot of people purchasing organic bananas. While I understand the point… farmers markets can run a bit more expensive at times so I try to prioritize what I spend money wise on organics with berries, tomatoes, etc. Whereas, I do not buy organic bananas, watermelons, oranges, etc.

    Just a thought though I am sure I didn’t word it right.

    Oh, and I live in Phoenix–farmers markets year round.

    1. Dr. Mercola suggests buying the freshest organic food that you can and if the organic is wilted at all, choose very fresh conventional produce over the organic. I was very surprised by this suggestion. His website is full of great food and health information.

  24. I love going to the farmer’s market. Lots of people bring their dogs, so that’s how I get my kids to tag along! Once we are there, they often ask for a particular fruit or veggie, which is great as I know they’ll eat it later since they asked for it.

  25. I just started going to our local farmer’s market in S.D. Ca. about 4 months ago. I love the direct link with my food. One more suggestion I would like to make is that if your farmer’s market or if you can find a farm that is part of a co-op it can be a good thing to join. For $60 a month (avg. of $15 a week) we get a good size basket of fruits and veggies every week. It works really well in our budget and the variety has helped us expand our eating habits. We sometimes get recipes for the more exotic veggies and fruit we can get here in the Southwest from the farmers directly.

  26. I absolutely love meeting the people who grow the food I buy at the farmer’s market. The markets are booming here in SLC, UT and I’m busy trying to freeze as much as I can this year for the winter. I also plant seeds in October so I have an early spring garden to look forward to.

    As far as greenhouse tomatoes though–the ones I tried this year tasted just like the grocery store tomatoes: like paste. I don’t recommend them. Wait until the real ones are in season (at least in my area).

  27. At our “Big” farmer’s market in STL (1+ hour away), there are many stands selling grapes from Chile, Dole Strawberries, Coconuts from…?, and bagged and packaged foods. I was using our last month’s worth of food stamps (thank the LORD, hubby got a great job!) and many of the local/organic stands did not accept food stamps. I found one, yes ONE stand that sold local produce (not organic, but good grief, it was a sight for sore eyes). They probably thought I was nuts. I bought onions, green onions, sweet potatoes, new potatoes, apples, watermelons, tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, and I don’t even remember what else, all for $18.15. I was so excited! I found out that it’s about $900 for them to buy an EBT (food stamp) transaction machine. How ridiculous is that? You would think the government would WANT food stamps to be spent on wholesome food. Instead, I heard on the news that fast food restaurants are lobbying to get food stamps approved for use there. So very very sad.

    1. I just heard a local story on NPR here in central IL (I’m 2 hours from STL) that a couple of our local farmers markets are going to be part of a federal pilot program for just this purpose. I don’t know how it’s supposed to work, if the vendors will qualify for the machines or if the “market” will get a machine.

      The county health department here has also started a farmers market one day a week to encourage those with low incomes and link (food stamp) cards to purchase local food.

      I don’t know how many communities they are working with across the country, but it does sound like things are moving in the right direction.

  28. I love shopping at a farmers markets. Not only does everything seem to taste better, it is also such a great togetherness of the community feeling.

    Do you have any suggestions/tips on how to store fresh fruits and veggies? I always struggle with which ones to put in the fridge and which ones I leave on my counter or put in the pantry.

  29. Getting to know our growers has led to a great start up CSA here in our town (Huntington, WV). A community friend invested in her relationships with the farmers, started the CSA then had to move, but the services live on. Now, when I go to the market, the farmer and I have lengthy talks and I usually leave with a few items he’s had a hard time selling or just wants to gift to us. I love our farmers!

    Additionally I love your blog. I have been meaning to write in to tell you how valuable all your recent posts and tips have been. Very relevant to our lives. The tips on picky eaters went beyond the research I have found, leading me to give up my “good food or no food” thinking held previously with my stubborn picky eater. I now let her have just about as much as she wants as long as it is real food and I don’t cower away from battering, sweetening, or frying something, just a little, so she can get a taste for it. This is just one example of the impact your site has had on our family. There have been many. Thank you!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Awww…your feedback gave me chills. Thank you for taking the time to share! Comments like that are what keep me going :)

    2. Stacy, Can you share when I can get more information on the csa in Huntington? Huntington is the nearest “big” town for us and I have been looking for some local farms to buy from.

  30. We live in CO where it is very cool in the winter months. However we are very lucky to live in Fort Collins (a very local, organic conscious community) and have a wide variety of local farmer’s markets in the summer and winter. I think there are only a few weeks out of the whole year where there isn’t a farmer’s market going on. We just purchased our first cow this year and should get the meat this weekend (we only bought a 1/4 of a cow since it’s just my husband, 6 yr old son and I).

    For those that don’t have farmer’s markets in the winter consider canning or freezing. Last year we canned and froze produce (green beans, tomatoes, corn, squash, peaches, pears and applesauce *all organic) from the farmer’s markets to help us through the winter months when these crops are not in their natural season. It really is a lot easier than most people think. You can get all the instruction you need off the internet (or better yet go to the library and check out a canning book with tons of recipes). When we can our fruit we use a honey syrup (1TBSP honey to 5 cups water) instead of a sugar syrup.

    1. Don’t forget that you can freeze it too! I’m saving my pennies for one of those vacuum sealers to help keep freezer burn away longer.

  31. Thank you for the tips! I was wondering if you plan to do a post about eating “Real Food” during the winter months? Where I live, none of the farmer’s markets or produce stands stay open during the winter. They close up around November and open again around April. So that is several months with my only access to anything fresh being the local grocery store. Thanks!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Well, if I write about eating real food during the winter it would probably need to be published during the summer b/c it is all about preserving preserving preserving! I’ve never “canned” anything before (not yet at least), but I got a little better at freezing some stuff while it was fresh this summer. I would love to write more about this topic so thanks for the suggestion!

  32. Thank you for the great information! I am sad to say I did little shopping at the Farmer’s Market this year, despite my best intentions. We had a modest harvest from our backyard garden and the days/times of our local market did not work for my schedule (particularly since I was determined to use my car as little as possible this summer). But, I have been in contact with several local farms to get a supply of apples for homemade applesauce. My children have severe food allergies so eating foods as close to their natural state is a real commitment of mine (and a safety issue).
    I so enjoy your blog and link to it often in my own! Keep up the great work!

  33. If you do a majority of your shopping at the market I highly recommend bringing a wagon or a cart. Before we started doing this, we were having to make a couple trips back to our car to unload our purchases.

  34. We have a local farm – but they’re becoming so big that they’re trying to accomodate all your produce needs – I’ve seen bags of baby carrots, just like at the grocery store. Um, yeah… So I will ask what is local. I’m pretty sure they use pesticides, so I joined an organic CSA. But sometimes local is better than grocery store- so I do get some produce from them. Our area is always behind on what’s going on around the country – so we have very few CSA’s or farmer market anything around!

  35. Excellent article! Another fun idea is to map out the produce and meat farms and get a group of friends together to ‘tour’ the farms. This is a great morning out, and sometimes the farmers will know of other producers that might not frequent the markets..

    To save some money – find some like-minded friends and buy bushels of produce. This summer corn was selling for $3.75 – $4.50 per dozen. But by purchasing a full bushel, I only paid $2.25 per dozen!

    You can do the same thing with beef – if you buy a full beef and split it evenly in four quarters you can save a LOT of money. When it’s all said and done, you can get about 250lbs of beef for $1.93 a pound! Certified organic/solely grass fed may be double that, but even then, it’s a bargain from what you’ll pay per cut.

    *wife to cattle-raising husband*

  36. Great tips! I am lucky to live in southern cal where our farmer’s markets are year round. And they offer meat, eggs, chicken, seafood, bread, cheese, raw milk, all sorts of nuts (almonds, pistachios, walnuts) and nut butters, and fruits and veggies galore! Plus honey and olive oil too.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I am so jealous of the markets in California! It is just not the same here, but we do our best with what’s available.

      1. I lived in SoCal for about 6 years. There are definitely an abundance of farmers markets, but you really have to watch out for the stuff grown in Mexico. Many of the sellers at the markets I went to were from across the border. The only problem with that is there are different regulations and practices in Mexico when it comes to farming. Even though some of the farms were within the 100 mile radius, I made it my practice to avoid Mexican grown produce.

      2. Yeah, the farmers’ market by my house is a bit awful.I’m pretty sure there’re more crafts and kettle corn than any sort of produce, and the produce there is is mostly grown commercially in Mexico. Which is strange, since you can get all local food at the grocery store! I still haven’t been able to track down “real” eggs.
        I know this was last year, Marcia, but where is your farmers’ market? I’m in the Los Angeles area, so hopefully a reasonable distance for me!

    2. Yep, those of us who live in places that can have year-round Farmers’ Markets are definitely in luck. I’m in the Austin area, and the one nearest me isn’t huge, but I can get everything from meat to dairy to olive oil and flour, all locally produced. I do very little shopping anywhere else.

  37. For those folks closer to the Triangle (NC) – the Carrboro Farmers Market is amazing. I can easily buy all the veggies (fruit too) I need, locally made cheese (including real string cheese made from grass fed cows – it tastes so much better than store bought), breads – made with locally grown wheat, chicken, meat, to die for bacon from Cane Creek Farm, etc. It too is open year round – it is nice to eat with the seasons.

    I am looking forward to getting some squashes tomorrow…I really want some butternut squash soup this weekend.

    1. I live in Burlington and just went to the farmer’s market at state last weekend. I have tried to do some research on it but haven’t found a lot. Do you know much about this market? Is it worthwhile? It seemed HUGE when I went. The one next to our house is literally a storage shed, but it is close and nice to have when I just need a tomato or something. I will definitely check this one out next time!

  38. Great tips! I located a farmer’s market close us to recently, but I don’t think it’s going to be a very good choice. There is a larger one not too far away that people say is amazing. It’s closed for the season now, but I plan on hitting it up first weekend next year to check it out. Thanks!