Some things are worth every penny, and we say that fresh, healthy, local produce is one of them.
That’s why we love the farmers’ market.
Not only are you supporting local agricultural business, which means a lower carbon footprint, but you can get the most incredibly fresh, often organically grown produce.
To help you maximize your value at the farmers’ market, we spoke to farmers’ market insiders on both sides of the country. By following our experts’ tips, you’ll save money and enjoy healthy produce…so you never have to choose between organic strawberries and blueberries again.
1. A Little Patience Goes a Long Way
It’s no shock that those strawberries taste better in June than in January, but what you didn’t know is that buying “in season” doesn’t necessarily guarantee you the lowest price. “The very first cherries of the season will cost more than cherries later in the season,” because fewer farmers have them in stock, says Laura Avery, a manager of the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. Her advice? “Wait for the third or fourth week” that the item is in season, by which time the prices will have dropped. (To find out when your favorite fruits and veggies are in season, read this.)
Ask the farmer questions about how to prepare an unfamiliar vegetable, what types of recipes work best, or how to preserve the produce.
2. Ask for More
“If it’s something you really like, try to buy in bulk,” says Avery. If you can’t get enough of peaches in the summer, ask the farmer if there’s a discount for buying them by the box.
3. … And Then Ask for “Seconds”
If you’re making something that requires a lot of produce and whose appearance doesn’t matter—like jam, pasta sauce, or salsa—ask the farmer for “seconds” at a lower price. “Seconds,” or visually distressed produce, are items not on display because of small bumps and bruises.
4. Make Friends With Your Farmers
“Farmers are a wonderful resource,” says Nicole Berube, executive director of the Connecticut Cityseed markets, because they’re so familiar with the produce they’re selling. Ask your farmer questions about how to prepare an unfamiliar vegetable, what types of recipes work best, or how to preserve the produce. If you buy items in bulk when they’re in season and learn from your farmer how to can or pickle, you’ll be able to enjoy the tastes of summer—for less!—all year round.
5. Walk and Talk
Get to the farmers’ market as soon as it opens and visit each vendor to find out what they’re selling–and for how much. While Berube says you might get a great deal at the end of the day from a farmer eager to get rid of their leftover produce, the more appealing–and cheaper!–produce might be sold out by the time you show up. For instance, a great deal on zucchini at 8AM might be over by 11AM if the farmer sells out.
Haggling with farmers over their prices can put them on the defensive–it’s hard enough to make a living running a small farm. Instead, ask multiple vendors at the market what their prices are. You don’t have to buy all your produce from a single farmer–you can buy apples at one stand and squash at another, if the prices for individual fruits and veggies are lower elsewhere. You can, however, try to negotiate a better price if you’re going to purchase an item in bulk.
When to Buy Organic
See which fruits and veggies are worth it
6. Do Your Research
If you qualify for food stamps, find out if the farmers’ market near you accepts them. For instance, New York City’s Greenmarket takes EBT food stamps, and other markets accept coupons that help low-income women and seniors purchase nutritious and fresh produce.
To find out which fruits and veggies will be in season in your region this summer, check out our handy infographic.
(Because California and Texas are so large, we gave ‘em their own “regions.”) Enjoy!