While I do love growing my own vegetables, I also really love farmers markets. They offer such diverse products including fruits, vegetables, eggs, honey, and some also offer meats and dairy products. You can also find a great deal of homemade products such as jams, jellies, or spice mixes there; also along with many other types of products.
So are there benefits of buying these types of items at a farmers market, rather than a grocery store?
1. The first benefit is that you are supporting your local farmers and small business owners by purchasing their products, rather than those that are imported to the big box stores from other states or even other countries. Did you know that when you buy produce at the grocery store the farmer actually only receive less than 10 cents from each retail dollar? But when you purchase directly such as a farmers market or a CSA program, your local farmer is able to earn a larger profit to sustain their business and bring you more produce in the future.
2. The second benefit is that these products are fresh! They haven’t traveled for days in a truck or shipping container. They are directly from a farm near you, which also gives you the opportunity to ask questions of the seller such as what types of growing methods were used or are the products organic? You can also get tips for new ways to prepare the product. Supporting your local agricultural business help to build your community and helps to ensure that those farmers are able to offer those products in the future.
3. The third benefit is really two fold, they are able to bring products to people who otherwise would not have the opportunity to get seasonal produce or other unique items and because their selling direct, the prices are often times much cheaper. You don’t have a middleman marking up prices or tacking on extra for the transportation of the products.
4. The fourth benefit of buying from a farmers’ market is that it is a healthier option. You actually ask the farmer what pesticides they used; if any, whether the produce is from hybrid, heirloom, certified organic, non-gmo, treated, or untreated seeds.
5. The last benefit is that the profit that the farmer does make generally stays in the community. So it’s a circle of community, you buy from them and in turn they use that money to help further support your community by also shopping locally.
Now let’s get to those tips for getting the best deals at farmers’ markets….
As you already know, before you go grocery shopping in general, you should always plan ahead. Make a list of what you’re looking to purchase and set a budget. So why would this be important? Because a majority of us make impulse purchases based on how we’re feeling and what we see. And let me tell you, everything at a farmers’ market looks terrific and while that is not a bad thing, if you over-purchase and are not able to either eat or preserve your bounty; it is liable to go to waste.
Don’t be Too Early:
This tip may surprise you, but going too early can cost you money. Are you confused yet? Let me explain why this is important. When you show up to the farmers market day one at the opening time, you are going to pay full-price for everything. Now if that doesn’t bother you, then by all means get there early. However, if you are like me and a bit more frugal minded, showing up too early will cost you more. Just like at garage sales, farmers tend to reduce their prices towards the end of the day. They don’t want to tote a bunch of left over produce home after sitting out in the sun all day. So go a bit later in the day towards the closing time. Now I mean maybe a couple hours before close, if they're set to close at 5:00 don’t show up just at 4:50. If you do, the selection might minimal and you might not find what you need.
If you go with the intention of buying one item for a specific pie for instance, and they're either out of it or the price for that certain thing is too high; be flexible. Look around! There are many more options so instead of getting peaches, maybe grab some strawberries or blueberries and so forth. And while you’re there, it’s perfectly acceptable to price match the different vendors. Prices do vary, based on the costs related to each particular farmer for growing their crops.
I know this sounds contrary to what I just mentioned but it’s not. If you stay loyal to a couple different vendors, you can earn discounts! That’s right, saving at the produce stand is possible. Through your repeat business, you build a relationship with your farmer. Trust me, they appreciate this. They are more likely to reward your loyalty with discounts too. Take the time to talk with them, get to know them and build that relationship. If you buy something from them and really enjoyed it last week, tell them. They love to hear that you enjoy their product.
Don’t be Afraid to Buy in Bulk:
Buying in bulk can seem intimidating to some people, but it shouldn’t be. There are many benefits to buying in bulk. The first of these is that farmers tend to give you better deals, sometimes up to 20-30% off. Another benefit from buying in bulk is that you can preserve the items to build your food storage. Many of the items can be canned, dehydrated, or frozen for later use. Now let’s say you did all that, but still have too much? Donate the leftovers if you are not able to use them before they go bad. Don’t waste it. You can share it with family, friends, or donate it to local food banks or churches. This is a great way to bless others with your bounty.
If you’re not sure how or where to find a farmers market near you, I found a couple resources to help.
The United States Department of Agriculture has an Agricultural Marketing Service page that has a Farmers Markets Search. You just enter your zip code and a radius size, like 5 miles, and it will show you locations of farmers markets around you:
Another great resource for you is localharvest.org This site helps connect you with local farmers markets, CSAs, events, and even farms in your area:
Community Supported Agriculture
Now if you have trouble finding farmers markets in your area, you can also look into CSAs. If you’re not familiar with what these are, it stands for community supported agriculture.
Farmers at CSAs offer what they call “shares” to the public. These shares are boxes typically of vegetables, fruits, or eggs and in some cases farms also offer milk or meat products. You would pay a subscription fee to the farm in advance and you can set up to receive your share weekly, biweekly, or monthly based on how the program works. Some of the boxes have a standard variety of food, so everyone receives the same items, or at some CSAs you can personalize your box by your own choices.
Farmers encourage CSAs because getting the money early in the season helps them to maintain the expenses of their farm and it’s a way to market their products.
A shareholder, that’s you, benefit because you get fresh produce on a routine schedule and you get to know your personal farmers. Some CSAs will have you stop by on your scheduled pickup day, but a few of them also deliver or have a local meeting place for pick up.
One thing to remember if you choose to sign up for a CSA, is to read the fine print. The idea of a CSA is that “we’re all in this together”, so that means if a drought hits and the farmer loses their crops; members do too. Each Farm has their own rules and contingency plans for these situations so check with them before because many farms will not refund the money.
You can find more information on CSAs at: