Friday, June 20, 2008

Farmer's Markets 101

As the season progresses and farmer's markets are swinging into full gear, I thought it would be interesting to describe some of the dynamics that make them a truly unique shopping experience. I got some inspiration from the Cincinatti Locavore blog -- and I added my own commentary. So here goes- Farmer's Markets 101:

  1. Devote some time - There are so many things that can touch your senses at these markets, that you should really devote some time to walking, talking, looking, and trying food. It isn't like shopping at your local market - all of your senses will be engaged, so let them explore.
  2. Ask questions, don't be shy- Take the opportunity to talk the farmers about the food you are buying. Ask them about their farming practices, how they deal with insects/pests, when was this food harvested etc. There truly is not stupid question - so ask away. You might even meet some like minded folks and get lost in chatter.
  3. Price of real food - If you are new to farmer's markets, you will notice the prices may be higher than your typical supermarket- but you will be happy to know that you are truly paying the price for raising real food and that these farmers are an integral part of your local economy. In this venue, sale in aisle 5 is completely foreign. You can buy knowing that the quality, taste, and freshness cannot be matched by those chain stores.
  4. When its gone, its gone. Since smaller farmers only grow a certain amount of certain produce, make sure to show up early is there is something you particularly want. It isn't uncommon for eggs and roaster chickens to sell out at my farmer's market.
  5. Season dictates the selection- Don't be surprised if there are no tomatoes in June..... a farmer's market truly depicts the produce that is in season for the area. So although 'tomato looking' things are sold year round in the supermarket - take a leap of faith and try to cook with what is in season- and you might find that making dinner decisions is alot simpler.
  6. Try something new- If there are some foods you are unfamiliar with, take a chance, talk to the farmer and try something new. Often helps to have the vendor suggest ways to prepare the food.
  7. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder- Not all food looks uniform and 'perfect'. Industrial food producers have often shaped the way we perceive food and have framed 'perfect looking food' as something we equate to quality. Well toss that idea out and know that food that is raised consciously and does not overuse pesticides and fertilizer create a new look of perfection.
  8. (I am copying this one verbatum as I thought it stated the point perfectly)

Become part of the process. When you shop at a supermarket, you're simply an eater. You have a very limited part in the process of bringing food to your table. When you shop at a farmers' market, you have an opportunity to become part of the process, but only if you take advantage of that opportunity. If you treat the farmers' market like shopping at Safeway, you'll probably be disappointed.

So there you have it - some tips and tricks and highlights on how you can create a true SHOPPING EXPERIENCE! Most of all - have fun!

For a full list of Loudoun County, VA farmer's markets- see the links section.


Chef2Monsters said...

My family and I have become addicted to fresh, local produce this year. Every few days I take the kids to a local farmer's market and we pick out what looks tastiest or interesting. We chat with the farmers, enjoy samples, and my kids get to see that our food is grown by real farmers. All around it is a fun and enjoyable experience!