Visiting a farmers market is a little different than a trip to a supermarket. Shop smart with this advice from the Certified Farmers’ Markets of Sacramento County:
▪ Always bring lots of small bills and change. You will be paying at each individual farmer’s stand and there is no central checkout or ATM.
▪ Bring large cloth shopping bags. It will save multiple trips to your car to unload. Also bring plastic produce bags (provided by most stands) to reuse; that saves the farmers money and helps keep down costs.
▪ If you use a wire folding cart, put in a box or liner or your produce will work through the wire squares. Old baby buggies or strollers make good alternatives (and hold a lot of produce).
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▪ Remember where you put your car keys, the items most lost at farmers markets. (Look first in one of your produce bags.) They may not be fashionable, but a fanny pack is the best way to carry your keys and money at the market. You won’t worry about where you put your wallet or purse – and you’ll have both hands free to shop.
▪ Remember: Don’t bring your dog or other pets to the market. Under state law, they’re not allowed. The only exceptions are guide and service dogs.
▪ No smoking; it’s banned at all certified farmers markets.
▪ To make your shopping more efficient, walk through the entire market before you buy. Check out prices and what’s available. You’ll find lots of variances in price along with variety.
▪ Bargaining for big boxes of a single produce is usually acceptable, but don’t expect to get discounts for small amounts. You are dealing directly with the growers of what you are buying; don’t devalue their work.
▪ Most market produce is vine- or tree-ripened and only available direct from the grower. It’s too fragile to ship. Treat it delicately.
▪ Most fruit is unsorted and field run, which means it’s not all perfect. That also can make it a bargain. Some of the best-tasting fruit may be cosmetically challenged, but excellent for cooking, baking pies or making preserves. Ask if the farmer has “jam berries,” “pie peaches” or “apples for sauce”; you may get a price break.
▪ If the farmer is not too busy, feel free to ask questions about varieties, recipes or growing methods.
▪ Have patience. Farmers are up late picking, then up extra early to bring that produce to market. They’re probably tired.
▪ Smile. If you appreciate the farmers, they’ll appreciate you in return.
For more tips and farmers market information, click on www.california-grown.com.