Tips to best support the farmers at your local market.
As a shopper:
Know the rules. Every market has its own guidelines for what can be sold and when. For example, some markets actually ring a bell to open and close, to ensure that vendors can set up completely before sales start and begin to pack up when the market is over without fear of customers being at risk from moving tents and trucks.
As for what is sold, ask the vendors and market organizers what the market allows. Some markets don’t allow crafts and others limit prepared foods. The market staff or volunteers should be able to explain why they have the rules that they do.
Learn about your seasonal produce. Many markets list what is in season on their website and may even have printed lists.
Don’t go with a long shopping list; instead select what looks best and what farmers or other shoppers recommend. Make a calendar of when you bought favorite items so you can remember the next year to be on the lookout for them. Ask farmers to explain the varieties that they grow.
If you don’t know what something is or how to cook it, talk to the farmer — or to other shoppers.
Bring cash, a debit or benefit card and reusable shopping bags to your farmers market?. In many cases, markets now process credit, debit or EBT cards. Often, this is done at the market “welcome” booth and once your card is run through the machine, you will usually receive tokens to spend at the vendors’ booths. Some markets have their vendors run their own machines, so keep an eye out for information about this amenity at the vendor’s table.
As a community member:
Spread the word about the advantages of shopping at the farmers market.? Write a letter to the editor about the importance of supporting farmers and buying locally.? Drop off the “first of the season” product to neighbors or family. Make a farmers market-fresh dinner to share with friends and family.? Bring a friend or two next time you shop.? Donate money to the farmers market.
Contact the market manager to see what kinds of volunteer activities would be helpful to him or her. Possibilities might include: market setup or breakdown, special events coordination, cooking demonstrations, publicity, fundraising, or education and outreach. This could be a chance to use your professional skills: markets need help managing Facebook pages, writing weekly emails to their shoppers or even speaking to groups.
Check out the list of farmers market associations, including national associations; most welcome general members. Sign up for alerts from regional agricultural organizations to stay abreast of any legislation that may affect markets and contact your legislators and let them know of your support.