One of my favorites things to do is grocery shop. I know it sounds weird but I love it!
Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Sprouts across the nation know me by first name. I’m pretty sure a few of them have my picture hanging on there wall of champions. I spend more money and time their then probably anywhere else. When I have down I often make up excuses just to go.
“Ooops, out of garlic cloves…. better go get some.
A couple of hours later I arrive home four bags deep, dark chocolate on my mouth, and a lighter bank account. The only problem I have with grocery stores is that they are inside. If I had it my way they’d be like a few football stadiums and include retractable roofs.
I don’t know about you but being inside cooped up drives me KA-RAAAAAZY! Give me some sunshine, fresh air, and a place to walk around and I am one happy dude. So my love for the grocery store is a double-edged sword. On one hand so much pleasure, yet on the other so much pain.
Ok, maybe I am exaggerating a bit but none-the-less it’s an issue for me. Luckily there is a solution.
The Farmers Market!
Tons of high quality food, cool people, it’s outside, and most have more than just food as well. But it you’ve never been to the Farmers Market or do not frequent very often it can sometimes be a bit confusing. Some of the food looks different, tastes different, prices vary, amongst some other things. I wanted to put together a how-to dominate the Farmers Market so the following is my best attempt.
A LITTLE HISTORY
Don’t you roll your eyes at me! Not to worry, I’ll make this brief. I’m sure most of you have been out of school for sometime now and don’t really want a history lesson 😀
Farmers markets have been around for a pretty long time now. Old school farmers use to head in to town and trade any excess crops they had on hand for other merchandise, money, labor, or skills.
Markets have evolved in to what they are today as a means for local farmers to provide fresh meats, produce, and other goods to peeps like us. As the agricultural industry rapidly grows and becomes increasingly commercial farmers like these have a difficult time competing. Farmers markets give them an opportunity to generate business and to continue to distribute fresh, organic, and pesticide free fruits, veggies, and grass-fed meats.
In 2011 there were roughly 7,175 farmers markets in the United States. Up about 17% since the year before and up about 6,000 since 1994.
FARMERS MARKET BENEFITS
There a quite a few benefits to shopping at your local farmers market but I’ll just touch on a few.
1. Produce is often picked ripe and sold that day. This allows for use to receive the freshest, best tasting, and most nutrient dense foods available.
2. You get a chance to meet the farmers and build relationships. You can chat them up about how their produce is grown, if they use and chemicals, when they pick heir foods. You can also ask about what they feed their animals, how they are treated, and other methods of treatment and housing.
3. Pick up some tips by asking how best to store the foods you buy. Not only that, but ask about how to grow and care for your own. They usually have some excellent preparation tips and recipes as well.
4. The money you spend goes directly to the farmer you hand it to. There is no middle man. Old school purchasing at its best!
5. They emphasize the right foods. Farmers markets are biased towards vegetables. This is a good thing! We tend to under eat them in the states and we know by following the healthy habits that vegetables should fill up most of our plates and be eaten with each meal.
6. They are most often organic and non genetically modified.… I’m note sure I need to say more on that. But check out this resource to read more about Non-GMO foods.
7. Industrial farming favors monocultural farming — where a single field is used to grow one crop. This leads to sapping the solid of key nutrients, thus, leaving it unpalatable and more susceptible to disease and pests. Farmers at the market do not do this.
HOW TO DOMINATE YOUR FARMERS MARKET EXPERIENCE
The farmers market is full of all kinds of goodness. If you go on a sunday it can get pretty crowded and some of the items might be a little tough to get your hands on (plus the free samples might be all out… and that’s what we’re really there for right?). Here’s what to expect and some steps you can take to make your farmers market experience a good one I reckon!
Show up early or late: It’s totally up to you but if you show up about 15-30 minutes earlier most booths are already setup and ready to roll. Even if they are not this will give you your choice on the freshest veggies, fruits, meats, and nuts and seeds. Just like at the grocery store most people are plucking around looking for the best items, any blemishes, soft spots, etc… If you get there early it will give you the opportunity to do the first plucking around. Popular fruits and veggies as well as meats and fish can go pretty quickly as well. Make sure you get YOURS by showing up a wee bit earlier then everyone else.
- Special tip: Bring your favorite farmer a cup of joe to start their day. It probably will put a smile on their face and you may get a free apple out of it 😀
If you can’t get there early then show up late. Just before closing time most farmers are looking to get rid of any extra items and are willing to give up the goods for a discounted price or even for free. You might not get your pick of the pot but if money is an issued this is a good option as you might be able to save yourself a few clams.
You might not be use to the price: Some items might be priced differently than you are used to when frequenting a grocery store. This is most often due to the mass production the commercial farming can do and the longer shelf life that their foods have due to pesticides, chemicals, and other agents that extend the shelf life. Often times foods are picked way before they are actually ripe so that when they are in-transit to a mainstream grocery giant they have time to ripen, thus keeping them fresher longer. A little more on why this is not the best later.
Local farmers also do not produce on a large-scale and are not subsidized to keep prices down. Keep this in mind while cruising around.
A large impact not the price of foods is the time of year. If you shop seasonally you can save your self quite a bit of cash-o-la. When shopping seasonally it’s the old supply and demand model (oh no… not more school!). Seriously, when you are shopping this way you save money because farmers have an abundance of certain items due to the season and are looking to get ride of it. Thus, the price is a bit cheaper.
The best resource I have found on seasonal grocery shopping is from sustainabletable.org. Click on this seasonal shopping link. You will be able to look up which foods are freshest, most nutritious, and cost friendly by the region and state you live in. How cool is that!
Oh no, you can’t find what you are looking for: Don’t stress out about it…. seriously, don’t stress out. It will elevate your cortisol.
Most Farmers Markets are going to be fairly small and have a limited selection. Your staples will most likely be covered; broccoli, spinach, apples, avocado, lettuces, celery, nuts and seed and a few other common items. If you go in looking for bok choy, star fruit, or ostrich meat you might be disappointed.
Most markets have a limited protein supply as well. You can usually find some wild salmon, bison, and grass-fed beef but I’ve been to many that don’t carry any meat at all. If this is the case, just pick up those common items that you know you will be using anyway and head to a traditional market later to finish up.
Look for the ugly ducklings: You might notice that some of the foods look different when you are shopping around. They may be a different color than you are used to, hold different shapes, feel different, smell different, are dirty looking, or have various imperfections. This is because most of the farmers use limited chemicals and pesticides on their foods as well as limited chemically altered soil. Local farmers typically only spray their foods when immediate danger is involved from food predators and the like.
Food also may appear dirty. This more often than not is because it was picked that very same day so that you have the freshest, highest nutrient dense, and best tasting vegetable, fruit, meat, or fish available to you. You may notice that foods you typically get at the grocery store taste different when purchased at the Farmer Market. This is precisely the reason. Fresher, untreated, and more nutrient dense. Food at a typical grocery store is harvested, grown, handled, processed, shelved, and more often than not has been sitting on that shelf for a while. It has also been treated or picked early so that it lasts longer on the shelf. All of these things affect the vitamins, taste, and appearance of the foods that you eat.
Also remember that in commercial farming food is grown for size and aesthetics while Farmers Market items are grown for taste.
The protein there is the best: If the market you frequent deals with fish, poultry, or beef consider yourself blessed. You’re getting some pretty awesome stuff! Most of these farmers are not adding crap to their animals diets in order to fatten them up or mess with their hormones. Commercial farming more often than not has an unlimited supply of animals, houses them in bacteria riddled living conditions, and emphasizes a high-speed of production in order to maximize profit. I’m sure you have all heard the saying you are what you eat. Well this rings true for these animals as well. If they are fed high omega-6 inflammatory foods that are processed and designed to fatten them up you are essentially eating this too.
Most protein found at the farmers market is grass-fed, free range, and organic. The animals are treated well, fed well, and properly handled so that you get the highest quality sources full of omega-3 fatty acids that help elevated the inflammation that can cause those autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, arthritis, thyroiditis, and multiple sclerosis to name a few.
Wash and chop and don’t buy too much: Wash and chop those veggies right when you get home and don’t buy too much. For reasons mentioned earlier they won’t last as long as some of the stuff you buy at a traditional grocery store. A good idea is to go to the market with a plan in place. Maybe a few specific recipes you’ve been wanting to try. Pick up those items, get home, and start cooking fool!
A FEW THINGS YOU MAY NOT HAVE THOUGHT OF
PS: That haul cost me less than $20 smackers
Myself and a few buddies are Farmers Market teases. We bounce from one to another flaunting our goods for the world to see. In doing so I have discovered a few cool tips and tricks that may come in handy for you down the road.
What to bring with you: Make sure to bring a notepad for any tips you get from farmers or other shoppers. Bring a re-useable bag, a LARGE one, cash (many take cards and checks now but cash is king. Lastly, think about bringing an ice chest if you plan on buying fish, poultry, meat, or even for fruits and veggies. Try and save any fish buying for right before you are ready to leave but even still, an ice chest in the car helps to keep everything that much fresher.
And dudes…. bring a jacket and an umbrella. I know an umbrellas isn’t the most masculine thing but if it’s cold and/or raining you don’t want your lady friend getting wet or numb.
Pay with quarters: Seriously, you’re like rock star if you bring quarters. Farmers usually run out of them pretty fast so if you can come up hug with some silver like that chances are you can get a little discount or some freebies.
Volunteer: Most farmers or the city holding the market are more than happy to take any volunteers. Helping out one of the Farmers is likely going to give you a pretty sweet opportunity to learn about the local farming process, how to grow your own, or even how to house free range chickens…awesome!
More exercise: Ride your bike, run, or walk with some family and friends. Plus, you’ll be doing plenty of walking while you’re there.
Take it ALL in: Most markets now have live music, arts and crafts, clothes, and even games. They’re more of an awesome social event. Take advantage and have some fun. Get your shopping in but make sure to fully enjoy the experience… Beer Garden anyone! Just keep it legit ok!
Trade: Do you have a service, product, or business that you might be able to trade. The Farmers here are totally up for it. Exchange what you do for what they do and get a little grub.
- If you are not sure about a Farmer Market near you take advantage of this cool resource. It will show one close by no matter where you are.
- For those technically savvy here’s an APP that will let you know what foods are in season
When was the last time you went to the Farmers Market?
What is your favorite items there (lemon almonds… just say’n)?