Are you ready to venture out and explore some of the best farmers markets in RVA? Where else can you purchase fresh locally grown produce, support the local economy, sample amazing food, and connect with your community, all at the same time? Here are some tips to help you gear up and get the most out of your trip to the farmers market.
- Go Early for Selection, Later for a Deal. For the best selection and the freshest produce, get to the farmers market bright and early, before vendors sell out of their best products. If you are looking for a deal, save your shopping for later on in the day. Some farmers and vendors will offer a discount in the final hours to avoid having to reload their unsold products.
- Come Prepared: Bring Your Own Bag, a Cooler, and Some Cash. Not only is bringing your own reusable bag more environmentally friendly, but your produce will have a better chance of making it back to your car unbruised and intact. If you’ve never experienced a thin plastic bag full of produce splitting in the middle of a crowded market, just take my word for it. You want a sturdy, reliable bag on your side! While you’re at it, stash a cooler in your car and grab some cash. A cooler will help keep everything cool and fresh until you return home, and purchases will often go faster if you have cash on hand.
Know What’s In Season. One of the biggest advantages to shopping at a farmers market is having access to some of the freshest produce available in your area. If you know what is in season, you are more likely to find the best tasting produce at the most reasonable prices around. Check out www.sustainabletable.org/seasonalfoodguide/ for a seasonal food guide for your region.
Shop Around. There is usually more than one vendor selling certain items at a farmers market. Before you commit to a purchase, take a quick lap around the market to try samples and compare prices and quality among vendors. You don’t want to buy the first flat of strawberries that you come across, only to find a cheaper, tastier flat at the opposite end of the market.
Embrace the Whole Vegetable. You probably aren’t going to find trimmed and peeled vegetables at the farmers market, and if you do, steer clear. Produce in its “whole” freshly harvested state will last longer and offers more nutrition for your money. Those greens at the ends of your veggies are edible and full of healthy goodness!
Buy in Bulk. If you want access to the best flavors AND the best deals at a farmers market, buy items that are at their harvest peak in bulk. Not sure what to do with all of the extra produce? Try freezing or canning some of the extras, or split the purchase (and the cost) with a friend that is interested in the same item.
Talk to the Farmers. Don’t be shy! This is your chance to really get to know your food source. No one knows the produce better than the farmer. You can ask them how to pick out the best cantaloupes, whether or not pesticides are used on their products, or if they have a new recipe idea for cooking your favorite vegetable. The small amount of time that you invest in getting to know your farmer can yield valuable information and a new appreciation for the dedication and hard work that was put into growing your food.
Try Something New. See something new or unusual? There are often many different varieties of produce that you don’t normally see at the grocery store. Keep an open mind, ask for a sample, and give it a try. At best, you’ll discover a new love. At worst, you’ll expand your knowledge in the world of produce.