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5 Things to Do – and Not to Do – at the Farmers’ Market

5 Things to Do – and Not to Do – at the Farmers’ Market in Colorado

It’s the season of Farmers’ Markets – relaxing mornings, fresh foods and local connections. Before you head out to explore new delicious and nutritious finds, keep these tips in mind for a fun and healthy visit. 

5 things to do

Try something different. Farmers’ Markets feature what’s at the peak of the season in the region, and they often offer samples. This makes it a great opportunity to look for your favorites, but also sample something you’ve never had before. You’ll get the freshest versions, and you’ll open your taste buds to new nutrients and antioxidants.

Know the vendors. Farmers' Markets are about more than fresh produce – they’re about community building. Take the time to talk to the vendors about their farms and operations. You’ll find out who’s growing what in your region, and you’ll also get more answers about the quality of the produce.

Recognize the hard work. While you’re chatting, it’s also a nice practice to ask the farmers about the time involved, planting, weeding, harvesting, and special secrets. Farmers work hard and they’re proud – paying them a compliment can add to everyone’s experience.

Know the terrain. If it’s your first visit, or your 50th, take a quick trip around when you arrive so you know what’s where and what’s fresh. If there are multiple vendors for the same produce, take a note of the quality and price. Then, when you’re ready, circle back to visit the ones you like. This ensures you won’t miss anything.

Be ready. Finally, before you head to the market, prepare yourself. Plan to go early. Bring cash (many vendors might not accept credit or debit), and a cooler of ice in the car if you’re not going directly home. Wear comfortable shoes, remember sunscreen, and pack reusable bags to carry your purchases.

5 things not to do

Buy too much. With all the delicious items available it’s tempting to go overboard and overbuy. While plenty of fruits and vegetables are always a good thing, be realistic about what you’ll be able to prepare and eat in the next few days. Throwing out food you just couldn’t get to is a waste of nutrients and a waste of money. (Learn more ways to reduce food loss here.) 

Take the wrong food. Sampling is fun and often encouraged. But make sure to take only produce that’s clearly marked as a sample. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell. If it’s unclear, just ask. And don’t stock up on samples like it’s a mini meal – either hold back, or make a purchase. 

Watch your kids and dogs. It’s a weekend, you’re outside, and everyone’s on a relaxed pace. But be sure to still be diligent about watching your kids and dogs. Children may be tempted to wander into booths unattended, or to grab or play with produce. Dogs may get overly excited with the people, kids and crowds, and of course many pets like to “mark” their property, which  may be a vendor’s crate or tent.

Don’t haggle. The etiquette on this can vary from market to market, but sources report haggling is not appreciated. Farmers are trying to make an honest living and they choose their prices carefully. At closing time, it doesn’t hurt to respectfully ask if a vendor would be willing to negotiate. But flat-out asking at any time of the day can be frowned upon. 

Don’t assume that local means organic. While all fruits and vegetables are good for you, keep in mind that local doesn’t necessarily mean organic. To be called organic, foods must be certified by the USDA. Produce sold at Farmers’ Markets may indeed be produced in line with organic guidelines, but they may not be officially certified. Talking to the vendors will help you know more about their farming practices and make an informed purchase. 

Shopping at Farmers’ Markets is a great way to get fresh foods, support the local economy and strengthen community. Check your local schedules and locations and plan your trip today. For more tips on eating healthy, contact us at the Y.