Close-up of a local vendor's table display, featuring fresh and ripe peaches, locally grown.

Essential Farmers Market Guide

By, Christen

Fresh in-season vegetables, vibrant cut flowers, fragrant baked breads, live music, hand poured aromatic candles, perfectly ripe fruits, locally grown and processed meats, free range eggs – the Farmers Market is a treasure trove of variety sure to inspire your senses and elicit wonder at the creative displays presented.

Visiting your local Farmers Market may seem a bit daunting the first time – I really had no idea what to expect at first, too, so I understand.  Don’t let the unknown deter you from the joys of a market visit, though.  Truly, perusing the Farmers Market is one of my favorite local activities – and happening upon a market when road tripping out of town always brings a surge of delight, since Farmers Markets facilitate the opportunity to learn about local offerings and support small business vendors and farmers.

I’ve found that prices are a bit higher than you’d find at your grocery store – especially for prepared foods and non-food items.  That said, I personally still love buying these items at the Farmers Market, since it means I’m purchasing locally made and grown goods and supporting small businesses (most of whom don’t have a storefront).

View of a variety of Farmers Market booths.

When you first arrive, take time to walk the whole market before buying anything.  Familiarize yourself with the different vendor offerings, then go back through with purchasing in mind.  Doing a walk-through allows you to identify which vendors you will make your purchases from, and it also provides you the visceral pleasure of holistically enjoying the sights, sounds and aromas of the market.  It really is a wonderful place!  Take your time to enjoy the process.

We’ve curated a list of our essential Farmers Market tips and tricks to help you enjoy a visit to the Farmers Market with intentionality.

View of multiple Farmers Market vendor tables with color tent coverings and table displays.

When to go?  Plan to show up early to get the best produce orrrrrr (conversely) arrive late to score the best deals.  Also, embrace the rain!  While it is enchanting to peruse a Farmers Market on a sunny morning, don’t be deterred by those drizzly days – they likely mean fewer shoppers, so you’ll have less competition for the best selection and may even see reduced pricing!

What to bring? Bring a bag or basket to use while shopping.  I love the customizable Apolis Market Tote bags and this seagrass basket shopper.  I also recommend bringing a cooler to carry and transport your goods, should you plan on purchasing meats or seafoods.

While many farmers will have bags and cartons available for produce, there is value in bringing your own.  It helps keep costs down for the small business owners you purchase from plus they are sustainable and more durable than the disposable alternative. These reusable produce bags are a great option or these bread bags are perfect for a fresh loaf. I like to keep mine in my reusable grocery bags for a quick grab as I walk out the door.

You can also bring along a few cartons to protect your more delicate items like fruit. Anthropologie has the cutest selection in several styles: cottage, wire, and countryside.  Just be sure to keep them in your tote while walking around if you pick one of the stoneware versions. How easy is that - straight from the farmer into your adorable berry basket and then washed at home, ready to enjoy!

Close-up view of a flower farm vendor's display at the local Farmers Market.

What to wear? Definitely wear comfortable shoes (I tend to prefer sneakers like these).  Local markets are often on grassy and rocky terrain, so footing is a bit uneven.  While I’ve been known to swing by a market on the way home from church, I may have regretted not bringing a pair of sandals to slip into – heels and rough terrain weren’t made for each other!   Also, keep in mind that you’re shopping outside, so a hat and sunscreen are pluses.  I love this straw visor – it works wonderfully with a ponytail or down-do, alike. This one  is also great! My daily sunscreen choice is EltaMD UV Clear, and for kids I love Blue Lizard or Aveeno.

How to prep? Go with a plan and cash so you don’t overspend. Just like you would when shopping for groceries at the store, consider your upcoming menu ahead of time so you can focus your shopping on those priorities first.  While many vendors accept credit cards, bringing small-bill cash will help you navigate lines more quickly and will also keep you from spending your entire week’s food budget in a single day.  It can be tempting to want to buy everything in sight, believe me!  That said, while thinking about your needs ahead of time is important for a successful venture, I also like to hold them loosely and reserve some of my market budget in preparation for inspiration!  Inevitably, a vendor will be present with items you love but hadn’t known to plan for, so that small reserve of cash allows room for an unexpected treat.

Close-up of a local vendor's table display, featuring a variety of colorful peppers and jarred goods.
Close-up of a local vendor's table display, featuring a variety of colorful peppers.

How to interact? Visit with the farmers and vendors, asking questions about their offerings and seasonal selections.  Not only will this allow you the opportunity to learn about the selection they're selling on a particular visit, you also have a unique opportunity to discover how their products are grown and harvested, prepared or made – perhaps even better understanding their small business practices and intentions.  I’ve learned amazing stories from vendors about the inspiration behind their generational marinades and, from another vendor, the missional-focused and sustainability of a their coffee farm.  You’ll find you’ll want to return to certain vendors again-and-again, not only for their offerings, but also because of kindred interactions that were initiated.

Have fun at your next Farmers Market venture!  If you still have questions while prepping for your visit or additional recommendations to add to this list, let us know!  We'd love to hear your thoughts.  What are your favorite Farmers Market finds?

Looking for ideas on what to make with your seasonal produce finds? Check out our recipe for coconut cupcakes with sweet summer cherries.

Close-up of a local vendor's table display, featuring fresh and ripe peaches, locally grown.
Close-up view of a selection of hand-poured candles at the local Farmers Market.

Close-up view of a flower farm vendor's display at the local Farmers Market.View of a variety of Farmers Market booths.

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