Want to shop like a boss next you to the farmers market? Here are some tricks to making the most of your experience.

Five tricks to rock the farmers market

1. Talk to the farmers. Getting to know them will give you an edge – you’ll often get better produce and better prices. You might even be privy to their secret stash. You know, the good stuff. Try a little bartering or negotiate a new price if you think they’re asking too much. Ask questions!

2. Go early if you want to get the best the farmers have to offer or you want the most popular items. They tend to sell out quickly. Go late if you want better bargains. Go when it’s raining for good deals, too. Farmers would rather sell at lower prices since fresh produce won’t keep for the following week.

3. Bring cash, especially $1’s and $5’s. Not all vendors have a pay-by-phone app. Some markets have portable ATMs, but it’ll cost you. Also, bringing cash helps with budgeting – if you bring a finite amount to spend, it’s harder to overbuy. Bring your own reusable bags and a mini cooler. Bring egg crates and small boxes for fragile items.

4. Shop smart! Do a little research before you go. Make sure you know the ballpark for prices. Look at sales flyers. Know what’s in season. Walk the market and compare prices between the various vendors before you buy. Put together a buying strategy to maximize your bucks.

5. Don’t be afraid to get the misshapen or blemished produce. They could use a little love, too. And don’t be afraid to try something new. You never know when you might discover your new favorite veggie!

So What Do You Ask A Farmer?

Never talked to a farmer before? No problem! Here are a few things you can ask.

  • How long have you been farming?
  • Are you from a family of farmers?
  • How big is your farm? Is it nearby?
  • What else do you grow?
  • Do you use pesticides? If so, which ones?
  • Do you use chemical or natural fertilizer? Why?
  • When was the (fruit or vegetable) harvested? How do you recommend using it? Storing it?

OK, I’m here. Now what?

So, you decided to take the plunge? What do you do once you get there?

  • Look for firm fruit with a healthy color – not necessarily perfect or polished – ripe but not overripe.
  • Buy loose produce. Pre-packaged stuff might be old or moldy underneath the pretty fruits or vegetables on top.
  • Make sure the produce is seasonally and locally grown. State extension services are the best place to look for what grows when in your area.
  • Look for whole produce (roots and stems together, not sold separately). That way you can maximize your purchases. You can use the beet or turnip greens as well as the root.

How to keep produce fresher longer

Everyone knows fresh produce ripens and deteriorates quickly. But did you know there are ways to slow the process?

  • Bananas and apples can cause other produce to ripen at an accelerated rate, so store them separately.
  • Do not store fruits and vegetables together.
  • Make sure fruits and vegetables are dry before storing. Moisture speeds up deterioration.
  • Citrus fruits, grapes and berries should be kept in the refrigerator.
  • Stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, apricots), avocados, melons and apples do not require refrigeration.
  • Use a paper towel in a sealed plastic container to keep leafy greens fresh and crisp.
  • To maximize flavor, do not refrigerate tomatoes, onions or potatoes.
  • Buy only what you think you need.

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