I have to admit, I didn’t even realize I had a local Winter Farmers Market until just a few weeks ago.
Is this really surprising, though? I mean, it’s me! I remember my friend once telling me,
“You always miss everything cause you’re constantly looking in the other direction!”
It was about a cute guy, but still! The statement holds.
I am constantly looking in the other direction. Not that I don’t pay attention–rather, I pay attention too much. I’m always on a swivel, taking everything in. So it seems that there’s always going to be something I’m missing in the other direction.
Case in point? I noticed a sign at my local feed store, advertising that they hold a Farmers Market every Saturday during the winter months. What! That’s so awesome, I told the cashier. How long had they been doing it?
Quite a while, it seemed. The sign has been up forever!
Er. Okay… that’s okay, I’m used to missing things. See ya Saturday!
Seriously. How had I missed that huge sign?
No matter, because now I knew! And there I was Saturday with my Dad, ready to scope it all out. I walked in, pleasantly surprised to see my cousin had a stand going. She and her husband run their own third generation farm a town over. Girl can GROW, let me tell ya. She had the most poppin’ stand, with the most produce, so I did a majority of my shopping there. However, that didn’t stop me from grabbing a pound of garlic and a bushel of lavender from a nearby stand.
Nor did it deter me from trying to score some creamed honey from another (they were out, sadly).
There was another stand selling pork products, but I’m pretty well stocked on meats so I browsed the list but opted not to buy anything that day.
Now that I’ve scoped the place out and have a general idea of what’s being sold, I’m going back this week with a list in hand. And I’m going to share with you a few tips I use to make the most of your local farmers’ market, also!
Because I love you, and I want you to enjoy delicious, seasonal, local food! Let us begin.
The first time you hit up your winter farmers’ market, or any market, you should go the first time prepared to potentially not buy anything. I’ve been to quite a few where I went in hopeful, with a shopping list, and high expectations, only to come out disappointed and empty handed. Not all farmers markets are the same, and they won’t all be a good fit for your wants and needs–and that’s okay!
I recommend that the first time you go, make sure you have plenty of time to peruse the stands and talk to the farmers. It’s an amazing experience to talk to the people who work so hard and with pride to grow your food! Most farmers will be happy to answer your questions about growing practices, or how they like to prepare the produce they grow. Many will even have samples to give out. While I was checking out a stand this past weekend, the woman working it was more than happy to let me try the husk cherries she was selling, along with her homemade carrot soup using the very carrots grown at her farm. She even gave me the recipe.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your local growers! You’ll walk away with more knowledge, and a greater appreciation for them.
Once you’ve scoped out the market and have a pretty good idea of what is generally available, go back in with a list. This list will help you keep track of everything you need, especially if you’ve already done your meal planning with your list in mind. Having a list also keeps you accountable–that is, if you stick to your list, you’re not going to overspend by grabbing everything in site, just because you like it or it smells pretty (ahem, I’m not talking about myself here at all).
I know it seems simple, but seriously–use a list! It’s very easy to get caught up in the moment and overspend. While I’m all about supporting your local farmers, I also believe in trying to hang on to that hard earned cash, and not overspending. After all, us homesteaders tend to be more frugal. There’s no reason you can’t support your local farmers and spend wisely at the same time!
I know, this seems strange, but hear me out. You’d be amazed at how much you can learn from the person standing at that market stand. From who to buy the best grass-fed beef from, to what the secret ingredient in that carrot soup is–making the effort to build relationships with the local farming community will reap many, many rewards.
These brave souls who are making their livelihood in a very uncertain line of work have lived through many experiences and hard fought victories. Some of them come from families that have been farming for generations, or maybe they have a degree in horticulture. The point being, they know a lot–how to grow the best tomatoes for canning, or perhaps how to raise the best breed for showing poultry. Which sheep produce the best meat, or which make the best mothers.
You could spend hours perusing through the internet and not glean half the information you could readily get from these folks. All you have to do is be respectful and show interest! They appreciate you supporting their business, and generally want to help you in any way they can. Don’t miss out on an amazing opportunity to make new friends and learn something new.
I know the farmers market can seem intimidating, especially so if it’s your first time being to one (I was literally so nervous at the first one I had ever gone to!). But with a few tips and tricks under your belt, you’ll be sailing through the trip like a veteran. I promise! I also found this article for you to check out that has a quick list of do’s and don’ts I think are great to keep in mind whilst shopping.
Good luck, ya’ll, and happy hunting 🙂