After a long winter spent cooped up in your caves, springtime has finally arrived. Along with warmer temps and sunny days, there will be more opportunities for you to buy local, fresh, and direct from farmers and producers at your neighborhood farmers’ markets.
For the novice, visiting a farmers’ market can be an overwhelming experience if you don’t know what to expect. You may find yourself dazed with just a giant sack of potatoes at the end of the day. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your shopping:
Know where you’re going. You’ll first have to locate a farmers’ market. With many makeshift venues and parking lot locations, farmers’ markets can sometimes be elusive. In New York City, you can check out several sites for the most up-to-date information on local markets.
Government sites are also a good resource for discovering farmers’ markets. The Farmers Market Federation of NY has an informative list of locations by county. If you’re traveling outside of the Empire state, the United State Department of Agriculture’s website also has a great, though less up-to-date, search tool for finding markets anywhere in the country. Ultimately, a little research before setting out on your adventure will be time well spent.
Learn your region’s seasons. Want strawberries in April? If you’re in New York State, you will have to wait a couple more months for the juicy little fruits. The strawberries you’ll find at a New York grocer in April, whether organic or not, probably traveled cross-country from California or Mexico.
Although there’s no substitute for personal experience and speaking with local farmers, Epicurious.com’s simple Seasonal Ingredient Map shows what your area will generally have in stock each month.
Once there, ask questions. One great resource that farmers’ markets provide is the actual farmers. Asking questions is always a great way to learn directly from the source about the food you consume. Ask about what to expect in the upcoming weeks so you’ll know what you can look forward to. Also, just because a food is local, don’t assume it’s organic or sustainable. If it isn’t labeled so, make sure to ask so you know exactly what you’re getting.
Try something new. Your favorite leafy green may be months away, but that mystery veggie in the basket might be a new love you’ve yet to meet. If you’re buying meat, ask about their cuts. You may find less common meats like bison or goat available, which can be healthier and more sustainable than the more usual beef and lamb.
Have fun shopping, and enjoy the weather—while it lasts!