Organic Food Guide

Why―and How―to Shop at a Farmers’ Market

Four reasons to buy regional food. Plus, tips and hints for shopping a farmers’ market.

By Candy Gianetti
People at a farmers' marketChristopher Baker

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What to Know Before You Go to a Farmers’ Market

  • "There are many fantastic things at the market, so don't stick to your shopping list or you're going to miss out on all the best stuff," says Christine Farren, communications manager of the Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture, which runs the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, in San Francisco. Instead, talk to the farmers to find out what's freshest right now.
  • Take a taste of any available samples, including the misshapen tomatoes. "Unlike in the supermarket, diversity and flavor are paramount, not cosmetic perfection," says Farren.
  • Bring a tote bag, because you'll cut your trip short if a plastic bag full of potatoes is digging into your hand.
  • For the best selection, go as soon as the market opens. On the other hand, if you're making pies, sauces, or other recipes that don't call for blemish-free produce, go at the end of the day to scoop up damaged goods, which are usually marked down, says Amy Nicholson, a farmer from Geneva, New York, who sells fruit at several farmers' markets in her area.
 
Read More About:Shopping & Storing

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Quick Tip

Watercress

Supermarkets may carry watercress or a similar spicy green called upland cress (often labeled hydroponic cress); either is deliciously peppery.