By: Andrea Westervelt
Hello, I’m Andrea. Wife and Mother of 4 and frequent farmers market shopper.
A few years ago, my husband and I got more serious about paying attention to how and where our food was grown. This quickly led to a love of farmers markets. The easiest place to shop when you are looking for locally, responsibly grown food. Attending farmers markets became such a part of our lives, that my husband and several colleagues recently started an online business dedicated to strengthening our local food systems and helping farmers markets and farm market vendors manage and grow their business: Farmspread.com. Now the website is the family business and you can often find us visiting a market- whether near our home or while on vacation. We usually shop at a farmers market at least twice a month, and on a recent vacation we visited 4 different markets in a week! We always bring the kids along, so I’ve learned some things about market shopping with a 12, 10, 5 and 3 year old. Hopefully you will find these tips helpful. I truly encourage everyone to shop local and support your local farmers and farm businesses!
Find a Market- Maybe there is a market right in your town, so this is easy, but if you are looking for a new market to try, do a search in your area on Farmspread.com – there are over 8500 markets listed. For markets that have filled out their profile information on our site, you can also learn a bit about the market’s mission, what vendors they have, and any sort of entertainment or special events they have planned. You can also see if your state has a state association of farmers markets. This association may host an online listing as well.
Make it fun- Farmers markets happen any day of the week. But I have found that often the biggest/ most varied ones are on the weekends, which means we always make them a family outing. So, let’s be honest, the kids needs more than the draw of fresh healthy fruit and vegetables to get them excited about going to a farmers market. A few ways we make it interesting: first, check if the markets have any special events. Often times they will have a musician, one time we caught a puppet show, or there may be a children’s tent with a craft. Or see if your local market participates in the Power of Produce program. The POP club provides a fun way for kids to engage in the local food system through conversations directly with farmers, educational games and demonstrations, and exposure to new fruits and vegetables.
If there isn’t anything to draw your child to the market itself, maybe there is something nearby. One of our favorite markets is about an hour away, but a block from the market is a retro video game store/arcade. It is certainly worth a few quarters playing PacMan to make it a fun day for everyone. Another market we attended was held in a nearby nature preserve. After shopping we went on a family hike. Just be sure to pack a cooler with ice or ice packs, and whatever you buy will be fine.
Shop like the grocery store- So maybe you don’t want to make a whole day of it, but you still want to check out a farmers market. I actually often treat it like visiting the grocery store. I plan most of my meals for the week before I go, then I know what I’m looking for when I get there. I will seek out the bread vendor, or the vendor selling grass-fed meats and eggs and also buy vegetables I always need like garlic or onions.
Just like a good day at the grocery store: farmers market vendors often have samples. Kids love samples!! (I love samples!!) So check out that homemade granola or nut butter, or take part in the tomato taste test at the vegetable stand. For kids it’s a great way to try something new with no pressure. And for those concerned about allergens or other ingredients, the person at the farmstand is often the person who made the food! So they know exactly what went into it.
End with a treat- My kids love the free snacks at our local grocery store, so we often end the visit to the farmers market with a cookie, a fresh squeezed lemonade, or a different treat. Hey, at least we know it is made locally and without strange ingredients!
I hope these tips encourage you to get out and visit a farmers market nearby and support your local food makers!