Shopping at your local farmers market is not only easy, it’s good for just about everything: your health, your peace of mind, and the wealth of your local community.
There’s also more than just food on offer. It’s not so much an event as a way of life, and like most things in life, there are best practices to follow.
David Kotsonas, market manager at the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market, offers seven simple tips to know before heading to the market for your weekly shopping experience.
1. Come early.
“There are lines at the tables,” says Kotsonas. Your best shot to avoid them is by getting there early.
Coming early will offer better parking options, thinner crowds, and fresher foods. That’s really important if you’re looking for seasonal items such as berries, tomatoes, and sweet corn.
2. Bring a reusuable bag.
It cuts down on waste, and it’s better for the environment.
If you don’t have one, or forget yours, don’t worry. In Rochester, you can head to the market’s information booth, where they have bags for free.
3. Check Facebook.
There’s a lot going on at the twice-weekly Rochester market, and Facebook is a great place for up-to-the-minute updates on what’s going on and what’s in season.
It’s updated at least weekly and sometimes even more than that.
4. Don’t forget about the EBT card option.
SNAP recipients can use their EBT cards at the market, Kotsonas says, and it can actually equate to $20 per week in free food, if you use the market’s incentive program on both Wednesdays and Saturdays.
“We have an incentive program where we match dollar-for-dollar up to the first $10,” he says. That’s $20 of available funds each day, so if you go twice a week, that’s $40 for the price of $20.
5. Bring cash.
While the market takes debit and credit cards, there’s a $2 convenience fee, Kotsonas says. There’s an ATM nearby, but it could also trigger bank fees. Knowing that, the best solution is to bring cash.
If you live by your cards, and are willing to cough up the fee, credit and debit users will get tokens which never expire and are good at any of the stalls within the market’s grounds.
6. Get to know your growers.
“It gives you an opportunity to ask the questions you won’t get answered at the grocery store,” Kotsonas says. Feel free to ask questions like:
- Where was it grown?
- Did you use pesticides?
- How do I cook that?
- What IS that thing?
All these and more can be answered while simultaneously building a relationship with the growers.
7. There’s more than just food.
While Kotsonas says the primary materials at any farmers market are grown, don’t think it’s all about just buying kale and cucumbers. There are also chef demonstrations, live music, food tasting, and even the more unique: In Rochester, for instance, the market is hosting a Falun Gong group the first Saturday of every month who will lead folks in qigong exercise.
“It’s a mind and body exercise,” Kotsonas says. “Kind of like meditation and movement.”