Going to a Farmer’s Market and shopping the produce of local farmers and artisans is one of the best ways to spend a summer day. Or even a fall or spring day, for that matter. But there are some ways to make the most of out of your visit to a farmer’s market, so here are some insider tips to navigating a farmer’s market to have the best experience possible.
Ashlee is the owner of one of my favorite local farms, Hacker’s Orchards. What makes her stand so wonderful is not just the fresh berries, peaches, and other fruits and veggies, but the fantastic shelled peas and jams she sells. The strawberry jam is delicious on anything and everything…trust me.Hacker’s Orchards is located in Southwest Michigan and has been in Ashlee’s family since 1930. Her area is best known for blueberries, peaches, tart cherries, and apples to name a few. She has been running the a stand at the Mount Prospect Farmer’s Market for the past eight years and also serves the Woodstock Market.
Here are her tips for having the best Farmer’s Market experience:
1) Early is best for the freshest produce…the crowds are minimal during the wee hours, particularly between 7:30-9:00 a.m., and the produce has only been out in the open for a short time. Most of us don’t have refrigerated trailers, so the earlier the better for freshest picks!
2) Now as far as the best deals go, getting to market about an hour before closing time is the best time to find great deals. Most vendors are super tired, ready to go home by that time, and only have a little bit left on the table. For those of us with produce that have a 3 hour drive ahead of us, we are willing to make bargains on almost anything in order to sell out so we can go home. For example at my stand, starting around noon, we do any three produce items for $10! If you choose wisely, this can save customers up to $8 on 3 items and possibly more if we do a bulk deal. Be aware though that at this time, certain things may have sold out already and what’s left may have taken its toll from the heat…
3) Order ahead for special pricing! Most stands, mine included, will offer special bulk pricing if orders are taken in advance.
4) Always ask for samples! Any stand should let you try what they’re selling, and if they don’t…be cautioned. Conversely, always ask before sampling! Just taking a piece of fruit is pretty rude and won’t help in terms of getting a special deal.
5) Look for a bargain, but in a nice way. Often times if someone is nice and is buying quite a few items, I will oblige if they ask for a few bucks off. Attitude is key on this, as if the deal is demanded, we are not so gracious.
6) Know what you’re buying!! This is the most important aspect to a good experience in my opinion. We are there because we love produce, farming and talking to customers. Take advantage of this and find out what’s in season, when to expect things, how the year is looking…etc. Not all farmers bring their own, or even local produce, and talking to them and being aware is what’s key to finding the best, freshest and local produce! Beware stands with every product under the sun, even the best farmers can’t grow pineapples in Michigan.
And if you are looking for some great local Farmer’s Markets, here are my favorites in Chicagoland:
Green City Market, Wednesdays and Saturdays, 7 am to 1 pm, South End of Lincoln Park
Chicago French Market, Monday thru Friday, 7 am to 7:30 pm, Saturdays 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, 131 North Clinton Street, Chicago
Evanston Farmer’s Market, Saturdays 7:30 am to 1 pm, Intersection of University Place and Oak Avenue
Mount Prospect Farmer’s Market, Sundays 8 am to 1 pm, Metra parking lot along Northwest Highway
Chicago Botanic Garden Farmer’s Market, 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month, 9 am to 3 pm on the Esplanade
Oak Park Farmer’s Market, Saturdays 7am to 1 pm, Pilgrim Church Parking Lot, 460 Lake Street, Oak Park
Looking for recipes now that you have completed your Farmer’s Market haul? I’ve got you covered!
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