Insider Tips for the Farmer’s Market

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:

Farmer’s Market Tip 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!

Farmer’s Market Tip2: 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…

Farmer’s Market Tip 3: Order ahead for special pricing!  Most stands, mine included, will offer special bulk pricing if orders are taken in advance.

Farmer’s Market Tip 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.

Farmer’s Market Tip 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.

Farmer’s Market Tip 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!

Happy Shopping!
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  1. Susan Shipe says

    We are going to Charleston SC this weekend and they have an awesome Farmer’s Market, it is definitely on our itinerary!!! LOVE fresh produce. Great tips. Thanks Amanda for sharing “inside secrets”!

  2. Tricia says

    I’m so excited because my local farmer’s market is coming right down the street from us very soon! I can’t wait to walk there. Great tips!

  3. Jeanine says

    I love our local farmers market. My husband usually goes so I dont have to lug all kids with me but he does great while hes there. We have so many fresh local markets too around, we go often.

  4. Jaime Nicole says

    I hadn’t though about ordering in advance for a shot at better pricing, but it makes sense. Still, I hate to negotiate prices and would rather just pay whatever they are asking and assume that they are being fair.

    • amandasimkin says

      It’s such a fun way to spend an hour or two, especially when there is music and entertainment.

    • amandasimkin says

      I never knew how to time everything correctly in order to get the best deals and freshest produce!

  5. Tiffany C. says

    I love spending Saturday mornings at the local Farmer’s Market. I can get a lot of fresh strawberries, watermelon, corn, squash and fresh yard eggs at mine.

  6. Becky says

    We have a farmer’s market every other weekend downtown and I love going!! I love buying farm-fresh produce and supporting local farmers.

  7. Elizabeth O. says

    These are great tips. I love to go when it’s near closing time. Not only do I get great deals, but I go home with lots of freebies, too.

  8. Travel Blogger says

    I know it’s cliche but the farmers market is one of my favorite places to spend a sunday morning. I love stocking up on the fresh fruits and veggies – and oh the smell!

  9. Erin Kennedy says

    I love these tips and I love farmer’s markets so much! It is so nice to hear the inside track of what is going on and hear these ways to save money!

  10. April G says

    I’ve been meaning to go to my local farmer’s market, but now I’m torn between going earlier and going later. I mean, who doesn’t love a good deal?

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