Farmers Markets 101
With the earth awakening from its winter slumber, it is a great time to start thinking about visiting a Farmers Market near you! When you do, however, there are a few things to keep in mind. We’ll review some of the incredible benefits of Farmers Markets as well as some do's and don’ts.
While fruit and nut trees bloom and honey bees are busy polinating , farmers across the United States have already begun working long days out in their fields plowing and prepping the land that will bear the crops that will be harvested and sold. Snow may still fall in some parts of the high country, so it will be a few more weeks before garden beds or planter boxes can be planted for the home gardener, but for those of us located in the Pacific Northwest, sun has been shining and the ground has warmed up enough to get those veggie starts and seeds situated in their new home of warm spring soil.
Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth. The grass is green, Humming Birds are returning to their feeders and our chickens are laying more eggs since daylight has increased. I LOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR! I almost get giddy thinking about all the fun I will have as I begin planning my Farmers Market visits. Lists are now being made of the various items I will need to replenish my canning stock for this season and as the season progresses, I will seek out my favorite farmers and will soon bring home boxes of our local bounty to process in my Canner and Pressure Cooker. Nothing is more satisfying for me as a Mom than to open a jar that was processed over the summer and feed it to my family throughout winter and remember the farmers I sourced our food from. I’ve been repeating this process for years. Learning from my mother and grandmother and those who have come before me. Today, I hand down these skills to my three sons and to anyone who has a desire to learn.
A Farmers Market near you…
Farmers Markets are a wonderful asset to each community they operate in, offering residents an opportunity to come together one day per week in a central location while building relationships between consumer and farmer, all while putting a real face to the one who grows your food. They can be a strong economic tool in attracting tourism to that community and many brick and mortar businesses enjoy partnering by offering their sales on that day, too.
Local residents plan their week around Farmers Markets, and it is fun to see families shopping for their local food items which can also include baked goods, canned items, Artisan pieces like jewelry or other handmade specialty items, wine and much more! You may also enjoy other special events that are planned to add to the excitement of the Market such as listening to local musicians performing, food competitions, a Children’s Booth where kids activities are planned and donated by local organizations along with a visit from a Master Gardner or a Master Composter/Recycler who may be on hand to offer advice to home gardeners.
Farmers Markets are unique in that they typically operate outside rain or shine for a 4 – 6 hour time frame. A Market Manager or Director and their volunteers arrive at the designated site ahead of the vendors and will make preparations to close streets or parking lot areas. Vendors will then arrive and begin setting up their booth space prior to the designated selling time to begin. Soon an air of excitement is felt as canopies and displays are all in place, signs are out, and the hustle and bustle of customers begin to arrive to make their purchases.
If you are fortunate to have a Farmers Market near you, here are a few things that you might wish to remember which will help make your day a success:
- Please come prepared to pay cash:
- Some markets are now offering a Token System where you may use your debit/credit card at the Market’s Information Booth. You will receive tokens in lieu of cash which can be used at most vendors. Markets who participate in this program will advertise this availability on their website.
- Wear Comfortable clothing and shoes and make sure you dress for the weather.
- Be respectful of designated parking spaces for everyone’s safety. Remember children are present.
- Although it is popular to bring your pet from home, remember pavement is extremely hot on their feet. Some markets, due to safety and sanitation, do not allow dogs or other pets at the market. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE DOGS UNATTENDED IN CARS!
- Be respectful of vendors displays. Vendors take great care to display their wares and some are breakable and cannot be replaced. Remember this is their livelihood.
- Please keep a close eye out on your children! I cannot stress this enough. As the Farmers Market is organized to feel welcoming, there are many dangers lurking both inside and outside of the market perimeter such as traffic and strangers. Vendors are not responsible to watch your children and nothing is more frustrating than a child destroying or climbing in and out of the displays.
- Vendors typically do not welcome bartering. However, you may ask Vendors if they sell in bulk and offer discounts for a bulk order.
- Bring a wagon, your own shopping bags or large baskets to carry your goodies home.
Farmers Markets have operated since the beginning of time. They are steeped in tradition and always meant to unite Farm to Table. They are a place where the locals meet and talk about the weather, the crops, swap recipes and more. It’s where the newest generation learns where their food comes from and that carrots do not grow in plastic bags. So wherever you may travel this growing season, you will surely find a Farmers Market nearby to visit!