It’s summer, the season of hiking, swimming and fun. Oh, and don’t forget, it is also farmers’ market time. Denver is replete with farmers’ markets and many people take advantage of the fresh fruit and vegetables available around town. Some however, are still a tad nervous when it comes to joining in on the fun. So, whether you are new to the experience or a seasoned connoisseur, these tips will help you get the most out of your trip.
1. Come Prepared
Before you head off to the farmers’ market you need to be prepared to spend some there. You need to understand that this isn’t a quick trip to the supermarket to pick up a few things. To get the most out of the experience and the best buys you need to walk around at least once to get the lay of the land. Don’t buy the first thing you see because you never know what’s around the corner.
Make sure you bring your own sacks and/or a cooler to keep things fresh on the way home. You may also want to make a bulk purchase and it will be easier to carry if you have your own stuff. It is recommended to make this trip the last one of the day or at least plan on going home before running any other errands. You don’t want all that yummy freshness to go bad in a hot car.
2. Timing Can Be Everything
The time you visit can be very important. To get the most popular items or the first pick of new crops you need to arrive right when it opens. To get the best prices come an hour or so before it closes. While most of the items have been picked over, the farmers may be more likely to negotiate bigger discounts rather than take the product home. This is a great time to make bulk purchases as well.
3 Ask Questions, Lots of Them
Talk to the vendors. Most of the people are the actual farmers who grew the produce. Ask them where they grew them, when were they harvested, and how long they’ve been at the Farmer’s market. Take a genuine interest in who they are and what they do. Ask them what their favorites are, when certain items are in season, and how to pick the best produce. You’ll never get this opportunity with a stocker at the grocery store.
If their products aren’t marked organic, don’t let it scare you. It can be quite expensive to get that certification, and they may actually be doing more than is required by law. By speaking with them you’ll get to know more about them and what they find is important. If you find you like what they have visit them often and let your friends know about them.
4. Buy in Bulk
If you can try to make bulk purchases especially on items that have a longer shelf life. Potatoes, corn, apples and other items can last longer than some fresh fruits and vegetables. If you like to can, make jams or pies, this is a great opportunity to get the quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables you need at much better prices. You can also work with some friends or neighbors and split the purchases. During strawberry season for instance, if you have 3 or 4 people buying in you can all save money and enjoy freshly picked berries. That’s a win-win-win!
5. Bring Cash
While technology has allowed the vendors to use apps for credit cards, buying with cash is the way to go. Most will appreciate saving the money on service fees and the faster transactions. Sometimes you can even make a better deal when buying with cash. Bring small to medium bills so they don’t have to deal with making change, and rounding up to nearest dollar will always make friends. In addition, it can help you budget because you can only spend what you bring.
6. Finally, be Adventurous
I recommend you try something new every time you go. For instance, heirloom tomatoes. While sometimes not the prettiest vegetable (please no comments about the fruit vs. vegetable delineation here, we’re all friends) they sometimes are the best tasting. Try a new kind of fruit, sample some of the baked goods, even the healthy ones, and look for a vegetable you’ve never tried. Chances are you’ll run across a new favorite.
Farmers’ markets are a throwback to days of old, when the people who grew the food also sold the food. Not only are you supporting them financially, but you are supporting your community and having fun. So this Saturday, get up an hour earlier and go check out your local farmers’ market. For the market closest to you, check out this link.