Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Farmer’s Market Etiquette

Now that the dust has settled from the holidays, it’s time to get back to routines–both old and a few new.

We moved just before Christmas and, among other things, our new location puts us within 5 minutes of a local Farmer’s Market–possibly the best in town–so one of my new habits, this year, is to start shopping there for produce before heading to the grocery store for the rest.

Starting next weekend.

But as I think about it more, some questions come to mind. Being a researcher by habit and knowing that some of the best sources may be just outside the blog’s door, I thought I’d muse here and get what feedback I could before my first foray.

Bags: Bring your own, sure, but what kind?

I’ve been out to the farmer’s market location later in the day as folks were packing up and I’ve noticed some leaving with plastic bags, but most seem to favor canvas or some other reusable type. What I wonder, though, is if sellers get perturbed (think less of you or even charge more) if you’re reusable shopping bag screams the name of a grocery chain?

Q1: Have you ever been up-sold or treated differently based on the bag you carried?

Cash: How much and what denominations?

Obviously, cash is the norm for a farmer’s market. Thing is, I almost never carry cash (this is yet another reason why I’ve not made any serious in-roads into this sort of shopping), so I’ve got to really plan ahead. In addition to knowing what amount of cash to carry, is having a set of twenties crisp from the ATM going to cause issues for the vendor’s making change? If so, I’ll need to plan a trip to the bank counter to get some smaller bills.

Q2: How much cash (and in what form) do you usually take to the Farmer’s Market for a week’s worth of veggie shopping?

Vendors: Do you shop around or pick a stall and stick to it?

At this farmer’s market (again, I’ve done a little visual reconnaissance on the odd weekend) there seem to be fewer single-produce stalls and more multi-product farms represented. In that case, when a lot of the sellers carry a similar variety, is it best to shop a single seller for the bulk of your buying or spread around your dollars? To that end, will buying a variety of items from a single source help your bottom line?

Q3: What’s your buying strategy, facing a lot of the same just at different tables?

Price: If it’s not listed, is it cool to ask?

Growing up strapped for cash (in a pocket or the bank), we joked a lot that ‘if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.’ While that may not necessarily apply at the farmer’s market (or most of my current shopping), I’m not used to having to ask the price and, yes, might be a little uncomfortable doing so. As what I’ve seen, so far, leans away from sellers putting up signs or tags, what’s the best way to inquire about price–especially if you’re shopping for the best value as well as the best produce?

Q4: How do you compare prices without being a heel?

Farmer’s market veterans, help a newbie out and save me the embarrassment of a blunder this coming weekend!

Jennifer Walker
Jennifer Walker

  1. It’s all about relationships and cash does have its privileges — whether it is shopping at a farmer’s market or getting your locks changed on your door. Take the time to get to know the vendors. Ask about their farming techniques, what they plan on planting next year, what they do when they are not farming! (yes, get to know them as individuals). When they naturally start to like you (and you like them), then they’ll set aside the best things for you. Also, when you pay in cash, I’ve found that they’ll often give you a discount or throw in an extra vegetable or two. A little charm goes a long way.

    1. Excellent point, Mary–one part of shopping farmer’s market is the personal aspect of the transactions as opposed to buying from brands and faceless corporations. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind!

  2. Jennifer
    Those are all good questions.
    You can bring your shopping bags or canvas bags. No rules. No judgments.

    Definitely cash and I would carry a lot of ones and fives.

    Some farmers markets offer tastes like cut up oranges and citrus or some other things. I like that.

    Mary offers some good ideas too.

    You can even ask them the best way to prepare something.

  3. Hi Jennifer-
    I can be a bit timid at a new farmer’s market myself, so it’s nice to read that I’m not the only one! I also feel bad when there are free samples out and I don’t buy anything. Is it really fair to sample and run? Thanks for the post!

    Lauren @ http://www.green-gourmets.com

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