Since we moved to Charlottesville, going to the Farmers Market has been part of my regular Saturday morning routine. Most of the time I leave with a bag full of fresh vegetables and a belly full of breakfast food. Just in time for fall harvest, here are five tips to help you navigate your local farmers market so that you get the most out of your visit:
1. Go with a set budget and produce list.
Our City Market has a combination of farm fresh veggies and a mouth-watering selection of breakfast sandwiches and pastries. If I show up at the market with no budget in mind, I can easily overspend. And if I arrive with a budget but no produce list, I’ll end up with an empty veggie bag and a very full stomach. So each week, whether I go solo or with my family, there is cash in hand and a basic list of what I want coming home with me.
2. Make a lap around the market before purchasing.
Whether your farmers market is big or small, it’s always a good idea to walk around the entire outfit each week to see what vendors are supplying, and cost compare. I have discovered there can be quite a price difference on eggs for instance. I look for free-range eggs, and then try to find the best deal after that. Tomatoes and fruit tend to be other items that have a wide range of prices. But don’t always settle on the cheapest vendor. The quality of the produce is important, so look before you buy.
3. Get to know your farmers.
Earlier this summer, my family participated in the Meet Yer Eats farm tour sponsored by our City Market. We enjoyed visiting several local farms to tour their grounds and hear about their farming operation and practices. We especially loved Bellair Farm, an 853-acre property about ten miles south of Charlottesville which also boasts a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) mid-May through October.
4. Don’t forget flowers.
I’m a girl who loves fresh flowers in my house all year round, but during Farmers Market season, there’s just one place I go to buy. Not only are the blooms local, but the prices are considerably cheaper than at grocery stores or flower shops in the area.
5. Find a recipe that incorporates your new produce.
Last weekend, a farm stand I love was selling both goat’s milk bleu cheese and a wonderful variety of tomatoes; this made me think of an old Barefoot Contessa recipe for Heirloom Tomatoes with Bleu Cheese dressing. The bleu cheese wasn’t exactly on my list that day, but I remembered how the two paired so well together, and made the recipe that afternoon.
//Many of the photos on this post were taken by my daughter, Maddox, who is a budding photographer and Farmers Market aficionado. Showing her some photo credit love today!//