This is a repost of a great article I found in the Chicago Tribune. I liked it so much, I wanted to share it again.
Now that summer is here outdoor farmers markets are back. But whether you are a market newbie or a market veteran, we’ve got some tips that will help you get the most from your farmers market visit.
1 Tear out or print out a schedule of your local farmers markets and keep one copy on your fridge and one in your work bag so you can keep track of which days markets happen near your job, home or commute path.
2 Decide on your priorities — minimal pesticides, organic, in-state farmers — before you go so you can find the right market for you and ask the farmers the right questions. “I don’t limit myself to certified organic farmers,” said Jeremy Lycan, a veteran of Bay Area and Midwest farmers markets and chef at Niche restaurant in Geneva, Ill. “I go with sustainable farmers whom I trust and who often practice organic methods but don’t have the resources to get certified.”
3 Make a plan before you go based on how many nights you are going to be home to cook. “This way you know how much you need to shop and you don’t end up wasting things,” says Shelley Young, who teaches farmers market cooking classes in Chicago at The Chopping Block.
4 Bring a cloth bag that has plenty of room and can hang over your shoulder. For frozen meat or delicate greens, consider an insulated bag.
5 Get to the market early if you want the best pick of the market. “They will often run out of things later in the day,” said Rebecca Reis-Miller, leader of Slow Food Orlando.
6 Don’t go expecting cheap food. “This is not a place to go for bargains necessarily,” said Young. “But I think it’s worth it for the quality and the freshness.”
7 If you have time, walk the market once through before you purchase so you can get an overview of the offerings. “I usually get a snack as soon as I arrive and then walk the whole market because I don’t want to shop on an empty stomach, and I want to know exactly what’s available that week,” said Lycan.
8 “Get to know your farmer to establish that relationship and let them know about your household needs for produce so they know which areas to expand,” said Reis-Miller.
9 Don’t be afraid to ask the farmers or even chefs you see at the market for recipes and tips on preparation. “I get asked that all the time,” said Lycan, who tours the market in his chef jacket. “And I am happy to talk to people about what they can do with the produce.”
10 Bring cash, “especially ones and $5 bills,” Lycan said. “The farmers really appreciate that.” Although a few vendors can take credit cards, you will be limiting your options.
11 If you have a favorite item — such as sour cherries — ask the farmers how they look this year and when they might be coming in so you can plan your pies, jams and canning parties accordingly.
12 Some farmers charge different prices at different farmers markets. It’s true. See if your favorite farmer at an upscale market also sells in a less fancy part of town. Chances are the prices drop there.
13 Some markets sell non-local produce. If this is a concern, ask. “Some areas have laws about this but others don’t, so just ask if it’s grown locally,” Reis-Millersaid. 5/13/2009