I have just returned from the farmer’s market disappointed and with very little produce to show for my efforts. Why? I get frustrated because it is so crowded. When it’s really busy, I just let myself get aimlessly herded around in circles, and find it hard to take the time to think about what I want and why I’m there. I think it’s really important to shop at the farmer’s market to support local farmers and reduce my environmental impact, but there are so many people that I get impatient and distracted.
So what’s an eco-conscious homebody to do?
Fortunately, while I walked home disgruntled with my measly take-away, I thought of a few things I could have done differently.
1. Go early.
If you get there between 8 and 9, it is likely to be less crowded. This is especially true here in Halifax, a student city, because the students sleep in and swarm the market around 10 or 11. Go early and you will have more breathing room.
2. Have a plan.
This is easiest this time of year because almost everything is available. Sit down the night before and think about what you’d like to make so you make sure you buy those essentials. Not having a plan is what results in my being herded around with the crowds like a zombie.
3. Bring the right vessels.
After a more fruitful market shopping trip, I always feel in a rush to get home before my leafy greens
melt wilt. This is a shame, because there are other things to do at the market than shop. I could eat breakfast, or chat with some of the friends I run into. Also, sometimes I’m just overwhelmed and need a minute because I didn’t follow step 2, and I’d like to take a little break from the crowd and get my bearings, but I don’t really feel like I can. I have to rush home to the fridge.
One thing you can do is make sure you buy the most perishable things last. Or, you might want to consider bringing an insulated cooler bag. Make sure it’s comfortable to carry. Also, make sure that it is big enough, because running out of carry space is something else that cuts my market trips short.
4. Bring enough cash.
If you’re frugal like me, you hate standing in line at an ATM from another bank that’s going to charge you when you could have thought ahead and gotten cash from your own bank in advance. I will often leave when I run out of cash rather than take money out of another bank’s ATM. Also, it’s good to have lots of change.
5. Bring re-useable produce bags.
I buy a lot of leafy greens that can be quite unruly in the basket. Having produce bags handy, either re-used or re-usable, can help keep your basket tidy. They can also be good to have for small things like cherry tomatoes. Sometimes the farms appreciate getting their containers back, or prefer not to give them out.
6. Talk to the farmers.
If you do go early enough, before the swarm of Friday-night partiers arrives, you can chat with the farmers. Get to know where they’re from. Ask for recipe ideas and storage tips. If you’re on friendly terms with the farms, going to the market will be much more than a shopping trip, it will be a task you undertake with joy knowing you are doing something good for your community.