11 pro tips for shopping the spring farmers’ market

My farmer’s market opens this week and I can’t wait! The weather has warmed up, and I have been eagerly anticipating the early morning walks to the church parking lot, to chat with my neighbors and the farmers I haven’t seen since October.

Do you have a favorite local farmers’ market?  Check here to find a market near you.

Here’s what to know before you go:

1. Know your seasons. You’ll have an easier time planning your trip and deciding what to buy if you know to expect asparagus and mesclun in May and tomatoes and zucchini in July.  Check here to see what’s likely available in your region so you can know before you go.

2. Try new things. Many people are not well-acquainted with spring produce.  Swiss chard, kohlrabi, garlic scapes, radishes–I first tried these vegetables because I met them at the farmers’ market.  Ask the farmer how to prepare it, google an ingredient, or try a seasonal cookbook like Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets.  (I’ve also gotten some excellent recipes from fellow shoppers at my market.  If you’re not sure how to prepare kohlrabi, ask the lady buying it how she’s fixing hers!)

3. Don’t try too many new things at once! Don’t set yourself up to be overwhelmed with a fridge full of produce you don’t know what to do with.  Try new items one at a time so that experimenting in the kitchen stays fun.  (I learned this lesson the hard way!)

4. Buy what you’ll use, and no more. I often get caught up in market-day shopping and overbuy, because everything looks so good!  Thankfully, farm-fresh produce lasts longer that what I buy at the grocery–but do try and be realistic about your purchases.  Don’t buy more than you can use in the coming week.  Besides, you’ll be back next weekend!

5. Bring cash, small change, and shopping bags. Cash may be essential.  The small bills, coins and bags will be appreciated.

6. Not everything for sale at the farmers’ market is healthy. This is an easy trap to fall into, so be thoughtful about your purchases.  At my market, I can buy top-notch cupcakes and cookies, kettle corn and gelato.  The local vendors use high-quality and often organic ingredients, but they are still treats.

7. The farmers’ market is not one-stop shopping (unless you are really lucky!).  When my schedule allows, I love to do my weekly grocery shopping after I’ve hit the farmers’ market.  That way I can plan my weeks’ meals around the fresh produce I got from the farmers, and get the right meat to go with it.

8. There’s more for sale than just produce. The local farmers and nurseries sell a huge variety of flowers, shrubs, herbs and seedlings in the spring.  Last year, we spontaneously bought raspberry bushes.    Think about what you’d like to buy before you get there.  And think twice before you purchase a project to bring home with you (like ten tomato plants that need planting).  Yeah, we’ve done that.

9. My market sells cut flowers. And it’s the best $2.50 I spend each week.

10. Take in the scenery. Farmers’ markets are community events.  Many have music, coffee for sale, and picnic tables for stopping to eat.  I love to watch the chefs shop, to see what they’re loading on to their dollies and wonder how they’ll be preparing it all.  (If what they’re choosing looks really good, I’ll be brave and ask them!)

11. Consider a CSA. But if this is your first year hitting the farmers’ market, I’d recommend you wait till next year.  The most common type of CSA works like this: in exchange for a lump-sum payment at the beginning of the growing season, you receive a box of farm-fresh produce every week for the duration of the season.  My family has done this for several years:  I love developing a strong relationship with the farm, and the abundance and variety of produce.  But I miss the choice I get with picking my produce a lá carte. Try a CSA at least once–but don’t do it during a busy season of life, and definitely don’t do it with a newborn!  Some of those farm-fresh veggies take a lot of time to prep!

Are you a farmers’ market shopper?  Are you thinking about it?  What’s your favorite spring farmers’ market find?

11 pro tips for shopping the spring farmers' market


Recommended Reading:

Green Cleaning on the Cheap (And Easy). Cleaning with nontoxic cleaners is a lot easier than people make it out to be. And it can be really inexpensive–if you do it right. I’ll show you how.

Sneaky Smoothies: How I Became a Blender-Wielding Vitamin Pusher. I wanted to get my kids to take their fish oil, so I started sneaking it into a breakfast smoothie. That proved to be the best kind of slippery slope: I’ve been sneaking all kinds of healthy foods and supplements in their smoothies ever since. Here are some ideas to get started.

My Favorite Natural Skincare Trick: I’m a recent convert to natural skincare, and love finding natural solutions that are not only safer, but work better than their conventional counterparts. This trick uses ingredients from your pantry and delivers on both counts.


Leave A Comment
  1. Wow, what an impressive site you have. I just loved your Farm Market post! What great advice. We have wonderful farm markets around here, and what you say is SO TRUE!!!!! Wonderul reminder.
    And your menu is fabulous. Love the bleu and strawberry salad, kale and pancetta and spring minestrone soup. I’ going to try all of those.
    I am leaving very inspired!

  2. I’ve never tried our local Farmer’s Market, though we use our local orchard faithfully. I’m looking forward to trying it. We saw an advertisement this weekend and are planning a trip soon. Thanks for your tips, they will be helpful.

  3. ToyLady says:

    My neighborhood farmers’ market doesn’t open until June, but we’re fortunate to have a year-’round public market – besides produce and flowers, I can also get fresh meat and some fish, as well. I do my market trip on Saturday mornings, then plan the menu and do the supermarket on Sunday. That gives me the chance to plan around whatever I get at the market first.

  4. Caroline says:

    Great tips! I love that you mentioned to ask the farmer how to prepare a food. I’ve found that most farmers LOVE to talk with customers and share their knowledge! And, good tip on not buying too much… I’ve unfortunately done that as well.

  5. Damsel says:

    Great post! I love the Farmer’s Market. I’m especially looking forward to shopping the markets in Sicily when we move this summer! Yay!

  6. Crystal says:

    I have never tried a Farmer’s Market. This year I planted a garden of my own, so I understand the allure of fresh-grown veggies. I’m sure there is an abundance of Farmer’s Markets in my area, since I’m in the country myself. I’ll have to look and see what they have; I’m sure someone else is growing things that I’m not, that I’d like to have.

  7. Joules says:

    I went to the opening day of our Farmer’s Market last week and it was overwhelming, but awesome! Thanks for the tips for my next trip:)

  8. Tracey says:

    So my mouth is watering after reading your menu!

    I must admit that number two is a stumbling block for me. My family isn’t always open to trying new foods and, if I’m not confident in how to cook them, I hesitate to spend money on what may not get eaten.

    We do, however, thoroughly enjoy our farmers market. Our daughters enjoy going with me to sample various products and, along with produce, we buy local honey, eggs from free-range chickens, and homemade jams.

  9. Jami says:

    I have never shopped at a farmer’s market before but I hear we have a lovly one in the town we just moved to. I need to check it out but I have been a little overwhelmed by it. But thanks for the tips! I really want to go check it out now 🙂

  10. Jamie says:

    I solved the over-shopping at the farmer’s market problem by getting a dehydrator! :0) Now I can buy good produce by the bag and anything not getting immediately used gets dried and tucked in the pantry for later. My library has the cookbook you recommended, so I’m definitely going to check it out – thanks for sharing!

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