There is nothing more fresh and delicious than fruits and vegetables grown and plucked from your very own garden. It brings a sense of satisfaction, knowing you are making healthy choices.
Although this would be the best way to have a GMO-free, organic food lifestyle, it isn’t always possible today to grow a vegetable or fruit garden in your backyard. There are some who have busy work schedules and small city apartments, both restricting time and space. And even those who do have a garden may not be able to grow everything they want.
What is the next best thing? Is there another alternative?
Of course. Farmers’ markets are a wonderful way to find locally grown food, meet new people, and try something new. These markets will have not only the best selection of local fruits and vegetables, but of honey, meat, eggs, breads, music and crafts as well.
Know What’s In Season
There are thousands of farmers’ markets all over the country, each with its own unique offerings. Remember, when going to a farmers’ market, you will be seeing “in-season” produce. For example, you will see berries in May, corn in August and apples in September. Knowing what is in season will help you plan what to buy and find the best prices. Also, know your fruit seasons so you are prepared for what type of produce you will be seeing and you won’t leave empty-handed. This will also let you know if something has been shipped in from another area. When you see a type of produce displayed out of season, you know it has been shipped in from another area and you can ask about its freshness.
It is a good idea to bring cash to the market and leave the credit cards at home. Small bills and change are preferable, as not all vendors are able to accept credit cards or checks. Bringing only cash also helps you stay on a budget and not overspend. Of course, plan some extra cash for those impulse or spur-of-the-moment buys, but by bringing cash it is easier to stick to your limit.
Know your shopping style. If you want the most selection and freshest food, come early in the morning. If you like discounts, remember to come at the end of the day as many vendors don’t want to travel home with most of their produce. You are more likely to find some pretty exceptional deals around an hour to closing time. If you want to have selection, freshness and great deals, make the visit a day trip and enjoy the whole atmosphere. At the market, you will often see wonderful prices on bulk purchases. Keep this in mind when you have canning to do or want to make and freeze something special for the holidays. There is no beating the price of fresh bulk fruits and vegetables at a farmers’ market.
Know What To Ask
Since avoiding GMOs is an important goal, often produce will be labeled with signs saying, “GMO free,” “organic” and “free range.” Farmers are proud of their product, and will display such signs openly. One rule to remember: When in doubt, ask questions. Never hesitate to ask anything, because the vendors are more than willing to answer questions about their food. It is totally acceptable to ask if, and what, pesticides were used, where the product was grown and how to store it. An easy way to avoid GMOs is to ask the vendor! Also, be aware of the products that may contain GMOs. The list frequently includes soybeans, corn, canola and rapeseed, sugar beets, cotton, dairy products, sugar and zucchini. This doesn’t mean all corn or all soybeans are modified, but be safe and ask. For meat to be organic and GMO free, the meat should be 100 percent grass or pasture/range-fed. Also, buy foods you can cook and prepare yourself.
Going to a farmers’ market is also a great way to get to know the local farmers. This can be done by walking around the entire market when you arrive. You will be able to see what is available, what each vendor has to offer, and where the best prices and deals are. Once you have seen everything, you can make more informed choices. Spread the word of the markets and the produce you purchase there; word-of-mouth is the best way to promote them.
Also, bring your own bags, either cloth or plastic, to carry your purchases home. Another option: There are small, metal folding carts to use for groceries that are easy to transport and carry in the trunk of the car. Not only are the bags and carts helpful, but they are environmentally friendly. Remember to bring a cooler, so you can place your fruit and vegetables in a cool place to keep them fresh if you stay for a long period of time. Make all large quantity purchases just before leaving so you don’t have to carry them around all day. Since you are coming to the market for the experience as well as the food, always try something new. You never know when you will discover a new favorite. When you find a new favorite, always ask the vendor for advice, how to prepare it, how to grow it. Food is a wonderful conversation starter.
Overall, going to a farmers’ market is an experience. It is a healthy, fun-filled day of discovery and best of all, food! Bring your family to enjoy the people, atmosphere and say hello to the farmers who dedicate their lives to grow our food. It is the best way to encourage eating healthy and living well.
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