21 June 2011

Farmers Market Etiquette

Enfant Rouge Farmers Market Paris France

Tables of fresh lettuce all in a beautiful, towering stack, bundles of radishes still damp from their morning under the faucet, wooden quart boxes overflowing with ripe, red, fragrant strawberries, globes of fresh mozzarella cheese and jars or jewel colored jams are just a hint of what we find at the Farmers Market each week.  It's also a large part of Four Corners Creamery and Prochaska Farms weekly work load. 
Les Halles Farmers Market, Paris France

There is something special about the Farmers Market, a way to connect a person to the food we eat, a sense of community, the anticipation and surprise of what we might find to take home this week and for me personally, a bit of mystery as to what we will be eating fresh this week!
Saline Tuesday Evening Farmers Market Saline Michigan

I thought I'd share a few insider tips on how to make the Farmers Market vendors your very best friends and get the best selections for the week!

  • TRUST; trust that your vendor is bring the very freshest, ripest,  finest product he has to offer!  Look for the busiest vendors, they usually have a good reputation that you can build on.  Ask them to pick the "best" of the selection for your and they gladly will! 
  • KNOWLEDGE; know approximately what should be in season and what to expect this week.  All climates are different and unlike the grocery store, farmers will have only what they have grown and is ripe that week.  
  • QUESTIONS; Be clear when asking questions about pesticide use, production, handling etc, and be conscience of the farmer's time as Farmers Market hours are usually limited.  Often you can ask to visit the farm or facility if you'd like more information. 
  • BAGS; I always bring at least 2 bags; one for dry stuff and one for wet stuff.  I never take the wooden or plastic boxes on display, they are too bulky and cost the farmer.
  • TOUCHING; I just don't do it!  This is not the grocery store that has product and produce sitting on the shelves for weeks.  Fruits and vegetables are picked ripe and sold in a short time from the farmer.  Customers handling them for 6 hours will ruin tomatoes, berries, lettuce etc.  Cheeses and breads are also fragile, not to mention, do I want to purchase food that 100 people have had their hands on that morning?  I expect the best and if I don't get it, I won't buy from that particular farmer again.
  • NEGOTIATING;  I have read many articles in magazines encouraging negotiating/asking for a price break with farmers and am always flabbergasted at this notion.  I feel as the value for the asking price is always very fair, if not downright cheap.  The cost involved in getting a farmer to market is quite extensive; labor to pick and wash, cost of space at the market, gas in driving large trucks full of product, time and extras like bags, signs, etc. Also, depending on the availability of produce, the farmer is competing with everything from backyard gardeners to huge stores like sams club.  There is no level playing field in farming.  If I come across the last head of napa cabbage, I am giddy that I got there before it was gone for the week!  I don't ask for a discount.  I'm not sure where people got the idea that it's acceptable to bargain with a farmer over a 50 cent pepper or $3 watermelon....Would your employer ask you for a discount on or negotiate your paycheck?  It's the same concept.  Walking 10 feet in a farmer's shoes has me gladly paying $3 for a quart of fresh strawberries.
  • ENJOY YOURSELF; The Farmers Market is the one place you can really have fun with food, enjoy the weather & your community.  You can bring your dog (check out this gal dressed up) and your  children, ride your bike and have a coffee and a multitude of tasty treats!  You can feel great about shopping locally and bring home a beautiful bouquet!      
We really love bringing Four Corners Creamery cheeses to many farmers markets in the area and have met so many lovely people, we feel very grateful that they purchase from us each week and enjoy what we make for them!  I think it's particularly special that they have chosen our cheese for their supper table.  It's being there in spirit!
Main Street Farmers Market loot! Blissfield Michigan

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