Farmers market season is about to come into full effect in Vancouver (and beyond) and I'm uber excited!! For whatever reason I'm not the best at attending the winter markets, but once the late spring hits I'm getting all my produce from them.
For me it's all about the trifecta: local, organic produce that's in season. It's fresh, accessible, sustainable, and, most importantly, delicious. What more could you ask for?
Before market season begins, take a moment to set yourself up for market success. There's a way to do farmers markets. Let's take a look at what I mean.
BEFORE THE MARKET
Markets typically only happen once a week, so be sure to check your local listings online to know when yours is happening. If you're anything like me, you'd hate to miss it and have to wait another week! Put it in your calendar as a recurring event and plan to attend on a weekly basis. This may mean reorganizing your grocery schedule so it becomes one of your weekly pit stops for produce.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Each market is different and not all vendors are regulars. Get to know who'll be attending your markets regularly and who will only be there once every other week or once a month. Research the ones who seem interesting in advance of attending the markets. Get to know what they produce and what they're known for. This will help you plan the rest of your grocery shopping around markets.
PLAN TO PREP
Some things like lettuces are available throughout the season, while others like strawberries have a much shorter harvest. Once you know something's in season, prepare to buy it in bulk and find ways to use them in various meals, canning and jarring so they don't spoil, and so you can enjoy them for a longer time period throughout the year.
AT THE MARKET
GET THERE EARLY
The early bird gets the best pick of produce! Farms can only bring so much stock to market, so if you want the goods you gotta get there early! I find the first hour is typically the best time to go, because not only do you get your pick, but it's not as busy.
KNOW WHAT YOU'RE BUYING
If organic is important to you, look for an organic certification posted at each booth. If local is important to you, ask the vendor where they're from. If it's freshness you're after, ask when the food was harvested and whether it was preserved at all before being brought to market.
KNOW WHAT'S IN SEASON
This should be obvious by what's available at the market. Though, sometimes it's nice to get a leg up on other people and plan to attend when the good stuff's available. Talk to your farmers and ask them what they'll be bringing next week or the week after, or if there's something you're hankering for, ask them when it's due and when to expect it at the market. Mark your calendar...you don't want to miss it!
STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
If you see something available that you just have no clue what it is, ask. Typically a farmer will be able to tell you what it is and how to use it. Try buying one new piece of produce a week, in a small amount to start, and expand your palate a bit. Have some fun!
THINK ABOUT A MARKET MEMBERSHIP
Some farmers markets offer a membership option, where for a small annual fee you can support the market and receive discounts on your purchases. I'd recommend this if you frequent the same market every week, but it may not be worth it if you're not a regular.
We complain and complain about the crappy weather all year round, so let's be sure not to complain that we missed the farmers markets this year. Get out there, learn a thing or two and have fun doing it!