Best questions to ask at the farmer’s market

Who doesn’t love going to a farmer’s market on a Saturday morning and coming home with a plethora of beautiful local fruits and vegetables? But are you sure they are local? Are you sure you got the best bang for your buck as far as cost and what produce will taste the best? I know I’ve gone to the farmers market countless times only to come back spending more money than I wanted to and finding out little about the actual food.

There is no better way to find out everything you need to know about the produce (or meat) you are buying at the farmer’s market than from the mouth of the farmer. Don’t be shy! Ask the farmer or vendor at the farmer’s market some of these helpful questions to guide you to the best purchases of fruits and vegetables. By asking these questions, you enrich your own farmer’s market experience by learning more about your food and the farming involved with producing it.

What is selling for the best price?

I think it’s fair to say, we have all come home from a farmer’s market with far too much produce and spent more money than we intended too. But the produce is all so beautiful, right? Right. If you are working on a budget, ask the vendor which produce is selling for the best price. They are running a business too so they should give a you straight shot answer.

When was the fruit or vegetable picked?
No one wants to go home with fruits or vegetables that start rotting the next day. We want the freshest of the fresh depending on how we plan to consume the produce. If it was harvested over >48 hours ago, you may want to shop around and ask other farmers if they have harvested within the last 24 hours.

What produce are you spraying with pesticides or chemicals? Is it organic?
If pesticides and/or chemicals are a big concern for you, don’t be afraid to ask the vendor or farmer which produce do they spray or are they certified organic? This may help guide which produce you purchase. For example, you may gear more towards fruits or vegetables that don’t have edible skin if standard pesticides are used (i.e. bananas or oranges).

How can I cook this?
Variety in consumption of fruits and vegetables is key to great health. But often we are too scared to try something new or have no idea how to cook or prepare it. If you’re looking to try a new fruit or vegetable from the farmer’s market, the farmer is likely the best person to ask what it’s best served with or how to prepare it. Ask if you can try a sample!

Where is your farm located or are you a wholesale market?
Many of us shop at farmer’s markets because we love the idea of supporting local farmers and businesses. However, just because someone is standing behind a table selling produce, doesn’t always mean they are a local farmer. Vendors can be just as knowledgeable, but some travel for larger wholesale companies selling other people’s produce, which does not equate to supporting local business.

Do you need an extra hand?
If you are really eager to find out more about farming or how their farming is done, ask them if they need a free hand sometime. This may be an invaluable experience for truly understanding farm-to-table in West Michigan.

-EAW