Farmers’ Markets

10 Tips For Visiting a Farmers’ Market in 2020

Quarantines, Zoom meetings, toilet paper shortages, staycations, etc., etc. Just a little over halfway through the year and it’s safe to say that 2020 has been an odd time with so many changes. But for all of the craziness of adjusting to life amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic, it really hasn’t been all bad. Thanks to the additional time spent together, a lot of couples and families are now closer than ever. Binge-watching six seasons of a show in two days is totally acceptable. Houses across the country are spotlessly clean. Honey-do-lists are officially done. And many of us have found (or re-discovered) the simple but oh-so-rewarding joy of making delicious home-cooked meals.

But if you’re going to really step-up your cooking game, you’ve got to start with the best and freshest ingredients. Luckily, Kentucky Proud Farmers’ Market are the place to do just that. At a Kentucky Proud farmers’ market, it’s easy to find the freshest fruits, vegetables, meats, and more, all locally grown and raised by Kentucky farmers. With more than 150 markets in 112 counties across the Commonwealth, it’s easier than ever before to locate a Farmers’ Market near you.

There’s no denying that Farmers’ Markets are awesome but shopping at a market is a bit different than a trip to your local grocery store. No matter if you’re a market newbie or a seasoned shopper, check out this list of tips to maximize your Farmers’ Market experience in 2020:

1. Pre-order from your Kentucky Proud Farmer’s Market: It’s true, you can pre-order fresh, Kentucky farm products from farm families near you online. While some vendors have offered pre-ordering for years, the coronavirus pandemic has amplified the number of pre-order options at Farmers’ Markets. Public health guidelines implemented in April and May by state and local governments added restrictions to in-person shopping and vendor staffing. Pre-ordering was great solution to allow farmers to keep selling their delicious farm goods. Even though many restrictions have now lifted, pre-ordering for many vendors was so successful that the option is likely here to stay. Search market websites and Facebook pages to locate vendor lists. Many market sites will have information about what their vendors offer and links to business pages that have pre-order options. It takes a bit of research, but if you’d rather browse from your couch than spend time shopping in-person, pre-order is a great option for you.

2. Cashless transactions are encouraged: Many Farmers’ Markets vendors encouraged customers to go cashless as a way to reduce contact during the pandemic. Avoiding hand-to-hand transactions through credit cards and Point of Sale machines meant many farmer’s markets invested in new technology so that they could accommodate public health. As a result, many more Farmers’ Market vendors now accept credit card payments (and you can avoid all of that jangling change in your pocket).

3. Keep a seasonal produce guide on hand to find the freshest food: One of the greatest perks of shopping at a Farmers’ Market is that you’re buying at the peak of freshness from local farmers. That means fewer miles from the farm to your dinner table and supporting your local community. But it also means that you’re going to be hard pressed to find strawberries in September or paw paws in June. Keeping a seasonal produce guide around is a great way to quickly see what’s available before your next market trip. Here’s a link to a Kentucky Seasonal Produce Guide.

4. Farmers’ Markets are about more than fruits and vegetables: It’s not just fruits and veggies at your Farmers’ Market. Many farm families have recipes for jams, jellies, breads, and butters that have been passed down from generation to generation that they are willing to share with your family. Not to mention fresh meats, eggs, flowers, herbs, cheese, ice cream, wine, and more. If variety is the spice of life, then Farmers’ Markets are extra spicy. Oh, and some markets sell spices too.

5. Ask your local farmers for recipes and prep tips for unfamiliar produce: Shying away from that weird looking kohlrabi because you don’t have a clue what to do with it? Ask vendors selling anything unfamiliar that has piqued your interest about prep tips and recipes. They grow or raise it so they’ll know what to do with it. All farmers are passionate about what they’re selling and eager answer questions, so don’t be shy. They may give you a new idea to liven up your next meal.

6. Arrive early to find the best selection: This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but for market newbies this may be the most important tip of all. The earlier you arrive at the market, the better the selection. Market vendors bring what they have to sell and when they run out, it’s gone. Just like your mom used to say, the early bird gets the worm! If you want to live a bit dangerously and potentially get a good deal, show up right before the market closes for the day. You may be able to find some great discounts – that is, if there are any products left at all.

7. Budget for spontaneous purchases: Sticking to a budget is important for all of us (unless you happen to have millions in the bank, in which case good for you and feel free ignore this tip). But when setting your weekly Farmers’ Market shopping budget, include a small portion for a spontaneous purchase or two. What’s available at a market can change from week to week and it’d be a shame to miss out on something really fun because it isn’t included in your budget.

8. Brush up on food storage tips: Did you know you can store fresh garlic in a dry location for 1 to 2 months or that sweet potatoes can be kept in paper bags in a cool room for 5 to 6 months? Knowing how long and where fresh foods can be stored will help keep you from wasting money and having to toss spoiled produce.

9. Bring large bags: Packing your favorite reusable bags for grocery runs is nothing new, but for trips to your local Farmers’ Market, bring bags big enough to fit all of your farm fresh purchases. Fresh-cut flower bouquets take up a fair amount of space as do a couple tomahawk steaks. Want to try your hand at baking a cushaw pie? You’re going to need a bigger bag (cheesy Jaws movie reference). Due to COVID-19 public health guidelines, many Farmers’ Markets are currently asking customers to not bring personal shopping bags. Please check with your market for details.

10. Plan the time of your trip to the Market: What’s worse than buying beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables, leaving them in your car while you run some other errands and then getting home only to find bags of wilted greens and mushy berries? Maybe trying to get the smell of rotten food out of your car! Both are tragic yet totally avoidable scenarios. Either make sure your market run is your last stop before heading home or load a cooler with some reusable icepacks to keep perishables chilled. Problem solved!

For a full list of Kentucky Proud Farmers’ Markets, visit: http://www.kyproud.com/farmers-markets/