Why You Should Ask Questions At Farmers’ Markets
This week my farmers market opened up! I was quite surprised to find tomatoes at my market. Tomatoes are not in season in my area right now, so of course I had some questions!
This brings up an important topic! You should always ask questions at your local farmers markets!
As I browsed through my farmers market for the first time this season, I was very pleased to notice that there really wasn’t a lot of produce out yet.
You ask, why would that excite me? Simple! I live in Wisconsin, and crops just aren’t ready for harvest quite yet. Does that mean that I can’t get anything at my farmers market? No! I ended up with four bags full of wonderful goodies.
The reason I love farmers markets so much is that you are supporting your local farmers and you are shopping in season. What I get early on in the season will be totally different from what I get in the summer months.
Right now I should be looking for cool weather crops in my area. So when I stumbled upon these wonderful tomatoes (a warm weather crop), I had some questions for the farmer.
Doing Some Investigating Work
My first question was how did you grow these and then my second question was are these local? You might think that is a strange question to ask at a local farmers market, but it is not.
Last year I went to this farmers market stand. I often saw a lot of cars at it so I thought why not stop, I am always looking for new farmers markets. When I went up to the stand it looked like a grocery store to me. There were warm weather crops, cool weather crops and all sorts of items that I didn’t typically see at my local farmers markets!
So before I even browsed, I walked up to the attendant and asked if the fruits and vegetables were all local? I was quite surprised when he said no, that most of the items were imported from other countries. What?!? But your sign says “Fresh Local Farmers Market!”
There was nothing fresh, nothing local and it certainly was not a farmers market, it was just a glorified grocery store claiming to be a farmers market. So I got my girls back into the car, (“Mom, why aren’t we buying some yummy vegetables??”) and told my girls that this wasn’t a farmers market and that we would find another one.
Questions To Ask At Farmers’ Markets
That experience was an eye opening moment for me! At that point, I knew that questions needed to be asked!
Here is a list of questions I typically ask at the farmers markets.
- Are they local and do you grow these yourself?
- Are they organic? If they are not certified organic, do you use any pesticides or chemicals on your produce? A lot of times you will find many farmers practice organic farming, they just aren’t certified. That isn’t such a bad thing…usually you can buy the produce for a fraction of the certified organic price.
- Is this genetically modified? Do you feed your animals genetically modified food?
- What are your animals fed? Do they eat grass? How are they raised (free range, grass fed, wild)
- Is your cheese raw? Is your dairy raw?
- Always read ingredients! My girls and I were so excited to find some popcorn that was not genetically modified. We were just about to purchase a bag of fresh, hot popcorn but when I glanced at the ingredients, they popped their popcorn in soybean oil! Ugh! So I bought a bag of the kernels and took it home an made a batch for my girls. 🙂
- A good rule of thumb for me is If it seems to good to be true, then most likely it is! Start asking open ended questions and do a little detective work.
- Ask your farmers for recipes. I purchased my first pound of ground elk hamburger. I asked the guy selling it to me if he knew of any good ways to prepare this elk? He pulled out two recipes for me to try!
- If you don’t know what it is, ask! Farmers typically enjoy sharing information with you. They work hard to bring you this food!
So What About Those Tomatoes?
So lets get back to my tomatoes that I found at my farmers market that were out of season. They were indeed grown locally.
My next question was how did you grow them? They had a full greenhouse where they were able to create the perfect climate to grow tomatoes a bit out of season.
My final question was were they grown without chemicals? Yes, they were grown with no chemicals at all! Perfect! So here we are with a non seasonal item that passed my series of questions!
So I purchased these 3 tomatoes and made this delicious marinated trio tomato salad. It was absolutely delicious!
So head on out to your local farmers markets to find some terrific food, crafts and unusual finds!
- Chop tomatoes and cilantro and place in a medium bowl.
- In a small bowl mix together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Italian seasoning, and the unrefined sea salt. Mix well until vinegar and oil are well combined.
- Pour dressing over tomatoes and allow to marinate for at least and hour at room temperature.
Top image credit: Ocean Beach San Diego