A Farmers Market Guide: Maximizing Your Shopping Trip
From Detroit’s massive, beloved Eastern Market, to the small community markets that dot the metro area on weekends, to the farm stands you pass as you drive up-North, southeast Michiganders have a plethora of options for buying local produce during the growing season (late spring through early fall).
Whether you’re a rookie or a regular at your local farmers market, registered dietitian Julie Fromm has advice for you. She spends a lot of time in markets doing cooking demonstrations, teaching the community about healthy eating and shopping for her own family this time of year.
Why Shop at a Farmers Market?
There are plenty of reasons why buying food at a farmers market is a smart idea, according to Fromm.
- The produce is locally grown and in season. That means the food hasn’t traveled far to get to your plate and it will be at its peak of freshness — full of all its nutrients and with a longer shelf life.
- Buying directly from growers means you have the opportunity to talk to them about their product. They know it best! “They can give you ideas for how to prepare or eat a certain fruit or vegetable, especially if it’s not something you are very familiar with or have never tried before,” says Fromm. “Most growers will let you try a sample of their produce if you ask.”
- You’re helping the local food economy. Your dollar will go to support local growers or food entrepreneurs and is a great way to participate in community-building.
- You’ll save money. Buying directly at a farmers market is usually a very affordable option. There is no grocery store middleman who needs to upcharge you on that zucchini and no travel costs for shipping those blueberries to you. That keeps prices low.
How to Plan for Your Shopping Trip
To make the most of your farmers market trip, planning is key.
- Assess your needs. Before you head out the door, take some time in your own kitchen. Check out what you’ve got in the pantry or fridge and what you’d like to use up in the coming week for meals so you have an idea of what you need to buy.
- Be realistic. Think about your schedule for the coming week and how much time you will have to cook and prepare the produce you buy. The low cost of the produce doesn’t save you much in the long run if you end up not using it and having to throw it away.
- Bring what you need with you. Namely, your own shopping bags and cash (especially small bills) since many vendors may not accept credit or debit cards. (Although some will accept card payments, including those from food assistance programs.)
- Scope it out. When you arrive at a farmers market, make a lap around the entire market once to check out what’s available and compare prices between vendors before buying. Once you start going to a certain market regularly, you will get to know which vendors are there each week and you can even develop a relationship with certain farmers. You’ll know who to trust for the best product and prices.
- Make it easy to use what you bought. Once you get home, take a little time to prep what you bought for easier weekday meals or snacking. Wash it. Chop it. Put it out in a bowl. Whatever you need to do to make it more likely that you and your family will use what you bought. “Another key thing is to clear out your fridge and make room for the fresh food when you get it home,” says Fromm. “Having the fresh ingredients in the front and easy to get to means you will be more likely to see them and eat them.”
Most importantly, bring an open mind! A farmers market is a great place to be inspired by fresh fruits and vegetables and for you – and your kids – to try new things.
Visit Henry’s Market on Main at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital every Wednesday, June 5 through Nov. 20, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The market provides the community an opportunity to purchase fresh, locally grown produce. Additional fare includes baked goods, herbs, honey, flowers, seedlings and products made at Henry’s, the hospital’s café. Chefs will demonstrate how to prepare dishes with ingredients grown in the hospital’s greenhouse – with free samples. The market accepts cash, credit, S.N.A.P. and Project Fresh coupons.
Julie Fromm, R.D., is a community dietitian with Henry Ford’s Generation With Promise program, which focuses on empowering youth and families in the community to increase their consumption of healthy foods and physical activity.