10 Questions You Should Be Asking at the Farmers Market
Did you know Michigan has the second most diverse agriculture industry in the country? Farmers here grow more than 300 different crops and commodities!
That means a trip to one of Michigan’s many farmers markets can be a great way to stock up on a huge variety of fruits and vegetables. But just because something is sold from a stall doesn’t mean it’s necessarily organic, hormone-free or even local. With that in mind, here are 10 questions to ask when shopping at your local market to make sure you’re buying what you think you are.
- Where is your farm or kitchen located? One of the best things about getting groceries from the market is that the fruits and vegetables are grown locally in Michigan, but it’s important to double-check. Typically, items are considered local if they are produced within 100 to 150 miles of you.
- Do you grow or raise this? Certain markets are “producers only” markets, meaning they don’t allow resale, but others aren’t. There are some vendors who buy wholesale items and resell them as if they were their own.
- Is this organic? If they are not certified organic, ask them if they use any pesticides or chemicals on their produce. Many times you’ll find organic farmers that happen to not be certified (the certification process can be very expensive). This isn’t a bad thing, since you usually can buy the produce for a fraction of the certified-organic price.
- What produce are you spraying with pesticides and chemicals? Some produce absorbs chemicals more than others. As an example, strawberries have tons of pores and absorb the pesticides and chemicals easily.
- What is this? One of the best parts about attending a farmers market is chatting with the people who grow the food and finding healthy ingredients you can prepare at home. If you see an item that is unfamiliar, ask about what makes it so tasty—you just might discover a new favorite food.
- How can I cook this? Have you ever seen an odd piece of produce and asked yourself, “I wouldn’t even know what do with that?” The farmers usually know several different ways you could prepare an item, which can inspire some great new recipes. Be sure to ask how to use the greens attached to root vegetables — for example, carrot tops are great for pesto — and how to prepare different cuts of meats.
- When was the fruit or vegetable picked? If it’s been more than 24 hours, you might want to pass. You can probably keep looking and find something that was picked the evening before or even the same morning.
- What is selling for the best price? Yes, farmers markets are a great experience, but they’re also a place for great deals! Farmers know the going rate for items so ask them what the best deal of the day is and stock up.
- Can I try a sample? If they say they have the best peaches in the market, ask for a taste. It’s great to see if you like them before you buy 10 for $5.
- Do you need help? If you’re really interested in learning where your food comes from or want to pick up a few tips for your own garden, ask if the farmer needs an extra hand one weekend. They may be more than happy to have some help with their next harvest.
For more about the amazing Michigan farmers market scene, check out these other blogs:
- Michigan’s Best Farmers Markets
- Campus Fresh: College Town Farmers Markets in Michigan
- Farmers Markets Can Grow Communities
Photo credit: Elizabeth Hudy