How to make the most out of your next trip to the farmer’s market!
From: Polk County Public Health
The Statewide Health Improvement Program and local public health are working to make healthy choices easier in our communities.
Our communities shape our choices. That’s why we need communities, schools and workplaces that support healthy choices. Our children should have access to healthy choices in school. We all need access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
This week, we will discuss one way our communities support us in making healthy choices – by offering farmers’ markets.
With summer weather heading our way, access to fruits and veggies becomes easier as area farmers’ markets start their seasons. Farmers’ markets provide local residents an opportunity to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and food products directly from farmers, growers or producers. Locally grown products are picked fresh, brought straight to the market and sold by the growers themselves. If you want to know where your food comes from and be able to know how it is grown and who grows it, visit your local farmer’s market.
Are you interested in visiting a farmer’s market but you’re not sure where to start? Here are some tips to make your trip a success:
1. Go early or go late
Markets tend to be less crowded right when they open or just before they close, so for the best selection, go to the farmer’s market early. For the best deals, go to the farmer’s market late. Farmers and other vendors often prefer to discount their products instead of loading them back up and bringing them home.
2. Plan and prep ahead of time
Before you go to the market, plan some meals for the week where you will use the fresh produce. You don’t want those delicious fruits and veggies going to waste! Another helpful tip is to wash and cut up the produce you plan to eat raw as soon as you get home so that it’s ready for you when you want it.
3. Bring a cooler
Many markets often offer more than fruits and vegetables. You’ll find meats, eggs and ready-to-eat items that require refrigeration. If you plan to pick up food that requires refrigeration, bringing a cooler will help keep the foods that need to stay cold chilled, allowing you to go back to spending more time at the market.
4. Bring cash and small bills
By bringing cash and small bills (plenty of 5s and 1s), you’ll spend less time checking out and more time shopping. By bringing cash in small bills, you keep money in your farmer’s pocket and you make it easier for him or her to make change for the folks who bring only bring larger bills.
5. Buy by the case
If you want to keep eating local foods year-round, consider preserving the harvest and purchase by the case. Learn the lost art of preserving food. Freezing, canning and drying are just some of the ways you can save seasonal tastes you find at the farmers market for later in the year. Buying by the case and in bulk quantities is cost-effective as most farmers will discount whole boxes of fruit and vegetables.
6. Think “whole foods”
Although jams, pies, pastries, breads and other baked goods are fine to enjoy in moderation, think in terms of how food grows and comes to the farmer’s market without being processed first. Loading up on locally grown, nutrition-packed fruits and veggies will be money well spent.
7. Be open to new things
If you find a vegetable that’s new to you and want to give it a try, ask the farmer how to prepare it. For the best tips specifically ask how the farmer likes to eat it. This is a great way to introduce yourself and your family to new and different vegetables.
8. Keep it simple
You’re buying ultra-fresh produce when you shop at the farmer’s market, so let its natural flavor show when you cook it. Keep preparations simple. You’ll make cooking easier and you’ll be likely to try (and eat) even more local foods from the market next week.
For more information on farmers’ markets in your area and the Statewide Health Improvement Program, call Polk County Public Health at 218-281-3385. If you would like a Minnesota Grown Directory with a listing of all farmer’s markets in the region, please stop by the Polk County Public Health office.