Farmers markets are a fun way to save money, eat healthy and support your local economy. In addition to produce, many markets feature cheeses, breads, salsas, jams and more. No matter where you are this summer, a farmers market is a great way to score delicious, affordable and local food. Here are some tips to make the most of your trip.
What to bring
Cash is generally the preferred and primary currency at most markets. While vendors may have card processors or mobile payment options, it is best to bring cash with you. Most markets will have an ATM or a market-specific currency available for purchase. For example, the Boulder Farmers Market offers “market bucks” for purchase with a debit or credit card. Market bucks can then be used with Boulder Farmers Market vendors.
It is also helpful to bring your own shopping bags. Bringing your own reusable bags helps farmers keep costs down and plastic out of landfills.
When to go
Most farmers markets happen regularly on specified days of the week. Vendors and items available may differ depending on the day you visit.
There are pros and cons when visiting a market early in the day or toward the end. If inventory has not sold out as the end of the market approaches, you may be able to score a discount. However, going early will ensure the availability of popular or limited items.
Shopping seasonal produce
Farmers come to markets with whatever is ripe and ready in their fields at the time. Available crops will vary by region, but here is a brief overview of what you might find:
- Expect leafy greens, peas, radishes and flowers early in the season.
- Tomatoes, zucchini, summer squashes, eggplants and green beans are common in July and August.
- Winter squashes, like butternut and pumpkin, appear late in the season. You might also see beets, corn and melons.
- Fruit crops begin with rhubarb in the spring and strawberries in June. Apples and pears will be available by fall.
Markets can offer produce that is not usually available in grocery stores. If you notice a vegetable or fruit you have not seen before, ask the farm staff about it. It could be a rare item or something new to try. Be on the lookout for purple green beans and peppers, lemon cucumbers and a wide variety of tomatoes. The farm staff may also have recommendations or printed recipes for preparing items new to you.
Sustainable Buffs is a series brought to you by the Environmental Center. Learn more sustainability tips and ways to get involved at colorado.edu/ecenter.