Guest Author - Jason Hodge
Your local farmer's market is a wonderland of ideas, experiences and 'how to' tips. It's a place where you can not only learn a lot, but you can taste a lot as well. When you're trying to discover a new direction for your culinary adventures try striking up a convo with an attending farmer. Here's what you should know.
1. If you have a particular item that you simply love, don't play the hit and miss game, instead, find out from them when your favorites are going to be in season and where the best places to get them would be. Ideally you wouldn't ask an apple farmer for another apple farmer's produce, but you could definitely ask them where the best mint farmer is. This way you're not having them market their competition to you, you're having them refer a complementary vendor that will, along with them, help you to complete your most sought after recipes.
So ask them..."Where can I get the best...?"
and you'll be sure to get a great answer.
2. Ask them about the history of their farming and the methods they use to get their produce to market. Do they use chemical fertilizer? Do they spray pesticides? When did they pick the produce they're trying to sell you?
If they can't answer or don't want to answer, you pretty much have your answer.
Move along. It's probably not a farmer you want to buy from anyway. I tend to only go to farmers that I can communicate with, who take pride in what they do and have a love for what they're doing. If they don't have that, you can pretty much bet the farm on the fact that they're just interested in their bottom line, not yours. This could translate out to shortcuts and cheap, shoddy farming practices. Not something you want on your dinner plate. So make sure they are at least as dedicated to creating their product at the highest possible level as you are at purchasing it.
3. For goodness sake, get there early. There's nothing more depressing than going to a farmer's market only to find marginal wilted produce that's been picked over, disheveled and damaged by the elements of the day's visitors. So get their early, see what you want, make your selections and have your farmer put them aside for you. My wife and I make it a point to get to know our farmers and we have a system of making our rounds to see who has the great 'whats' before we start collecting our goods. We start out at one end of the market, and just like a high speed shopping spree we peruse the booths eyeballing what's there for the taking. If we are so compelled to make a reservation on a succulent 'this' or a perky 'that' then we make our move immediately and have the farmer hold it until we get back. This is all determined by the traffic and the potential of the produce being absent if we don't put it on hold then. Once you get to know your farmers you'll become a seasoned farmer's market pro and you'll graduate into the next phase of market guru-ism.
4. Make your request known In this phase you've gotten to know your local farmers, they've gotten to know and trust you and you can now start asking them to pick and hold produce aside for you. This is when you've graduated to the big leagues. This takes all the guesswork out of your process and will shorten your market time, shaving off all the fat. When you reach this point, you're able to show up at the market and just hand over your money and pick up your produce already bagged and ready to go. I love this part!
So remember... Get to know where your produce is coming from. Learn about the farmer's growing practices. Ask the questions that most interest you about your selections. Get there early. Make friends with your farmers. And last but not least... Make your request known.
The more you practice this the more friends you'll make in the farming industry, the more you'll learn, the more you'll get and the happier and healthier you'll be.
For more information or to have one of your questions answered, drop me a line, stop by my forum, join my Vegetarian Resource Newsletter and definitely stay tuned in as I bring you more articles to help you effortlessly achieve your best, health, well being and wholeness throughout the life of your diet.
As always it's been great sharing with you. Until next time...