New to the farmers market scene? The top ten mistakes shoppers make.
This article in EcoSalon was written about California farmers markets but holds true for just about anywhere.
Many of the suggestions are pretty obvious – Don’t get there too late, bring your own bags (though many local market vendors provide them. Lots of people bring some sort of basket to carry things with, and you may find yourself buying more than you can comfortably carry. Remember, you’ll need to bring cash. Most markets don’t have any way to take credit cards, though you can frequently find a cash machine in the area if you hunt around.
Try to be adventurous with new produce and ask the farmers questions – I’ve learned about different varieties of produce that I would have never tried if the vendor hadn’t suggested them to me.
Veggies are usually cheaper than fruit. Don’t forget dairy products, such as eggs, fish, cheese and meat. All of these can be found here. Don’t bring pets – the Portland Farmers Market has outlawed them this year. Don’t try to negotiate – it’s not a flea market (though I’ve noticed prices sometimes drop at the very end of the day).
Finally, one rule I always follow. Walk the market first, taste what you can, look at what’s available and check the prices. Then go back and do your shopping.
This is just a brief summary of the post. There is a lot more to read here.
Actually, many farmers markets are now accepting credit cards and EBT cards. You just have to go to a special booth with your card to buy tokens. The vendors then treat the tokens as cash. It’s very convenient.
Frieda Lighthouse says
The last time I tried to buy tokens at the Hollywood market, I found out there is a $1.50 fee for the service. That’s a pretty steep percentage on smaller dollar numbers.
Food Dude says
That’s where I’m just lazy. Whenever I buy tokens, I end up with extras that end up getting lost. I’d rather just pay cash.
Most Portland markets also accept SNAP (food stamp) cards in exchange for tokens, and many offer an additional $5 credit per week for assistance recipients. From reading the Ecosalon post, I’d say we have it pretty good here, since most vendors are well-stocked on everything except the most esoteric goods, though coming at the very end of the market day you may find it a bit picked over. Debit/credit cards (as mentioned) are almost universally accepted at info booths and bags are readily available if you forget yours. The one caveat I’d add, and it’s one I’ve struggled with, is to not overbuy – the last thing you want to do is throw out produce because you got too enthusiastic. And if it’s not too tacky to mention it, I have a list of Portland metro farmers’ markets on my blog with hours, links and a map, and I’m working on getting a complete list for Oregon posted in the near future.
Allison Jones says
I always feel funny about tasting at the market. I’m at three markets a week, taking photos for PFM, and I always worry that vendors think people just walk around snacking like they’re at Costco. I suppose they put the samples out for a reason, but walking around trying things before I buy makes me a bit nervous. Just me?
Allison: Just you. Samples are there for a reason: to move product.
Frieda: Merchants such as a farmer’s market pay steep credit/debit card fees, even for “smaller dollar numbers”. Why don’t you cut a nonprofit org some slack?
I don’t think it’s uncool to try to negotiate if it’s the final few minutes of the market.
Food Dude says
I always taste if they have it set out specifically for that. I also find during the early hours, vendors will frequently just hand you something to taste.
Allison, as someone who has been on both sides of the table, feel free to try! Vendors put out samples so folks can taste their wares – whether it is trying them for the first time or trying different flavors or products to see which you prefer. And if you try something great, even if you can’t/don’t buy it, you can pass that info along, knowing with certainty that it IS great!
Michael M. says
FYI, the Kings Farmers Market matches EBT purchases up to the first $10, but I think it is the only market in Portland that goes that high. Others that match do it up to $5.
I don’t try to bargain, but I have found on several occasions that vendors will offer discounts for a variety of reasons. Last weekend one vendor knocked a few bucks off a package of ravioli because one or two pieces were chipped. Honestly, I wouldn’t even have noticed.
Al Cordle says
I am regularly amazed by the cheapos who feel the need to open every single ear of corn before making the 10 cent purchase.