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Ohio is thawing out after another long winter. Being outside doesn’t require wearing 20 layers of clothing and everything is turning from brown to green. That warm up also means local produce can be a thing.
Farmers markets are one the best places to find an awesome selection of locally grown fruit and veggies (and more!). They’re great for three reasons:
Here are some tips that will take you from newbie to pro at the farmers market, and a list of markets where you can test your skills:
1. Bring your own reusable bags. Some vendors will have bags… others will not. When you’re buying a bunch of carrots here and cantaloupe there, it’s easier to have one sturdy bag to carry everything in. Bonus points for environmentally conscious reuseable bags.
2. Carry Cash. In the realm of cash, small bills and quarters are even better. Most stands will have a way to take a card, but don’t make a vendor swipe for that zucchini that only costs 75 cents (vendors typically pay a small fee or percentage of every transaction). When markets get crowded and hectic, cash is faster and easier.
3. Go early for the best selection. Getting there early means first pick of the best produce. It also means no fighting over the last quart of strawberries. Go early, get it done and you’ve still got the whole day ahead of you (most markets are Saturday mornings).
4. Stock up on more than produce. You’re probably thinking stall after stall of produce when you hear farmers market, but the outdoor markets typically have the goods for a whole meal. Look for local meats and cheeses. You can also find staples like eggs, artisan breads, jams, salsas and honey. While you’re at it, pick up a bunch of flowers for your lady.
5. Develop some sort of meal plan / game plan. Everything is going to look awesome and you will want to buy it all. Be reasonable about what you will and won’t eat. Do some light meal planning and take stock of your fridge before heading out. This will keep you from buying a whole bunch of unnecessary stuff. Spoiled produce means wasted money.
6. Talk to the vendors. Vendors are a wealth of information. Ask them about cooking and storage techniques. Learn more about their farming practices. Or, get a heads up on what produce they might have available through the season.
7. Be prepared for a crowd. A lot of farmers markets will be a flurry of activity – family friendly activity. Strollers will abound. There will be dogs, too. It’s ok to bring the pup but make sure he is on a leash, can handle crowds and does ok around kinds. If not, leave him home.
8. Use it as an opportunity to check out a new neighborhood. Many of the neighborhood markets like Clintonville, Worthington and Grandview are smack in the middle of the area’s most high-traffic streets lined with local sops. Pop in and out of the surrounding shops and see what you find.
written for Cliff Original by Susan Post