Nick's Tips for Shopping Locally
Nick Evert coordinates the Goodland Farmers Market. Just miles from the Colorado border, the Goodland market averages seven vendors a week. He has some tips to share with you just in time for National Farmers Market Week.
In summer, living should be easy, but all too often, it’s not. Longer days seem not to provide leisure time—rather, more activities. With recent nation-wide incidences of food-borne illnesses and contamination, locally-produced food offers security. Unfortunately, safety isn’t provided in ways familiar to most consumers. Mega-retailers have conditioned consumers to forgo freshness and taste with the allure of convenience and marketing tricks. However, a couple minor changes will reward you with safe, wholesome and, most of all, great-tasting food.
The Goodland Farmers Market offers advice. Here’s what you can do:
- Bring your own bag.
- Your bag is the shopping cart at the farmers market. The neophyte can easily be spotted when he’s fumbling for a place to put just-purchased produce.
- Bring your own cooler. If you don’t plan on returning home directly, a frozen water bottle or two inside a cooler will preserve just-picked freshness. Remember a car parked in the summer sun is a death sentence for a vine-ripened tomato.
- Have cash in hand.
- Small bills and quarters are the easiest to have. You’ll likely make several transactions with vendors.
- Talk to vendors.
- Vendors can tell you when things come into season so that you can plan menus.
- They may even give you recipes and cooking tips.
- Building a relationship with a vender may even put something extra in your bag.
- Make the market an event.
- Plan your time. Mark your calendar and plan social time at the market. That way, you are less likely to forget items.
- You can buy in larger quantities for less cost and then split it with your friend.
- Websites such as localharvest.org will e-mail updates about their member markets.
- Don’t automatically expect cheap prices.Remember, you get what you pay for.
- Most vendors know the value of their product. This is not to say that shopping at farmers markets is expensive or that you can’t find good deals. Farmers markets allow producers to sell products directly to their customers at retail prices to the benefit of both parties.
- It’s not rude to ask a seller if s/he’s offering the best price, but expect offers for price reductions at larger quantities or at the bottom of bins.
- Store produce properly. Don’t let freshness go to waste.
- Unpack and inspect for damage; bruised produce will spoil more quickly.
- Carefully pack items that need refrigeration.
- High humidity often preserves freshness, but wet produce keeps poorly. Pat vegetables dry. Place a paper towel in a re-closeable plastic bag and nest the vegetables on the towel. Seal.
With a little planning you will reap the rewards of local bounty.