8 Tips to Make the Most of Your Farmers Market Trip

A Saturday in the summertime just isn’t complete without a trip to the farmers market. Where else can you connect with your neighbors, friends, and farmers surrounded by fresh, locally grown foods?

Beyond the community comradery and good morning vibes, farmers’ markets are also a convenient way to buy local. Many markets require farmers’ market vendors and their products to come from within a certain distance of the market. For example, products at the Falls Park Farmers Market must be produced within 100 miles of Sioux Falls.

Farmers market vendor restocking produce.

Not all local farmers sell their crops at farmers’ markets, though. Local, domestic, and international sales are all important components of a thriving and sustainable food system, ensuring food and field crops can reach every corner of the world they’re needed. In fact, growing local food sometimes requires more energy than having it shipped from farms farther away that produce it more efficiently. It all depends on the crop, the season, the demand, and the farm.

Either way, there’s no doubt shopping at a farmer’s market is a fun way to support and connect with South Dakota farmers. Here are 8 tips to get the most out of your next trip.

South Dakotan shopping at the farmers market.

1. Plan Ahead

It can be hard to predict exactly what will be available but prepare a list of items you know you’ll use, keeping in mind what’s in season. You’ll likely stray a bit, but it’s good to have a starting point to keep your shopping focused. Be sure to bring cash as well as your own reusable bags!

Farmers market in South Dakota.

2. Time Your Arrival

Arriving early will ensure you get the best selection and help you beat the mid-morning crowd. However, going later could help you score some deals as farmers try to make their final sales and clear their stands.

South Dakotans at a local farmers market.

3. Take a Lap

Before you make any purchases, take a lap and see what each vendor has to offer. Size, quality, price, and availability will vary among them so take a few minutes to get a lay of the land before you dive in.

Fresh strawberries at the farmers market.

4. Pick Your Produce

We’re used to seeing perfect fruits and vegetables presented at the grocery store but produce at the farmers market may not be as flawless. Don’t be afraid of the ugly ones, they’re not any less nutritious or delicious! Focus instead on indicators of quality, avoiding anything with bruises, soft spots, or signs of spoilage.

Farmers market vendor chatting with a customer.

5. Ask Questions

Farmers’ markets provide a unique chance to ask questions about how food items are grown and raised. There’s no better expert than the farmer who grew it so don’t be nervous to ask away.

Local oyster mushrooms for sale at the farmers market.

6. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

You may stumble upon foods you’ve never seen before, so why not give them a try? Budget for a few unexpected purchases and don’t forget to look beyond produce for delicious baked goods, canned goods, and food truck fare.

Lettuce for sale at the farmers market.

7. Fight Food Waste

It can be tempting to fill your bags full and buy everything you see but be realistic about what you’ll truly use. Starting with a list will help, but also keep quantities in mind as you shop and think about what you could freeze for later. Once you get home, avoid waste by storing produce properly.

Farmers market customer holding fresh leaf lettuce.

8. Think Food Safety

Food safety should be top of mind both at the market and once you get home. Bring a cooler or insulated bag if you plan to buy cold items like meat or dairy products. Be sure to make the market your final stop so you can get your produce home and put it away as soon as possible. When you’re ready to eat, be sure to first give them a thorough rinse.

Ready to hit the market this weekend? Find one near you and take a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be a vendor with Dale Hebda of Hebda Farms and Kyle VanDerWerff of Skipping Stone Pizza.

Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.