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13 Secrets Farmers’ Markets Won’t Tell You

How to save money and get the freshest food possible—from the the people who grow it.

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It’s best to get here early

But if you can’t make it until later, what you’ll get is still fresher than any that’s been shipped to a supermarket, as most farmers pick produce the day of or day before its sold. In the case of perishable products, many bargains can be found at the end of the day. Here are secrets to save money at farmers’ markets.

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Many farmers depend on you to survive

Farmers count on the income from markets to get by; nearly all who participate in open markets run very small operations, and the profit margin is slim.

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If you spend $100 at a farmers’ market, $62 goes back into the local economy, and $99 out of $100 stays in the state

If you spend $100 at a grocery store, only $25 stays here. So, where do you want your money to go? Check out these secrets supermarkets won’t tell you.

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Not sure? Ask to taste before buying

Almost all farmers are happy to provide a sample.

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Please stop saying how expensive it is

Local farm products would sell for much more in any specialty store, where there would be additional overhead costs and markups.

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Farmers don’t do deals

With the very thin margins, the prices are often incredibly fair and there’s no room for bargaining. The best way to get a good deal? Be a consistent customer.

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It’s not really about retail sales

It’s about cultivating a relationship with people who are willing to spend a little bit more for something a whole lot better.

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Standing out in the summer sun is nice, but the job isn’t easy

Up early, loading trucks with heavy produce, being mindful of money, home late. Plus, when it rains, customers stay away and bad weather can easily damage products.

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Sometimes, produce vendors are only retailers, not growers

Ask questions if you think the vendor is a vegetable wholesaler, not a local farmer.

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Farmers care about where the products are coming from

Larger vendors may have a retail outlet, or be part of a franchise or chain business. Ask.

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You can’t get everything all the time

To offer the freshest, best tasting food at a reasonable price, you have to be patient with the farmers and their growing cycles. There are seasons when certain produce isn’t available (even in California). No peaches in January, sure, but even in some regions, no summer tomatoes until late July.

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Watch for buzzwords: natural, specialty, estate, artisan, local, and organic

Some farmers that will say their produce is organic, but in order to say that they must be certified by an organic agency, and undergo an inspection. You can always ask to see their organic certification. Most organic farmers are proud to display organic certification.

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The Internet has changed farm life for better

Customers from all over can keep connected to farm sites and Facebook pages, and can join mailing lists to hear about special crops, prices, CSA lists, and more.

Sources: Nancy Gammons of Four Sisters Farm and Watsonville Farmers’ Market, Ersilia Moreno owner of Olive Oil of the World, Adriana Silva owner of Tomatero Organic Farm, cowtownfarmersmarket.com, Mark Santoro owner of Gaia’s Breath Farm

Originally Published in Reader's Digest