I love farm market season.
It combines some of my favorite pastimes: Food, shopping and outdoor community activities. Nothing beats leaving work with my recyclable tote bags, or strolling over on a Saturday I have off, to my locally designated farmer’s market (usually in a large parking lot or similar public space) where I can peruse fresh produce, cheeses, bakery items, meats and more.
As a transplant from Ohio suburbs to a larger, more urban city like Pittsburgh, the ability to grow one’s own food is often a challenge. Container or creative gardening for smaller spaces often becomes the norm for most city dwellers with a green thumb. For those with little time or desire to grow their own food, but who still yearn to support local and steer clear of big grocery chains, a farmer’s market is the perfect solution.
The benefits of frequenting a farmer’s market are many: Fresh food (I’m talking food yanked right out of the ground or pulled straight from the branch to the table where it’s sold), pure ingredients, fair prices, the ability to support local businesses and farmers and so on.
Here are a few tips for navigating a farmers’ market, told by our friends in Philly:
Shopping at a farm market requires more patience and planning than a trip to the supermarket. Here are some tips to help you make the most of it.
- Take along various-size bags, including an insulated bag with a cool pack, so cheese, fish, meat or poultry can be safely transported. A market basket with a handle and with more room to spread items out horizontally will keep tender fruits like soft strawberries from getting smashed. A mason jar tucked in your basket with a few inches of water will keep flowers fresh.
- Each vendor has to be salesperson and cashier, and that can take time. Be mindful of how many folks are trying to pay for goods. Circle back during a lull to pick up the conversational thread, but don’t keep a farmer from making sales.
- Make the most of your trip. Arrive as close to opening as you can, when the variety is at its peak, and the farmers are too. Many of the growers pack their trucks before dawn and drive into the city just after sunrise. By midday, their produce isn’t the only thing flagging.
- If your neighborhood market is a late-afternoon affair, plan to stop between work and home for the freshest dinner salad or dessert.
In the City of Pittsburgh (and beyond), there are dozens of farm markets happening throughout the week. Good Food Pittsburgh put together an excellent list that I highly recommend! Who knows, you might even see a friendly librarian working a table (or just out for some fresh goodies!).
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Jess S. is a Teen Librarian at CLP – Main who enjoys fiber-arts or book-related crafts, experimenting with healthy-ish cooking and baking, spoiling two fat felines and listening to OverDrive audiobooks during walking adventures around the city. Her current book obsessions are mystery/thrillers, poignant-with-a-dash-of-funny memoirs, and graphic nonfiction (Main has a great collection!).