Wednesday, November 18, 2009

10 Questions to Ask at a Farmers Market

From the naked eye shopping at a farmers market can seem like a dream come true for the health conscious consumer- but without the proper tools to maneuver the market you may find yourself with produce that is no better than that on your grocery store shelves.

I always encourage clients to eat organic and buy local and luckily with growing trends and an increasing demand, the availability of farmers markets and organic foods have become more prevalent. Though it sounds easy on paper, how do you shop at a farmers market?

Thanks to Sue Kocab, an Organic Farmer from Cedar Ridge Farm in Rhode Island, I have a few tips that will help you figure out how to buy at a farmers market.

10 Questions to Ask the Farmers

  1. Is the market certified?
    1. Answer-You want a market to be certified so that it has to abide by certain guidelines that are designed by the state to keep your food safe. (Not all states have certification)
  2. Where is the certification posted?
    1. Answer-You want your farmers market to be certified and for it to be visible. If you are not certain you can call and verify with the state.
  3. If it’s not a certified farmers market, (and they do exist)- did the farmer or seller grow the food?
    • Answer- if the farmers market is not certified you want to know that the farmer grows his own produce.
    1. If the farmer did not grow the produce they are selling, where does it come from?
      • Answer- though it may not be from that farmer you still want it to be grown locally.
      1. Is the produce they are selling in your area in season?
        • Answer- If it isn’t you may not want to buy it, because they probably got it from somewhere else, which means it may not taste as good as it should.
        1. Is the farmer certified organic?
          • Answer-You always want to see the certifications. Farmers work really hard to get it, and you are paying extra for organic, so be sure they are legitimate.
          1. If they are not organic certified but they follow a lot of the guidelines ask how often they use pesticides?
            • Answer- It is always good to be aware and, typically you want a farmer that sprays occasionally rather than regularly.
            1. What produce are they spraying with pesticides and chemicals?
              • Answer-Some produce absorbs it more than others. For example: strawberries have tons of pores and absorb the pesticides and chemicals more than other fruits and vegetables.
              1. What is selling for the best price?
                • Answer-They’re usually aware of what is the best buy and can help you figure it out.
                1. What tastes the best right now?
                  • Answer- Again, they will know and are willing to help you. If you aren’t sure, ask if you can have a sample.

                  Bottom line- if you are not sure, ask.

                  With the answers to these questions you can ask yourself, “Do I want to buy this produce?”

                  *All states are different and there is No nationwide regulations or certification.

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