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10 Tips for Shopping Local Farmers’ Markets

(1)    Arrive early. The best produce sells first and it allows you time to visit a second Birmingham market if you are not pleased by produce at the first. It’s also much cooler!!

(2)    Bring reusable bags. While vendors have plastic bags on hand, the produce can become heavy.  It is far more comfortable to simply carry a canvas bag over your shoulder than several plastic bags in your hands (and, of course, the environmental benefits are important).

(3)    Wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen. While the comfortable shoe note goes without saying, I have often forgotten to pack or put on sunscreen when departing at 8am.  The sun can become quite strong early and you inevitably stay a little longer than planned.

(4)    Cash.  While some vendors accept credit or checks, cash is the most preferred and quickest form of payment.

(5)    Bring a cooler. If you plan to run additional errands before heading home and if you purchase meat or eggs, you’ll be thankful to have a cooler on-hand.  Cars become so hot in the summer that fresh vegetables can be harmed if left in the car during a soccer game or additional shopping.

(6)    Produce schedule. I love this produce schedule to let me know (a) what I can expect to see at the market and (b) what should be at its peak.

(7)    Plan Ahead. Just like the grocery store, make a list before the market to support your meal planning. This is especially helpful when determining quantity.  (I’ve returned home several times without enough peaches for my peach cobbler recipe.) Don’t be afraid to buy something spontaneously and try it – honestly, I think that’s the real gift of a farmers market.

(8)    For the kids. Stroller (also becomes a nice grocery cart if child insists on walking), hat or sunglasses, cup or juice box, snack.  Bonus: colors or coloring book with vegetables/fruit.  Use the trip to the farmers market as a ‘teaching moment’ and allow the kids to practice their colors, interact with the farmers and, most importantly, pick out a vegetable. My kids always eat the vegetable that THEY picked up at the market.

(9)    Meet a friend. Farmers Markets in Birmingham also boast many entertainment opportunities such as live music, chef demonstrations, kids’ activities and more.  Grab a friend and turn it into a social event.

(10)Support Sponsors. Birmingham’s markets exist, in some cases, because of generous sponsors.  Take a look at the list of sponsors and support them.

The list and schedule for the 2012 Birmingham Farmers Markets.