Making the Most of Your Farmers Market
Shopping at your local farmers market is one of the best ways to reconnect with your food and support those who seek to make healthy food available.
Not sure if there's a farmers market near you? LocalHarvest offers a public nationwide directory of small farms, farmers markets, and other local food sources.
Many farms offer consumers the opportunity to share in the upcoming produce season through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). By purchasing a share ahead of time you receive a designated portion of the fresh food each week. For more on CSAs and to find one in your area, visit LocalHarvest's CSA section.
New to farmers markets? Want to be sure you're purchasing high-quality food? Sustainable Table, a leading food advocacy group, offers valuable resources for making well-informed choices, including this list of questions taken from the downloadable handout General Questions to Ask a Farmer.
(To learn more about each specific type of farming and why you should be asking these questions, click on the category headings below.)
- Are your cows raised on pasture?
- Do you feed your cows anything besides grass and hay?
- How are your cows finished?
- If cows are finished on grain you should ask: How old are your cows when they're started on grain and how long are they fed grain?
- Are your cows finished in a feedlot? If so, how old are they when they enter the feedlot? Approximately how long are they there? How many other animals are in the feedlot at any given time?
- Are your cows ever given antibiotics?
- Are your cows ever given hormones, steroids or other growth promoters?
- How are your chickens/turkeys raised? On pasture, indoors, confined?
- How much time do your chickens/turkeys spend outdoors each day?
- What do you feed your chickens/turkeys?
- Are your chickens/turkeys ever given antibiotics?
- Are they given hormones, steroids or other growth promoters?
- Who grows the fruits and vegetables and where is the farm located?
- How big is the farm?
- Does the farmer use chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers on the crops?
- Is the farm a diversified operation, with many varieties of vegetables and fruits?
- Does the farm grow any heirloom varieties of fruits or vegetables?
- Are any of the fruits or vegetables genetically engineered varieties?
Sustainable Table also offers detailed questions for those shopping for products in the Dairy and Hogs categories.
Wondering what NOT to ask your local farmer?
Forrest Pritchard, author of the book Gaining Ground, offers a lighthearted yet informative answer in his article 4 Questions You Should Never Ask at Farmers Market.
Even if you don't come with questions, you'll enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, the delicious food, and the fun of supporting your local food growers.