Farmers Market Guide – Beginner’s Edition

Hey There,

I can’t believe it’s almost August. Summer is almost over y’all. Where did the time go? I mean we were just praying for it to get warm and now it’s almost time for it to cool down again.

While we have a few more weeks left of summer I want to share with you all my love for the farmer’s market. Prior to this summer I had never been to a real farmer’s market. Crazy, I know, but growing up the farmer’s market just wasn’t a place that we went. We got most of our produce from the grocery store and every once in a while, we would stop by the Pole Green Farmer’s Market (it’s more of a farm stand) in Mechanicsville and pick up a thing or two.

This summer I really wanted to start taking advantage of the markets in the RVA area. There are so many! I started with the Lakeside Farm’s Market and then worked my way up to the South of the James Market. Honestly, I think I was a little intimidated to go to the market. I had “attempted” to go to the South of the James Market once and it was so crowded and there were so many vendors and I didn’t know where to begin. This summer I decided that I was going to give it a second try. Honestly, I’m now hooked.

I go almost every weekend and just roam and pick up things that I need for the upcoming week. The atmosphere is always so causal and relaxed and it’s really nice just to be out and about. As great as the markets are now, I know that they are going to be even better in the fall. I mean, what can be better than casually strolling through the market with good coffee on a cool crisp morning!?!?!? Ummm….nothing! I can’t wait! But until then, I’m stocking up on all of the great fresh summer produce they have to offer.

Now, if you’re new to the world of farmer’s market like I was, you may be slightly intimidate or apprehensive about going. Honestly, there is nothing to be wary of. But just to get you started, here are 10 tips that I think are helpful for any beginner market shopper.

  • Walk Around the Entire Market Before Making Your First Purchase.– Resist the urge to buy from the first vendor whose stall you stop by. Often, there are other vendors who are selling the same goods at a better price or who have better quality items. Also you want get a lay of the land and see everything that the market has to offer before you dive in head first and start buying things.
  • Don’t Be Put Off by the Higher Prices – Yes, the prices are the farmer’s market are higher than those at commercial grocery stores but the quality and variety of the produce is usually better. Also, understand that the money you spend at the market, goes directly to the farmer or vendor. Support local businesses!
  •  Don’t Be Afraid to Buy or Try “New” Produce – One of the best parts of the market is that there is such variety. Often farmers have special or rare varieties of produce that you can’t find in commercial grocery stores. Take advantage and challenge yourself to buy a new or different variety of fruit or vegetable each time you go. Just last week I bought a yellow watermelon for the first time.
  • Bring A List – Make a list of everything you hope to get from the market. Sometimes the choices at the market can be overwhelming so it’s helpful if you have a list. A list keeps you on track and helps to keep you from overbuying.
  • Bring Your Own Bags – Any type of sturdy canvas or lightweight bag is perfect for the market. You want to make sure that even when your bag is packed full with your market finds, it is still be easy to carry. Also, if you will be buying frozen goods from the market (especially during the summer months) consider bringing an insulated bag.
  • Dress Comfortably – I know that this sounds like a no-brainier but it is so important especially in the summer time. Make sure you have on shoes that you can walk in! The first time I went to the market I wore my “cute” sandals and before I could make it to half of the vendors my feet were on fire. I learned my lesson that first time and from then on I have worn sneakers or my Nike sandals.
  • Bring Water!! – It’s a good idea to carry a water bottle with you when at the market. Especially in the summer when it is blazing hot, having water can be a lifesaver. Some vendors do sell water but why pay for a bottle of water when you can bring your own.
  • Show the Non-Food Vendors Some Love – Although most people go for the food, a lot of great local businesses set up tables at the market. The farmer’s market is a great place to find one of a kind items (pottery, soaps art work, etc.) and to discover small local vendors.
  • Bring Your Appetite – Often farm’s markets will feature food trucks or local restaurants, or there will be vendors selling breakfast and lunch items. Try the food!
  • Talk To The Vendors – Strike up a conversation with the vendors whenever possible. Everyone at the market is there to sell a product so they are more than willing to tell you everything you want to know about an item.  They are the experts when it comes to what they are selling! They can be a great resource for recipes and new tricks and ways to prepare an item.  

If you are a frequent market shopper or if you are planning to visit your first farmer’s market, let me know all about your experience. I’d love to know what your favorite market in the RVA area is.

Until Next Time!

Samantha J.

Lakeside Farmer’s Market Haul
South of the James Market Haul
South of the James Market Haul

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