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JCFM “Fresh Program” returns

By Sarah Ransom

The pantry is empty, and the refrigerator is bare. You know what time it is . . . time to shop for groceries. You can get groceries at any shopping center, but there is a great way to support your local farmers and get the freshest produce (as well as some other delicious treats).
To help you make the most of the farmers’ market shopping experience, here are some suggestions:
1. Arrive early, but not too early. For the best selection, be sure to arrive early to the farmers’ market. However, do not arrive too early. Many farmers’ markets have strict start times. Vendors may not be able to sell to you before the market officially opens.
2. Bring a bag. It is a good plan to bring a bag or basket with you to the market. Unlike a grocery store, many vendors do not provide bags for your items.
3. Have fun! Farmers’ markets are social, festive events. Take time to talk with your fellow shoppers and the vendors selling your food. Who knows? You may learn a new way to prepare your favorite fruit or vegetable.
4. Bring a cooler preferably one with wheels. Using a cooler helps protect your perishable items (cheeses, meats, dairy products) while you shop. In addition, a cooler will help you get these items home safely.
5. Talk to the vendors. Unlike the grocery store, farmers’ markets allow you the opportunity to talk – in most cases – to the person who grew the food you are purchasing. Use this opportunity to your advantage and ask away.
6. Be prepared for choices – lots of them. At the farmers’ market, you may find more than one variety of the fruits or vegetables you are needing. Deciding on all these choices can be overwhelming. To help, talk with the vendors and the other shoppers. Both can help you make a selection that best meets your food needs.
7. Ask questions. Don’t assume that all the foods at your farmers’ market are organic, grown in your community, or even grown by the vendor selling them. Markets have very different rules governing the types of items that can be sold. Asking the vendor is the best way to find out the information you need.
8. Seek out the information booth. Almost all markets have an information booth where you can ask questions about the market.
So, grab your favorite shopping bag and head out the door – it’s a great way to support your local farmers and enjoy consuming agricultural products from your neighborhood.