Now that the warmer weather is here to stay, Farmers Markets are a great way to support local farmers and possibly even save some money compared to your local grocery store. However, just because it comes from a farmer’s market doesn’t necessarily mean it is organic, pesticide free, or even from a local farm. To make sure you can be an educated consumer, here are some questions to keep in mind to ask the stall owner:

  1. Where is your farm or kitchen located? “Local” usually means 100 – 150 miles of you.
  2. Do you grow or raise this? Certain markets are “producers only” markets, meaning they don’t allow resale, but others aren’t. There are some vendors who buy wholesale items and resell them as if they were their own.
  3. Is this organic? If they are not certified organic, ask them if they use any pesticides or chemicals on their produce. Many times you’ll find organic farmers that happen to not be certified (the certification process can be very expensive). This isn’t a bad thing, since you usually can buy the produce for a fraction of the certified-organic price.
  4. What produce are you spraying with pesticides and chemicals? Some produce absorbs chemicals more than others.
  5. What is this? One of the best parts about attending a farmers market is chatting with the people who grow the food and finding healthy ingredients you can prepare at home. If you see an item that is unfamiliar, ask about what makes it so tasty—you just might discover a new favorite food.
  6. How can I cook this? Have you ever seen an odd piece of produce and asked yourself, “I wouldn’t even know what do with that?” The farmers usually know several different ways you could prepare an item, which can inspire some great new recipes.
  7. When was the fruit or vegetable picked? If it’s been more than 24 hours, you might want to pass. You can probably keep looking and find something that was picked the evening before or even the same morning.
  8. What is selling for the best price? Yes, farmers markets are a great experience, but they’re also a place for great deals! Farmers know the going rate for items so ask them what the best deal of the day is and stock up.
  9. Can I try a sample? If they say they have the best peaches in the market, ask for a taste. It’s great to see if you like them before you buy 10 for $5.
  10. Do you need help? If you’re really interested in learning where your food comes from or want to pick up a few tips for your own garden, ask if the farmer needs an extra hand one weekend. They may be more than happy to have some help with their next harvest.

With these questions in the back of your mind you can feel more confident about what you are buying and know that you are supporting true local farmers. You might even stumble across something new!

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By: A Healthier Michigan in Partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.