Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Farmer's Markets Scare Me

I love the idea and concept of the farmer's market, but I have to confess that I've only been a few times. I'm always busy or I don't get there in time, and my dreams of coming home with all the ingredients for a delicious and locally-grown organic dinner are dashed.

I finally made it to the Green City Market on Saturday morning, and I was so unprepared and overwhelmed that I left feeling very disappointed. The few markets I've been to have been smaller and much more diverse. I wasn't sure where to start. (I went to a market in Kansas City a few times, and it was unbelievable! I swear they had more stuff there than a grocery store. And there were actual farmers selling the products. Overalls and straw hats!!!!)

Well, I started circling and looking at a few items. I found some nice blueberries I wanted, and I went into my wallet and realized I didn't have any cash. I asked the lady if they took credit cards, and she laughed at me. Actually laughed! Needless to say, that was the end of the farmer's market for me.

Since my embarrassment, I've done research to arm myself with the ability to tackle the next market head on.

Bring Cash in Small Bills
Sounds like common sense, but when you get to the market and realize that all your cash went to last night's cab ride home you'll feel as dumb as I did. Hit the ATM beforehand and try to convince the clerk down the street to give you change.

Bring Large, Re-usable Bags
The booths have small plastic bags for your purchases, but you'll feel like a douche walking among the people with their overpriced Vera Bradley shopping totes.

Go Early or Go Late
It's pretty obvious that the best items are put out and gone first. However, I'm not even going to kid myself into thinking I'll be at the market at 7:00 a.m. I did find out though, that if you go late you'll get the best deals. The farmers don't want to drag all that stuff home, so they'll discount the products to get rid of them. Sure, my raspberries might be a little mushy, but they're half off. 

Ask Questions
This is the hardest for me because I seriously know nothing about food. I read that it's a good idea to ask the farmer what's good this week and what their best item is that day. You can also ask for cooking and serving suggestions.

Don't Just Buy Fruit
I tend to go with the basics. I can eat an apple, so I should buy apples. Unfortunately, those apples are more expensive then, say, onions that can be used in multiple meals. You can also pick up your eggs for the week and delicious cheeses and meats.

Do a Few Laps Before Buying
I guess it's like buying gas - the vendor two booths down could be selling the same thing for cheaper. That way you can also find the prettiest items.

I think I'll start slow and find a smaller market to visit, and then work my way up to the Green City Market. It is pretty intense for a newbie.

Love this! Apparently a woman named Ellie Carlson does cooking demonstration in the character of an 1850s homemaker at the Green City Market. Image via the Illinois Humanities Council


  1. i love the idea of farmers markets, but getting up early on the weekend to go buy groceries will just never be my idea of fun.

    i like your tips though. if i ever go I'll make sure to bring my vera :)

  2. How horrible that she laughed at you! Some markets in Chicago are great, but others have definitely been disappointing. Hope your next experience is much better!

  3. That stinks that you had a bad experience :( I love that market, but I know a lot about food and have shopped at lots of markets. Your tips are good ones. You should try the Logan Square one on Sundays; it's great! I think the idea of making a lap around before buying is especially important, and also if anyone acts like a jerk, don't spend your money with them! I hope you'll try again sometime soon.

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