Tips for Shopping Farmers' Markets

By | May 01, 2017
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Photo by Carole Topalian, Edible Communities

Farmers’ markets aren’t just a great way to eat locally—they also offer the opportunity to get to know the farmers and artisans behind the products. “There is a person behind every table who is knowledgeable about what they are selling, which is not as likely at a grocery store,” says Nelson Li, manager of the Metuchen Farmers’ Market. “Shopping at a local farmers’ market is not just about buying food, but also catching up with friends and neighbors or getting in touch with community groups that may be doing an event there,” he adds.

Summit Farmers’ Market is one of the state’s largest and is celebrating its 22nd year. Held on Sundays from April to mid-November, the 30-vendor market is known for its connection to the local community.“We are very loyal to our vendors and are known for being community-oriented,” says Kathryn Best, assistant director of Summit Downtown, which oversees the market.

Summit’s farmers’ market also ties in local brick-and-mortar shops, which showcase their services or products there. “We’ve had the local fitness center come to show off their classes and bring a mini-trampoline. We’ve had Pinot’s Palette come and invite market visitors to paint. Our market is a huge part of Summit’s identity,” says Best.

Nelson Li has taken the Metuchen Market from a three-ven- dor spot in 2011 to a bustling market with 18 vendors. Held each Saturday from mid-June to mid-November, the Metuchen Market features four produce farmers, two meat and cheese vendors, a seafood vendor and bread, pickles and olives, dried fruit and nuts and prepared foods to go. Here are his top three tips for shopping a farmers’ market instead of a traditional store.

  • Timing is everything: “Try to arrive early, when the produce selection is best.”
  • Don’t be afraid to ask: “Ask the farmers for suggestions on how to prepare something they’re selling. At the Metuchen market, we have a frequent event called Vegging Out with Christine, where seasonal products are displayed, sampled, extolled and wrapped in recipe suggestions. Christine will direct a shopper to the stand of the farmer who provided the sample. It’s really been successful in introducing people to new vegetables they had not previously tried.”
  • Read all about it: “Sign up for your market’s newsletter. The Metuchen Market puts a lot of effort into writing a weekly newsletter that talks about what’s in season, what the vendors will be bringing that week and delicious but simple recipes.”

15 Center Street, Metuchen 
Saturdays 9am–2pm from June through November

DeForest Avenue & Maple Street, Summit
Sundays 8am–1pm from April 23 through November 19

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