Every Tuesday, I start the day out the same way: by shopping at my local farmers’ market. The Torrance Certified Farmers’ Market is not only the third largest farmers’ market in Los Angeles County, but it’s a great gathering place that gives me the feeling that I live in a small town. Each week I look forward to seeing both my farmer friends and my friends from throughout the community.
And because I live in Los Angeles County, it’s also one of the easiest ways for me to support locally grown fruits and vegetables and to develop a relationship with the wonderful people who grow my food.
Shopping at the local farmers’ market is something that most people can do because the USDA estimates that there are over 4,600 farmers’ markets throughout the United States and the numbers just keep increasing. That means there’s bound to be a market in your area at least one day of the week.
If you haven’t yet shopped at a farmers’ market, you might be wondering what the big deal is. The biggest benefit to shopping at a farmers’ market is that you get the freshest produce available. Often, farmers pick their fruit or vegetables just a day, or even hours, before the market. Not only does this make the produce taste better, it is better for you because it does not lose any vitamins or minerals sitting in a warehouse or traveling thousands of miles. You will also find dozens of different fruit and vegetable varieties at a single market, compared to the two or three varieties typically found at most grocery stores.
I have also learned that there are some easy and practical things I can do to make the shopping experience even more enjoyable. I thought I’d share these tips to help you make the most out of your shopping experience:
- Before buying, walk around first and check out all the stands to compare selection, quality and price.
- To avoid having to dig for your money while loaded down with packages, bring lots of change and small bills and keep it in your pocket or shopping bag.
- Remember: bags full of produce can get heavy. You might want to consider bringing your own large, canvas shopping bag or shopping cart.
- Bring a hard container or box to keep your delicate berries, tomatoes, or peaches from being crushed.
- Take advantage of the fact that this is your weekly hometown market and get to know the growers. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. They are the best sources for identifying the different varieties, explaining how they are grown, and for help on preparing and storing their foods.
If you aren’t a regular farmers’ market shopper but are thinking you’d like to be, the USDA also has a page where you can search for the market nearest you. Another great resource for finding local farmers’ markets is Local Harvest.
For those in California, here’s a list of certified farmers’ markets provided by the California Federation of Farmers’ Markets. A certified farmers’ market is the “real deal,” meaning that only farmers who grow what they are certified to grow there can sell there.