(photo credit: seattlefarmersmarkets.org)

(photo credit: seattlefarmersmarkets.org)

Shopping at a farmers’ market isn’t just a fun and affordable way to eat locally and healthy. It also makes it easy to find out where your food comes from and how it was grown since you can frequently talk directly to the farmer or producer as you purchase your farm-fresh fare. We are lucky that Seattle has a market or two nearly every day of the week and has hundreds of dedicated and talented farmers and artisan food producers who spend long hours on the farm and then even more hours getting their produce or product to a neighborhood farmers’ market.

Chris Curtis
Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance
3919 Latona Ave. N.E.
Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 547-2278

Last year was a stellar season for farmers, markets and shoppers since spring and summer started early and ran late and Seattle had enough rain to nourish the crops but not enough to cause damage. That meant market tables were flush with produce and shoppers could access it at a low cost. And while farmers haven’t yet planted their summer crops, the good news is that the almanac is pointing to another stellar season. To help you get the most out of your market experience, Chris Curtis, director of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance, offers some tips to guide you through the summer market season ahead.

Tip 1: Show Up Early or Late

If you want to avoid the crowds and have the most time to talk with your purveyors, arrive early or late since farmers’ markets are often less busy just as they open or just before closing time. That said, if you have your heart set on something specific that runs on short supply, the old adage ‘the early bird gets the worm’ proves true, so set that alarm and get out the door for the best selection.

Tip 2: Eat Seasonally/Eat What’s Ripe

If you know what to expect when you get to the farmers’ market, making decisions about what to buy once you arrive at the market will be much more simple. Ask your favorite farmers and purveyors what will be coming out of the field next so you can be thinking about how to use the product when it becomes available.

Tip 3: Bring Cash and Reusable Bags or a Basket

Most vendors can make change and have bags, but why not make the transaction easier and greener by bring cash and small bills? Provide your own carrying vessel to reduce the environmental impact of plastic bags.

Tip 4: Plan Ahead but Leave Room for Spontaneity

Since you know what you’re likely to find at the farmers’ market, you can do a bit of meal planning and shop accordingly. Gather inspiration from your own cook books or area food blogs. You’ll fare better if you plan your trip to the farmers’ market. But leave space to be spontaneous if something is new to you or a great value.

Tip 5: Buy In Bulk

The best deals at the farmers’ market are had when you buy in bulk. You’ll enjoy the best flavors and the best prices when you buy lots of whatever is at its harvest peak. How can you use it all up? Buy with a group of friends, try new recipes with favorite vegetables or learn the lost arst of canning or pickling. These are just some of the ways you can have the big taste of summer in the middle of the winter.

Jenise Silva is a freelance writer in Seattle who has studied culinary, visual and performing arts. She penned the financial planning guide Women & Money, and has been writing about food and the arts for a number of years. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.