Farmers Markets Make Shopping Fun and Healthy

Summer is the perfect time to shop at your local farmers market to enjoy freshly picked fruits and vegetables, and share a unique shopping experience with the whole family. A weekly trip to a farmers market can be a fun learning experience for children—show them what potatoes and tomatoes look like before becoming French fries and ketchup!

Part of the excitement and fun of visiting a farmers market is finding new items that may not be on your list. Along with fresh fruits and vegetables, markets may also offer local honey, cheese, dairy products, and meats from local farmers. Allow yourself and your kids to choose a new or unusual food, like purple potatoes or jicama. Fostering a curiosity about new foods will broaden your menu, help your kids develop their interest in trying new foods, and reinforce the importance of healthy foods. The vendors at the farmers market take great pride in their business, so if you’re nervous about a new food, the vendors can help you make the best choices and share ideas on preparing and preserving their products.

Fairy Tale Pumpkins_p177274_1139371094_4-Edwin Rosenberg
Pumpkins will be coming into season next month. What kid wouldn’t want to bring home one of these beautiful fairytale pumpkins?! You can use the pumpkin to make a variety of savory or sweet dishesfrom stuffed pasta to soup to cheesecake. (Photo by Edwin Remsberg)

If you’ve never shopped at a farmers market before, here are some tips to make your first trip more enjoyable.

Before You Leave:

  • Bring your own reusable bags or baskets with handles to carry your treasures home with you. You may want to consider using a backpack or rolling cart to make it easier for weighty or bulky items.
  • Make a shopping list of items you want to pick up at the market, keeping in mind what foods are in season and your meal plan for the week. (Need some planning assistance? Try one of the University of Maryland Extension’s kid-friendly recipes!)
  • Check with your market to see if they take credit or debit cards, food vouchers, or cash only.
  • If it’s hot or you live far away, pack a cooler with ice packs in your car to store your produce, meat, and cheese. This will keep them fresh and safe to eat.
  • If you’re bringing your kids, be prepared and set your expectations.

At The Market:

Farmers Market_p177274_3001456_4-Edwin Rosenberg
The best part of the farmers market is sampling the produce and products. It’s a great way to introduce new food to your kidsjust make sure they only take one.  (Photo by Edwin Rosenberg)
  • To get the best selection, arrive close to opening time. Popular-but-limited items may sell out quickly.  If you are looking for bargains, shopping at the end of the day may be better when vendors may reduce prices.  However, remember that this is a source of income for the vendors so do not automatically expect them to sell items at lower prices.
  • Shop various vendors before making your final selection. Comparison shop, looking for the best quality and price for you. As you become more familiar with the vendors, you will have favorite ones for specific foods.
  • Sample all the delicious foods!
  • Talk to the vendors and ask questions. Along with cooking ideas, you can learn more about how they grow and process their food.

You can find the closest farmers market at the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market Map.

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