Shopping Tips for Customers
When you first arrive, walk through the entire market and look at all the offerings before you buy. There are many differences in prices for the same produce type and quality.
Always bring lots of small bills and change. You will be paying at each individual farmer's stand and there is no central checkout and generally no ATM available.
Many markets have a system that enables EBT ("food stamp") clients to use their benefit card to buy from farmers. Go to http://fmfinder.org to search for markets that have an EBT acceptance system in operation.
Certified Farmers’ Markets are permitted Food Facilities and so no dogs (except service dogs) are allowed. Also look for signage that prohibits smoking.
Bring large cloth or net shopping bags. It will save multiple trips to your car to unload. Please try to remember to reuse the produce bags provided by the farmers. Save them and bring them back to refill next time you come to market. This will help with the farmer’s costs and also be beneficial to the environment.
Old baby and toddler carts make good shopping carts. They fold up nicely in the trunk. If you use wire folding cart, put in a box or liner or your produce will work through the wire squares.
These are outdoor markets. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes. Fanny or waist packs are the best and safest way to keep money and keys. You don't have to worry about setting a purse or a wallet down and you have both hands free to shop and carry your shopping bags. They are practically pickpocket proof and are a great way to store the reusable produce bags.
Make sure you know where your car keys are. The number one lost and found items are car keys. Nine times out of ten the shopper will have them in hand when shopping and unconsciously put the keys in one of the produce bags along with the produce. Always put them in your waist pack along with your wallet and change.
Bargaining for small amounts is not well received. Bargaining for big boxes or great amounts is usually acceptable. Remember that these are the growers of the produce. Do not insult them with unnecessary and small quantity bargaining. They worked very hard to sell so cheap.
Most of the produce is unsorted and field run. Some of the best tasting fruit is cosmetically challenged. Most of the produce is vine or tree ripened. This means they can be delicate to the touch, so be careful not to damage the farmer’s pride and joy. This is fruit only found direct from the grower. It is too fragile to ship to the wholesale market.
If the farmer is not too busy, do not hesitate to ask questions about recipes or growing methods. You might even get to know each other's name.
Have patience with the growers. Smile at them and appreciate them. If you do, you will find them smiling back and appreciating you in return. That is what certified farmers' markets are really about. Smiles and mutual appreciation. Families growing food for families. Californians supporting California.