Shopping the Farmers Markets

By Charlyn Fargo

For The Source

It’s summer, and there’s no better way to increase your consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables than by visiting your local farmers market. Jacksonville’s is in full swing on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. All this rains has made the cabbages grow and the peaches extra sweet. Here are eight tips for adding some fun to the shopping adventure, including ways to involve your kids in the process.

  1. Go Early

Go early to get the best selection of what is best and freshest, and scope everything out. By walking through the market, you can see what produce is there, what’s in season, and do some comparison shopping on the different prices.

2. Bring Your Own Bags

Bring reusable grocery bags for taking your produce home. Make sure the bags are durable. If you plan to purchase in quantity for canning and freezing, you might want to consider bringing boxes or pails.

3. Bring Small Bills

Small bills are easier for vendors to make change. Most prefer cash to checks. Few take credit cards.

4. Talk to the Farmers

One of the best things about going to the farmers market is getting to know your local farmer. Ask them about their farm and the foods that they grow. Learning how they grow their crops makes your food purchases more meaningful.

5. Buy What’s in Season

It’s always great to buy fresh produce when it’s in season. But how do you know what’s in season? Well, that’s going to vary, depending on where you live. However, when you go to the farmers market, what you see is typically what’s in season. Some of my favorites are asparagus, spinach, lettuce and peas in the spring; berries, kohlrabi, peaches, cabbage, sweet corn in the summer; and apples, squash and pumpkins in the fall.

6. Plan Ahead

It’s really helpful to spend a little bit of time planning before going to the farmers market. You want to see what you have on hand at home, what you need, and also think about what you want to prepare for the coming week. Planning helps guide what to buy and how much.

Buying in bulk can save you money, but when it comes to fresh produce, it’s a bit of a challenge – if you buy too much, it can go to waste. You can always share some extra produce with friends or family. Also, home canning and freezing are becoming more popular again, so buy extra to can or freeze for later.

7. Involve Your Kids

A fun way to get your kids involved in the farmers market experience is to have them try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Encourage your kids to find a fruit and vegetable from every different color in the rainbow. Each color offers different vitamins and nutrients.

8. Be Adventurous

Planning is important, and nutrition is very important, but food should also be fun, so be adventurous! This is a great place to try something new. If you see something new or something on sale that you haven’t tried before, don’t be afraid to try it.

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About the author

Charlyn Fargo spent 27 years at the State Journal-Register covering agriculture, business and food. She currently is the Bureau Chief of County Fairs & Horse Racing with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. She is also a Registered Dietitian and writes a weekly syndicated nutrition column for Creator’s News Service ( and is co-owner of Simply Fair, a fair trade boutique at 2357 W. Monroe in Springfield. She has bachelor’s degrees in agricultural communications and food from the University of Illinois, Champaign and a master’s degree in nutrition from Eastern Illinois University. She and her husband, Brad Ware, have a daughter, Kate, and son, Jayden. When she’s not working or writing, she enjoys baking cookies for Simply From Scratch, a company she formed to support faith-based ministries.

View all articles by Charlyn Fargo

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