How to Get the Most Out of Your Next Trip to the Farmers' Market
By Gabrielle DiDomenico Project Coordinator, Seven Valleys Health Coalition
It's that time of year when we celebrate the return of the sun and warmer temperatures--but that isn't the only reason to get excited by the arrival of spring and the coming of summer. Our local farmers' market season is upon us and that calls for a celebration in and of itself. How about three cheers for fresh produce, meeting new neighbors, and shaking hands with our local farmers and producers? (Hip-hip-hooray!) As you venture out to explore your local farmers' market and stock up on produce and products that are good for both body and soul, here are a few tips to make your time at the farmers market successful.
Become a Seasonal Eater. Part of the adventure in is in trying to plan your weekly meals around what is seasonally available. Are you hoping to find tomatoes in May or apples in July? Spoiler alert: you won't in Central New York. The key is to view this as a positive, using seasonal changes to expand your weekly eats and bring new tastes and textures into your day. Those apples can wait until autumn, how about some fresh berries or a watermelon instead? Here's a harvest chart to help you plan those seasonal meals: https://www.agriculture.ny.gov/f2s/documents/HarvestChart.pdf
Bring Change. It is very helpful for both the seller and the buyer to exchange smaller bills, so change out those $20s for $1s and $5s before you head out!
Bring Reusable Bags. It is a great idea to have a few reusable (and washable!) bags ready for your market adventures. A reusable bag can hold almost double the amount of produce or goods a plastic bag can hold and it is easy to sling over the shoulder. An added bonus is that you don't have to worry about it ripping either!
Take The Try Something New Challenge. During a visit to a farmers' market, why not try something new? Don’t know how to use that weird-looking vegetable? Just ask the seller how they would prepare it; they have lots of experience with using their vegetables in a variety of tasty ways! (Pro Tip: Have your kids pick out one new item a week to eat as a fun way to involve them in making healthy food choices.)
Don't Be Afraid To Say Hello. As you meander around the market booths or purchase goods from a seller, don't be shy about saying hello. Farmers love to talk about their products. It’s one of the best parts of the experience. (Know farmers, know food!) You may be surprised at who you meet--perhaps you'll even discover a new neighbor or two!
Using SNAP, It's A Snap! Visiting your local farmers’ market is a great way to stock your fridge with fresh fruits and veggies that are good for the whole family. The Downtown Cortland (Main Street) and Homer (Village Green) locations both take SNAP (EBT) payment.
Go Early. If you want first pick and best selections, make sure you get to the market early.
Downtown Cortland Farmers' Market: Located in Historic Downtown on Main Street, Saturdays and Tuesdays 8a to 2p, starting in June. Virgil Farmers' Market: Located at Hollenbeck's Cider Mill (1265 NY-392), Saturdays 9a-12p, starting in June. Homer Village Farmers' Market: Located on the Village Green, Saturdays 9a-12p and Wednesdays 4p-6p, starting May 12th. Cincinnatus Farmers' Market: Located at Rural Services, Saturdays 9a-12p, starting May 12th. .
With these tips in mind, you should be ready to navigate your local market successfully. Take on the goodness of summer grilling nights, family picnics, and weekly meal prep like a champ all while supporting a local farmer. Let's go, Cortland, it's time to eat local!