Here are the benefits of becoming a farmers market fan
Aug 24, 2023, 3:00 PM
Farmers markets have become a primary and sustainable source for fresh, local food. Many of us throughout Arizona start or complete our weekly food shopping at a farmers’ market.
What is a farmers market?
Farmers’ markets are a marketplace where, typically, small to medium-scale local agricultural producers sell their products directly to you. You can expect to find a variety of vegetables and fruits, cheeses, and meats from local farms and ranches. You may discover assorted products vendors produce, like goat’s milk soap or peanut butter. Interesting crafts are often part of the experience with woven cloth, ceramics, kitchen tools, and more.
The diverse offerings at each market make up the appeal we share for these community gathering places. Take the time to visit with the people at the booth. The backstories are great, and you can gain insight into the food products they sell and how they are made.
Where can I find a market near me?
According to Smartscrappers, our great state has 244 farmers markets. That means the likelihood of y’all finding one near you is pretty good. Two of the best ways to find Arizona’s farmers markets are online:
- Arizona Farm Bureau: Fill Your Plate is exclusive to the farmers markets and the farmers. Their site is mobile-friendly, helping you to locate markets from wherever you are on your weekend jaunt.
- Local First Arizona: The Good Food Finder AZ includes local businesses with specialty products and places to eat.
You can usually locate a market online when traveling in Arizona on a staycation. We love our road trip travels in Arizona, and often, we will visit a local farmers market. They give a real feel for the local flavor. It is a great way to meet folks and make new friends.
Fill Your Plate also has a database of farms you can visit. Some of these have country stores for buying local produce and specialty items.
How can I find out about the vendors and their products?
Most farmers markets have a booth set up by that market’s governing body. This is an excellent place to visit with your questions about how vendors are selected and approved. We also like to ask questions about the market history. How long has it been there? Who started it? Answers to these questions add more color to the local vibe.
Several farmers markets throughout Arizona accept WIC (Women, Infants, Children). This program makes healthy products accessible to those who might be challenged with their income. This outreach is typical of the community vibe that permeates farmers markets. With the advent of easy access to the Internet, several markets accept credit cards for vouchers that can be used with individual vendors. Find the market booth to access this service.
What is the best way to navigate a farmer’s market?
Market sizes vary from location to location. In our major urban areas, there may be upwards of 100 vendors on any given market day. Some of our smaller communities will be considerably lower key.
In most markets, vendors will locate their booths in the same general spot week after week. Knowing this makes finding your favorite go to vendors easy. If you are a regular at your local market, you know your way around the different vendors. Shopping for your weekly food items becomes easier. You have likely established an ongoing relationship with these vendors, and each meeting turns into a visit with friends. That may not happen in a larger store, and it is what makes the farmers market experience so fulfilling.
If you are new to the market or visiting a market away from your home, here are some tips for navigating the turf:
- If you have come to purchase food items, know what you want before you start.
- Walk around the entire market once before buying. You may encounter several vendors selling the same or similar items and may want to look at each before deciding which one to buy. This may not be practical in a larger market but will work in most mid-sized or smaller markets.
- If you are going to buy perishable items, have a cooler in your vehicle and an insulated bag to carry items back to your car. Arizona’s summer can be hard on food.
- Be aware that markets up north have a shorter season and may be closed during the winter. Desert markets may open and close early in the summer. Look up the hours the market is open before you go.
So, whether you are new to farmers markets or an old pro at finding fresh food, farmers markets are a splendid place to source your food, get to know new friends, and to learn about a different part of our State.
The Arizona Farm Bureau is Arizona’s largest farm and ranch organization with membership that represents production agriculture throughout the state of Arizona. We are “The Voice of Agriculture” in Arizona.
*Support Arizona agriculture and get the benefit of savings when you travel, dine out and more by becoming a member.
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