The season’s brightest colors are starting to emerge as produce like freshly harvested tomatoes, red spring onions and peppers return to the Barrington Farmer’s Market. The 2014 market is open from 2 to 7 p.m. every Thursday through October 16th. Be sure to stop by and say hi to Barrington’s own Dominic & Jessica Green of The Gentleman Farmer when you’re there. For the latest in her “Get Growing” series about farming, food and family, Jessica’s sharing a few tips for finding the freshest produce while practicing perfect etiquette at Barrington’s market.
Barrington Farmer’s Market Etiquette
by Jessica Green, Mother-of-two and Co-Founder of The Gentleman Farmer
There is absolutely nothing like the energy at a farmer’s market! A community coming together to support it’s local vendors is always so much fun, but for a first time market go-er, it can also be a bit intimidating. Don’t let this keep you from enjoying the fun.
Here are a few ideas to keep in mind while you shop:
The Early Bird Gets the Best Produce.
The best and freshest produce will be available at the beginning of the market. Many of your farmer’s have harvested their produce either the day before market, or that very morning. You will be getting the freshest choices when you arrive at the very beginning of the market. Some farmers have refrigerated trucks, others have coolers to keep their greens from wilting, but no matter what method, your best bet for having the finest of picks is to arrive early.
To Haggle or not to Haggle?
A friend of mine posted on Facebook how disappointed she was that a farmer at her market wasn’t willing to haggle. There are mixed thoughts on haggling. From a producer’s perspective, if a farmer is going to offer a deal, it is likely that he or she will offer it outright and market it from the beginning of the day. Often Dominic will offer a “three-fer” or “two-fer”. While the prices at the market are generally higher than those at the grocery stores, there is a reason for that. Your local farmer’s have a smaller production team, have less quantity and often better quality and you have the ability to speak directly to your farmer to know and understand how your veggies have been grown. These farmers are hard working and price their produce competitively based on what the going rates are, so as not to undersell or oversell any product or fellow vendor. The best time of day, should you feel so inclined to go for a bargain, is to do so at the end of the day, right before closing.
Look first, then, point to the produce you would like.
As the first tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers and zucchinis are beginning to come off the vine and into the markets, I am always mindful about how I handle these delicate fruits and veggies. In Europe and many corner produce stores in Manhattan, it is commonly understood that you point to the fruit or veggies you would like to purchase and the vendor will handle/bag it for you. I have known many a farmer to bite the inside of his cheeks while his customers poke and prod his prizewinning heirloom tomatoes only to walk away without buying anything. The more the fruit and veggies are handled the more their integrity is at risk. Always ask the farmer to handle the produce, or ask for his/her opinion on which is the best for you for what you are looking, or wait until the farmer offers for you to choose for yourself.
Not only is it helpful to the farmer, it is also helpful to the Earth to bring your own waterproof or cooler bag to the market. If you are planning to stay awhile and browse or venture on to cruise night after your shop, you will most definitely need to keep your veggies cool. Whole Foods sells great insulated cooler bags, but anything waterproof and insulated will do. Just be sure it’s large enough! Also bringing small plastic veggie bags will help to separate the greens from the other goodies you buy at the market and keep them dry.
Small bills please.
While there are some larger, more established or permanent markets that might have vendors which can manage large bills, most vendors are equipped to give change for denominations of $20 or less. That’s not to say we can’t manage a $50 or a $100 here or there, but smaller bills are always appreciated with thanks!
Get to know your farmer; and do come back!
Most farmers really enjoy market days because it’s their time to shine, share their harvests with their customers and exchange ideas on recipes, suggestions on how to grow and thoughts on the food movement. Do take the time to introduce yourself to your farmer and don’t hesitate to suggest ideas on what to grow next season. We are always interested in what our customers are looking for!
For some fun summer reading dig into Blithe Tomato, a book by Mike Madison (brother to Deborah Madison, local food chef and slow food movement activist) where, in a series of essays and vignettes, he keenly observes with a sly wit the characters who make our food and the energy surrounding one of the fastest growing movements in America: Farmer’s Markets!
About the Author
Jessica Green and her husband Dominic run The Gentleman Farmer, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program from their family farm in Barrington Hills.
You’ll find the Greens selling their freshest fruits and veggies at the Barrington Farmers Market on Thursdays each week from 2 to 7 p.m.
When they’re not working on the farm, Jessica and Dominic keep busy looking after their two young boys, Henry and Oliver.
For more information about Jessica and Dominic’s efforts in local and sustainable farming, visit Gentleman-Farmer.com.