Shopping at the Farmers’ Market is one of the best ways to eat nutrient rich, local foods. Ever heard the term farm to table? That’s what you will get by shopping at your local market. There is everything from vegetables, fruits, and meats to home baked breads and soaps. But before you show up and wander around not knowing what to get or do, let me show you some of my favorite finds and tips to make a successful Farmers’ Market haul!

Timing is key. I have found the best time to shop the market is going to be when it first opens or when it is about to close, typically the high demand items go first. It gets crowded during peak hours which can sort of be difficult to navigate through, especially if you have a stroller or wagon like us. A few things you will need to make sure to have ahead of time are: small bills- some vendors do accept cards but your typical purchase will range from $2-$6.00 , a good size tote bag– most vendors provide plastic bags but they are not practical if you are purchasing multiple items, a cooler– if purchasing meats, and lastly – an open mind! 


Gorgeous green leafy kale from Spring Meadow Farm 

Before I go, I do try and make out some sort of list to shop by. Find out what is actually in season so you know what to expect and what to prepare for. Also, try to plan for how much produce you will eat within a week. I will be honest there is always a natural tendency to over buy when being surrounded by delicious looking foods but keep in mind you are buying fresh produce(with the exception of frozen meats) and having to throw them out because they didn’t get eaten quick enough really bites! With that being said you don’t have to stick strictly to your list. Most of the time there are a couple of things that I did not anticipate being there or maybe it is a different kind of vegetable or product I have never tried before. That is why I always go in with an open mind because you never know what interesting finds you may stumble across. After all trying new foods is part of the fun of shopping at the market! I always make a quick lap around first to see what everyone has before buying to give me some ideas.

 

Vibrant selection of roma tomatoes from Green Thumb Produce

Know your Grower/Farmer. The number one thing I tell people is don’t assume that because it is at the Farmers Market it is organic. Meaning no pesticides or synthetic chemicals and/or fertilizers were sprayed on them, at any point in the planting and growing process. Just ask the grower, after all they are right in front of you! They will let you know their practices and you can decide if you want to purchase or not. I personally only buy from growers that are certified organic or have organically grown practices because that is important to me. Some will have signs displayed at their stand so you are able to see without even asking. Same for meat vendors, I always stick with animals that have not been treated with any hormones, steroids, antibiotics, or also fed grains that contain GMO’s(genetically modified organisms). I strongly encourage you to purchase some locally sourced meat products while there. There is quite a bit of difference in quality and taste, and the prices are great! Something about buying meat from somewhere I can hop in my car and drive to see the actual farm if I wish, versus it being imported from Brazil, sounds pretty cool.

 

Local, organically grown blueberries

Speaking of meats, one of the ways my family saves money each month is by doing a CSA(Community Supported Agriculture). After talking with Southern Ridge Farms several times and learning about their animals, processing, and monthly buy in options we decided to join with them. Their animals graze on their lush pastures right here in Tennessee and are free to be themselves. With a monthly membership, no contract involved, you will get 12 pounds of meat at a wholesale price of just $85.00. That equals out to $7.00 per pound, and you get to choose the cuts! Some of my favorite picks are whole or half chickens, ground beef, andouille sausage links, beef kabobs, and wild alaskan sockeye salmon that they have shipped fresh directly from the fishermen in Alaska. There are so many choices though I couldn’t possibly list them all but feel free to check them out on their website http://southernridgefarm.com. I will say if you have a larger sized family, going for larger cuts of meats is super cost efficient. My sister and brother in law are a family of seven and she goes for larger chunks of meat such as ribeye steaks, shoulder and round roasts, briskets, and flank steak. Like I said previously you will be able to tell a significant difference in quality and taste! You could always buy one or two cuts to test out and see if you like them before making larger purchases. (If you are local and interested in joining feel free to contact me and I will help get you signed up- Keith is fantastic to work with!)

Goats milk soap from Botanical Harmony Farms

A couple of last things I will throw out there is shopping locally is a good way to get your kids involved. They will be exposed to a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and they can experience tasting new foods. I always let my toddler pick out the tomatoes, peppers, ect. Anything she wants to try or cook at home we get! To make it even more fun, make up a scavenger hunt or game. Let them pick out something from every color of the rainbow! I promise they will be more willing to try and eat it at home if they are involved in the process. Sometimes my oldest will wake up in the mornings and ask if we are going to the Farmers Market that day. They grow to enjoy and love it and it is a fun educational experience and also fueling their little bodies with healthy foods. Lastly, if you and your family are going to be frequent market shoppers I highly recommend getting some new wheels. Yes you seriously have to have a new car to be a VIP market member, totally kidding guys. Here is the utility wagon we purchased. I will link it below for you, but it comes in so handy and the kids can ride in there with the produce.

Final round up of favorite finds include:

  • Vegetables: Tomatoes, peppers, onions, beets, shallots, green onions, squash, zucchini, kale & salad greens, bibb lettuce, okra, green beans, cucumbers, corn, eggplant, russet & yukon potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, fennel, alfalfa -broccoli- & sunflower seed sprouts, winter squashes such as butternut and spaghetti.
  • Herbs: Basil, cilantro, oregano, parsley,rosemary, thyme, and dill.
  • Fruits: In season berries such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, apples, and peaches.
  • Pantry Staples: Raw honey and bee pollen –which are amazing immune boosters and good for allergy relief. Freshly baked bread, homemade jams.
  • Meats & Dairy: Whole or half chickens, ground beef, ground chicken & turkey, andouille sausage links, bacon, ground pork, breakfast sausage for casseroles, and chicken wings. Goat cheese, pasture raised eggs, raw yogurt & milk.
  • Miscellaneous Items: Homemade soaps & deodorants, natural health products, plants & flowers.

 

 

 

These pictures were taken at the Main Street Saturday market on the square in Murfreesboro, Tennessee(July 2017). Produce varies and changes by season. This market begins the first of June and runs through the end of October. A couple of other markets we frequent is the Rutherford County Farmers Market and the online Stones River Farmers Market. The RCFM is open the second Friday in May through October, every Tuesday and Friday from 7am-12 noon. It is located in the Lane Agri Center on John Rice Blvd. in Murfreesboro. The SR online market is year round with an option for local delivery or porch pick up on the Murfreesboro Square. The market is open online every Sunday morning at 8:00am and closes Monday night, pick up is every Wednesday afternoon. I love all three markets for different reasons, and have really enjoyed building relationships with the many farmers!

 

 

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