So You Think You Can Shop- Farmers Market Edition
Insider Tips and Tricks from a Market Manager
Farmers Markets are so unique, shopping at them is an experience unlike any other. Not only are they unique from other places you shop, but they also vary greatly from each other. Farmers Markets are made up of locally raised foods and hand crafted items unique to the geographic areas they are in. You will find items that reflect the local culture and spirit of the surrounding communities. Farmers Markets offer face to face interaction, lowers the carbon footprint and there’s a direct and transparent supply chain. These are just a couple of the reasons among many that illustrates why people shop at Farmers Markets. While you can certainly just go to the Market, there are ways that you can ensure you get the most out of your Market experience.
As someone who organizes the Market each week, it’s easy for us on the Market side to just assume that you know all these intricacies but alas, you know what they say about assuming! That being said I thought it might be handy to give you a bit of an inside look at how things work and that might help you get the very best out of your Market trips. I’m going to call it Market Shopping 101…I hope you find these things useful.
- PLAN AHEAD
- Make a list of all the things you really need at the Market and the things you want to check out a little closer. Once at the Market, you will want to take your time to look around and see everything there is to see, but you don’t want to forget what you came for. Nothing is more frustrating than getting home to find out you forgot your lettuce.
- The best way to plan ahead is to know who is coming to Market. Each week we post a poster that lists all the causal vendors that come to the Market for the coming Saturday. These are the ones who aren’t with us every week and we do it so that you know who is new and you can see if this is the week that a certain vendor is with us. You will also find that starting on about Wednesday and Thursday, we really start posting all the interesting items you will find on Saturday to social media. Pay attention to these posts and then if you see anything that catches your eye, write it on the “Check it Out” section of your list. If you aren’t seeing these posts in your social media feed, make a point of going to our page to take a look for yourself…Facebook only shows you so much.
- **keep in mind that the Market is home to more than 70 individual business owners, so there may be last minute changes. That may mean we weren’t able to advertise a vendor due to a last minute addition or they aren’t at Market as advertised to to an unexpected absence.
2. COME PREPARED
- Bring your reusable bags and try to bring some smaller bills and change with you. Keep in mind that while vendors are advised to keep a supply of change on hand, when they get several $20 bills in a row, especially on small items first thing in the morning, it makes it very difficult for them to make change. It might seem like a little thing but they will be very grateful for your thoughtfulness.
- If you are coming for awhile or maybe going somewhere else after the Market, bring a cooler with you to store your meat and veggies. This will save you the disappointment of spoilage due to a hot car later on.
3. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE WELCOME TABLE
- Not the most imaginative name, but we are welcoming, so that’s a thing. Have a question or need some general information? We are here to help. We do move the table from time to time due to space availability, but we are always there. We can answer questions, help you if you’re looking for a certain item or vendor and we have 50/50 tickets for sale as well as Market swag. If you need help with something out to your car, one of our volunteers can help!
4. GO AHEAD, MAKE IT A DAY
- We work hard at making the Market a place you want to be and hang out at on a Saturday morning and we hope that you make it part of your weekly routine. We know that you likely have other things to do, but if you can possibly swing it, set the time aside and make a point to spend time at the Market and really look around. Have a bite to eat…come for breakfast and stay for lunch and shop in between. We’re not rushing you, we want you to spend time with us!
- As an organizer we sometimes have to move vendors around so you may find that your vendor isn’t always in the same spot. This is usually out of organizational necessity or requirement, but it also keeps you looking and you might find something new that you haven’t seen before.
- The great thing about small producers and artisans is that they have the flexibility to change items, so really look at their tables and see what’s new. Don’t be afraid to stop, they’re happy to see you!
- We have lots of local music at the Market. They come to play for you out of passion for what they do and out of their appreciation for the Market. They will have an open case, show them your appreciation!
- Make two full laps around the Market. On your first pass, stop and look at everything, remember that list? Use it to write things down and remember where you found them. On your second pass, go back to those things and purchase them!
- Stop and talk to your friends and neighbors and make it a social day out, just be sure that your conversation isn’t blocking other patrons from reaching a vendors table. It makes it hard for vendors to earn their livelihood if customers can’t get to them!
5. ENGAGE! ENQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW
- Vendors are at the Market because they are passionate about what they do and you as a consumer have the unique opportunity to talk to the very person that grew, made or baked the item you are considering purchasing. Find out about their processes, more about their farm, what makes them tick. Your farmers and artisans are proud of what they have produced and they would love to share it with you. Don’t be afraid to take an interest!
6. VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
- Try something new. Every time. Pick up at least one new thing every time you come to the Market. We have so many interesting items. And if you’re not sure what to do with them, ask your producer. They are usually armed with tried and true recipes and new uses for those awesome things.
7. BUY IN SEASON
- Remember, everything is locally grown. If you are looking for fresh picked strawberries in December, you are going to be disappointed. Know what’s in season and when it’s coming up. We have info about that at the Welcome table we mentioned above.
- At the same time, when something is in season, buy lots of it and preserve it by freezing, canning etc. That way, you can still have local strawberries in December.
8. DON’T SEE IT? ASK ABOUT IT.
- When you are shopping with a vendor and you see an item that isn’t exactly the colour or size you wanted or they don’t have the item you were looking for, ask! Yes, you can do that! Some vendors may be willing or able to custom make an item for you or may have one in stock at home that they just didn’t bring with them. Remember, it never hurts to ask!
9. SHARE WITH US
- Show or tell vendors how you are using their products. It will make them feel great and perhaps even give them a new idea on how to utilize their product.
- Share your market finds with us. Post your photos to our facebook page or share on Instagram @ngfarmmarket with the hashtag #myngfmfinds We may share it but it shows others how clever you are with your Market finds. We also love recipes using our vendors products or seeing how that art piece looks in your home….just sayin’
10. SPREAD THE WORD
- Ask friends and neighbours if they have been to the market before. Tell them, show them or feed them the amazing items you found at the Market. Bring your visitors for a unique morning out. Farmers Markets have a large and positive local economic impact in their communities. When you shop with our vendors, your money is going directly to them and their families. When they have to make, bake or grow more, they have to buy more. They register their kids in community programs, shop at other local businesses, all from money earned at the Market. They are spending and re-investing that money in the community.