- For the best deals, buy the most seasonal items. Right now, look for asparagus, cauliflower, potatoes and root veggies, wild mushrooms, rhubarb, cherries, artichokes and lettuce.
- Shop late (or in bad weather) for the best prices. The best produce will disappear right away, so if you have your heart set on something in particular, it pays to wake up early. Otherwise, go later in the day when vendors lower prices to boost sales.
- Get to know your favorite vendors. They may reward your loyalty eventually with discounts or little extras. Also, bring small bills. Many farmers’ markets are cash-only operations, and vendors will appreciate the ones and fives.
- Shop around before you buy. If several farmers are selling the same fruits and vegetables, compare price and quality. Sometimes larger farms will get prime market real estate (closest to parking or highly visible) and will charge a little more.
- Chat it up. A huge benefit of a farmers’ market is the chance to ask about the food—how it was grown, how to cook it, and whether it’s coming in or heading out of season. Also, find out what the farmer expects to bring to market next week so you can budget accordingly.
Many people wonder if it’s worth it to buy organic. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Generally, the more water something absorbs, the more pesticides it may contain. Every year, the Environmental Working Group lists the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15—produce with the most and least pesticides. To find out more about these lists, visit www.ewg.org.