It’s our favorite time of year here on the Llano Estacado. It’s the time of year when experiencing our local foodshed is the easiest. No matter the town or city, you should be able to find a farmer’s market or CSA excited to let you enjoy 2015’s bounty. If you’re looking for a farmer’s market in the region, be sure to check out our online resource, here (http://localllano.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/farmers_marketlocations2.pdf). We also try to keep a running tab on local producer’s and CSAs, here (http://localllano.org/local-producers/). (Photo: @Lubbock Downtown Farmers Market via Facebook)Check out those resources and make your way to the good stuff this summer. There are lots of benefits of “living off the land” by becoming a locavore. We covered some of those reason’s here (http://localllano.org/eating_local/). But we don’t just want to tell you all the reasons you should shop local farmer’s markets, we also want to help you do it effectively. We’ve found it’s best to go in with a plan. Here’s some important things to remember the next time you head out to your favorite Llano Estacado Farmer’s Market.
1. Figure out What’s Freshest
It’s always a good idea to know what’s in season before heading out to shop local produce. Things are in the height of ripeness throughout the summer months in the southern Great Plains region. Say you found your new favorite recipe for salsa and you want to can lots of it. It might be a good idea to make sure tomatoes are at their apex. If not, it’d be worth it to wait a few weeks to make sure you’ll be preserving the fruit at its most delicious point. One great thing about shopping local is the readily accessible information. If you’re aren’t sure about what’s in season, ask the growers. They’ll shoot you straight.
2. Take Time To Meet the Growers
This is easily one of the biggest perks of shopping locally for produce. It’s a great opportunity to meet the people who passionately grow our food. Knowing the growers is one of the best ways to know your food. You can ask how things are grown, how things are harvested, and when stuff is at its ripest. Producers have a wealth of information concerning all aspects of their crop, and it can really put you in-touch with your food to know what they do. Plus, they’re all usually more than willing to let you see the farm.
3. Do Some Recon Upon Arrival
If you’re new to farmer’s marketing, you may be overwhelmed with everything that’s available, especially in a year like 2015. We’ve had a great early season this year, and it’s one that will have dividends for the buyer at the market. You will probably see a lot of healthy produce this year, and it’ll be hard to not spend all your money at the first vendor booth you see. The best way to avoid this pitfall is by making your way around the market first. Just take it all in. This won’t take you a bunch of extra time but it’s worth it to make sure you get what you want before you run out of money.
4. Ask For Grower’s Suggestions
There’s a good chance you’ll have access to some vegetables that you aren’t that familiar with. That’s one of the benefits of shopping local foods. You’ll see hybrid produce, but don’t let the unfamiliarity deter you. We recommend asking the vendor for hints, tips, seasonings, and methods of preparing unknown fare. Like we said above, they’re a wealth of information, and they can help you get the most from your Llano Estacado eats.
5. Bring Your Reusable Bags
If you don’t buy reusable grocery bags, we understand. It seems like a pain to remember them anytime you go to the store, but they come in extremely handy at the farmer’s market. It’ll give you another chance to see just how useful they really are. They’re great for loading up on the heavy or pokey stuff. Most vendors don’t have a huge variety of transport options to choose from. If you get a melon or several ears of corn, you’re going to wish you had a reusable grocery sack. Ears of corn won’t poke through, and melons won’t cause your handles to tear.
Give these tips a try, and you’ll be at the top of your farmer’s market game. We’re bringing you more tips next time, so make sure you check out our next blog.