Farmers’ Market Etiquette

When I lived in New York, my Saturday morning routine went like this: wake up, go for a run, grab coffee, go to the farmers’ market. The run and the coffee were negotiable depending on the weather, my mood and a variety of other factors, but skipping the farmers’ market was never an option. It was the highlight of my week. It still is, only these days I’m selling more than buying.

If you frequent your local farmers’ market, here are some helpful suggestions from the vendor side of things.

1.  Bring small bills

We have a few customers who insist on paying with $100 bills. Every. Single. Week. It doesn’t matter if they are buying $80 worth of filet or one pound of ground beef. And they come early before we have a lot of change. Often we wind up giving them all of our small bills as change which leaves us with nothing for future customers. Unless work in service and receive part of your pay in tips, chances are good you are paid by check or direct deposit. This means you have to go to the bank to get cash. If you know you’ll be heading to the market, be sure to ask for smaller bills. It makes our lives so much easier! Also, with all the technology out there, many vendors accept credit cards. It never hurts to ask.

2.  Come early

Most farmers have a limited amount of space (i.e. a truck) in which to bring their products. We simply cannot bring the quantities and varieties you’d find in a grocery store. Most farmers bring a small amount of a wide variety of products. That means things can and will sell out. Coming early means more diversity! You have a better chance of finding the product you want.

3.  Come late

On the flip side of that, many farmers offer deals or discounts towards the end of the market to move product. We are lucky and can freeze our meat once we get it back to the farm. Many vendors don’t have that option. Produce vendors especially need to sell what’s been harvested. What doesn’t sell often ends up rotting on the compost pile. It’s far better for them to sell those tomatoes at a discount than to use them as fertilizer. But if you choose to come late, don’t complain if the farmers are sold out of something you wanted or needed!

4.  Bring your own bag

This is so simple and basic. It’s better for the environment, it saves the vendors money which helps keep the cost of the product down. This goes for all shopping. Not just farmers’ markets and grocery stores. Any time you need to go buy something, bring your own bag. Keep a stash in your car. Let’s put an end to the senseless waste that is plastic bags once and for all.

5.  Be flexible

As mentioned in points 2 and 3, vendors tend to sell out of items. If you go to your favorite produce vendor and find they are out of the item you wanted, don’t despair. A good vendor knows his or her product and will be able to recommend a good alternative. Just ask! Lauren and I eat Wyebrook meat on a regular basis. If we don’t have the cut you are looking for, tell us what your plan and we’ll find you something else that will work!

6.  Ask good questions

We love talking about the farm and our meat! We really do. I could chat with you for hours about our cows and pigs and chickens. Just ask! We want you to feel comfortable with our product so talk to us.

7.  But don’t be a know-it-all

There is nothing more annoying than a customer who thinks they know it all and wants to tell you how to run your farm or business. A woman once freaked out because I told her (in response to her question) that our laying hens ate bugs as part of a healthy, balanced diet. She proceeded to lecture me on how disgusting and unsanitary it was. She wanted to know if there would be bugs in the eggs. Arrogant ignorance is annoying. Ask questions, but don’t argue the answers. If a veggie farmer sprays his crops and you prefer unsprayed tomatoes, simply find another vendor. Don’t lecture him on why he’s wrong. It’s his farm. Not yours. Unless you are willing to go out and squash bugs for him, trust that he has a reason for doing what he does.

8.  Remember the vendors are working

We love chatting with our customers and have forged great relationships with the ones we see regularly. We do want to hear about the dinner you made with our sausage and your kid’s soccer game, but there is a time and a place. If a vendor is busy, come back to chat when things are slow. If you are in the middle of a conversation and other customers come to the stand, gracefully excuse yourself so the vendor can do what she is there to do: sell stuff!

Have I forgotten anything? I know there are more tips that apply to specific “industries” (like don’t over handle produce), but are there any other general tips I should include on this list? Do all you shoppers have any advice or tips for vendors?

4 thoughts on “Farmers’ Market Etiquette

  1. great post!
    would be nice to print and hang for market goer eyes…
    having been on “both sides of the booth”, i would add regarding vendor etiquette to be somewhat friendly. not just to the people who visit often, but to all customers…

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