Young Female Choosing Vegetables At Market Place

Getting the Most Out of Farmers Markets

Did you know Michigan is home to more than 340 farmers markets? With inventory stemming from nearly 50,000 farms, they offer a refreshing alternative to commercial grocers.

Going to the farmers market is a unique experience. For some, it can be a family event. For others, it’s an exercise in community building. The farmers market encourages people to interact and explore agriculture in a whole new way. You can learn how and when certain produce is grown, as well as the best times to buy.

“When you buy in-season you’re getting it fresher and it’s more nutrient dense,” explained Grace Derocha, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “I think [it] can help with meal planning, help with budgeting, and it tastes delicious.”

The freshest items are available first thing in the morning. It’s usually less busy, which makes navigating the marketplace much easier. If cost is a concern, arrive later in the day when farmers are more likely to barter on prices. “They want to be able to sell it all,” said Derocha. “You have a little bit of leeway at the end of the day where you might be able to get a little bit of a bargain.”

On the latest episode of the A Healthier Michigan Podcast, hosted by Chuck Gaidica, he and Derocha share more tips on how to get the most out of the farmers market.

During fall harvest, the farmers market becomes a premier destination. There are a variety of in-season foods to choose from such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and of course, apples. Michigan’s the third-largest producer of the fruit, which is one of the reasons orchards are so popular during this time.

The farmers market is more than fruits and vegetables. There’s a large palate of items that can be used in and outside of the kitchen. “There are other things available you might not realize are there that you can also pick up,” said Derocha. “I see people making soap, plants, herbs, and spices.”

If you’re unsure about a specific item, you can speak with a farmer directly. “They’ll talk to you about anything. They’ll give you their favorite recipe idea. If you have questions about how they grew something, you can ask, ‘Is this pesticide free? Is this chemical free?’ Three out of four farmers are growing organically, so that’s nice to know.”

Visiting a farmers market is a great way to step outside your comfort zone. It allows you to experience new things while supporting your community, specifically, local farmers.

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Photo credit: Dangubic

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