Michigan residents are fortunate in their ability to grow and buy fresh, locally grown produce throughout the summer and fall. According to the Michigan Farmers Market Association, the mitten is home to more than 300 farmers markets, reaching residents in nearly every county of the state. Trips to the farmers market can be a fun family tradition to inspire healthier eating habits and explore new foods and flavors. While planning a visit to the farmers market, keep in mind some of the following tips:
- Ask Questions: Don’t shy away from making conversation with the vendors at a local farmers market. Unlike a grocery store setting, shoppers are given the opportunity to learn more about what they’re purchasing, ask questions and get advice for their own growing/gardening purposes. Some vendors may even have insight on cooking methods or tasty food pairings.
- Bring Bags and Cash: In many cases, farmers market vendors do not usually supply shopping bags. Bringing reusable bags from home guarantees a means of carrying purchases while reducing waste. It’s also common for farmers market vendors to only accept cash, so be sure to have bills and small change on hand before heading out the door.
- Pick the Right Time to Go: Crowds at the market tend to pick up around midday, so it’s best to arrive right as it opens. Early shoppers have a better chance of avoiding lines, getting advice from vendors and picking from high-demand fruits or vegetables. On the other hand, those in the market for a good deal, may want to visit later in the day. Oftentimes farmers market vendors will discount their products instead of risking waste
- Know Seasonal Produce: Having an idea of what produce is in season can help set expectations for purchases at the market. Research what grows in the area, talk to the farmers about what produce will be coming and plan shopping trips from there. Many farmers markets provide customers with a crop calendar at the information booth to show when various fruits and vegetables will be available.
- Meal Plan Beforehand: Going to the farmers market without a list or plan may lead to unnecessary purchases. To avoid waste, look around the kitchen and get an idea of which foods might pair well for meals in the week ahead. Use the seasonal produce available at the market for inspiration and explore using any leftover produce in a new soup, salad, sandwich or casserole recipe.
Those interested in finding a farmer’s market nearby can use the Find a Farmers Market tool, found on the Michigan Farmers Market Association website. Fruits and vegetables in-season throughout the summer in Michigan include, but are not limited to:
- Cherries (tart and sweet)
- Greens (turnips, collards, kale)
- Squash (yellow, zucchini)
Grace Derocha is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health tips, visit AHealthierMichigan.org.