It’s that time of year again – the growing season is in full swing and people everywhere are heading out to the markets to get in on all the tasty fruits and vegetables. But it can get a little crazy out there. A little bit “every man for himself” in what should really be a fun and relaxing experience. Here then, are a few helpful tips.

  • Go with change. Not, you know, in your life overall, but rather in your pocket or perhaps a small change purse. Farmers will love you if you have anything close to exact change. (That’s why most items are priced at either rounded dollar figures or something-fifty. They’re desperately hoping not to have to crack a twenty.) Unless you need your loonies and toonies for the bus or laundry, consider keeping a dish and tossing your loose ones in there for market day.
  • Go with bags. Here in Toronto, many farmers I’ve talked to are super cranky about the city’s looming plastic bag ban, especially farmers who grow things that need to be kept moist, such as greens. So most definitely go with backpacks or reusable bags, but consider bringing a few plastic bags as well for wet or messy stuff.
  • Park the cart. And the stroller. Some outdoor markets are spread out enough that strollers, dogs or shopping buggies are not an encumbrance for other shoppers, but for indoor markets with tiny aisles, please, please, please, leave the wheelie things outside. Not only do you impede the flow, but I’ve actually had my foot driven over. And then gotten yelled at by the entitled Yummy Mummy pushing said stroller for daring to say “Ow!”
  • You squish it, you buy it. Many farmers pick their products at various stages of ripeness. Some of these products (peaches, tomatoes, berries) can be quite delicate when fully ripe. Before you get all touchy-feely, ask. Tell the vendor what you’re looking for, and when you plan on eating/cooking it. They’ll know which items are more ripe or more green and can direct you to the appropriate products. Or they’ll show you how to properly squeeze a peach without turning it into a mushy mess.
  • You knock it on the ground, you buy it.
  • Try the free samples when they’re offered, but keep your five sticky fingers out of the boxes of berries until you’ve paid for them.
  • You get the number of items (berries, beans, etc.) that the farmer puts in the box, which is generally determined by weight. Don’t be stealing extra berries from other boxes to top up your own.
  • An ear of corn includes the husks. Take that shit home and throw it away in your own garbage. Or better yet, a compost bin.
  • Speaking of garbage, if you must carry your coffee cup around the market with you, find an actual garbage bin to discard it in, don’t leave it on some farmer’s table.
  • Lookie-loos, rubberneckers, lollygaggers and tourists – yes, the vegetables are pretty aren’t they? But you know what, some of us are here to get our groceries, so if you need to stand there in awe, kindly step to the side so as not to impede the flow of traffic.
  • Get to know your farmers – but not if there is a line-up behind you. These folks are working and the rest of us have shopping to do. You want to hang out with the guy who grows your beans, make a date and do it on your own time.
  • Be patient. Some markets open as early as 5am, and the farmers have been up since midnight loading their trucks. If they’re not moving as quickly as you’d like (I bought berries last week from a young guy who could barely keep his eyes open), take the time to meditate on how truly fortunate you are to be here at the market on a lovely day, and able to afford beautiful, fresh locally-grown produce.
  • Thank a farmer. They work hard to put food on our plates.