Farmers’ Market

November 14, 2012

By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.

I love my farmers’ market. I love the organic lettuce, local tomatoes, and cheese made just down the street. I love buying eggs from chickens with names. I love getting home with a marvelous haul and cooking up a storm. But I’ll confess: I do not love shopping at my farmers’ market.

Some days, the way the stalls are set up make for difficult market navigation. We get clogged in long lines of people standing still, and then we run into a friend, and the crowds start moving like speeding rivers around us and we can’t even stand our ground to say hello. Or I’ll get all the way across town just to discover the rain hit there early, the temperature dropped 20 degrees, and the whole thing’s shut down. Other days, I’d rather just go to the grocery store, which sells produce from a number of our local farms, and the temperature is stable and season-less. And where, year round, they tempt me with tastes.

I’m so sorry, little farmers’ market. Please don’t be mad. I never mean to cheat on you.

I can’t help but look at my farmers’ market and think, if they just tweaked things a bit or maybe offered tastes, I might never go back to my grocery store again. I have a feeling I’m not alone.

If there was one thing you could change about your farmers’ markets to make them an infinitely better shopping experience, what would it be? Does yours a need simple fix? A new day? A better location? Or is yours perfect as is? And just because I’m curious: Will you be shopping at your farmers’ market for Thanksgiving ingredients?

P.S. — How to properly clean and store your fruits and veggies. Also. Do you remember Gabrielle’s first visit to the market in her French town? It’s right next to the cathedral!

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sandra November 14, 2012 at 8:36 am

I feel pretty lucky because the spring/summer/fall farmer’s market is outside beside a lake only a few minutes drive from my home. And the winter one is even closer. I live in the Pacific Northwest so the winter one must be on tarmac because of the rain. If we cancelled because of rain, we’d never have a market!

I wouldn’t change a thing. Love love LOVE the local producers. And the food stall vendors. Love knowing who grows and makes my food.

And I am thinking ALREADY about the sour cherry pie that I’ll pick up this Saturday morning.

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2 raleigh-elizabeth November 15, 2012 at 7:52 am

ooooh. Will you pick up one for me? Our market closes at the start of the school year, and that sour cherry pie sounds just fantastic!

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3 Gina November 14, 2012 at 8:48 am

I love the farmers market… but I wish the farmers would just label their produce organic or not so I don’t have to ask. Other than that… love it and I love seeing all the art too!

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4 Valerie {all mussed up} November 14, 2012 at 8:49 am

Here in Utrecht, the Netherlands, we have a “normal” Wednesday and Saturday market, and an organic market on Fridays — we live in the old city center, and I feel tremendously lucky to be able to just waltz over and pick up my produce for the week! I view it as a special outing, so I make time to not just buy veggies but also browse the second-hand book stall…

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5 raleigh-elizabeth November 15, 2012 at 7:54 am

Oh Valerie, that sounds amazing! It’s so smart that they distinguished the “normal” market from the organic one!

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6 Tina from A Few Pretty Things November 14, 2012 at 9:00 am

The shopping experience at a farmer’s market here in Greece is exactly the same as far as it concerns the crowds and long lines. I find it an overall pleasant activity but only when I have plenty of time because shopping at the farmer’s market can’t be fast.

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7 raleigh-elizabeth November 15, 2012 at 7:56 am

Isn’t that the truth. I can’t remember the last time I was in-and-out in less than an hour (which is more time than I spend in the grocery store buying everything – produce too). Do you find that in Greece your farmers markets are also tourist locations? There aren’t a ton of people banging down the door to fly to Wilmington, NC (no matter how lovely it is and how much they should!), so ours is always just locals – but even locals can amount to quite a crowd.

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8 Pamela November 14, 2012 at 9:28 am

I wouldn’t change a thing! I love my farmers market..it’s open Wednesday’s and Saturday’s. Ok..maybe one thing. I wish I knew how to speak French!

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9 connie November 14, 2012 at 10:32 am

If I had one little tweak in my power, it would be to quite simply widen the aisles-even by a couple of feet. The one nearest to our home has a great variety, opens fairly early in springtime and only recently closed for the season-not bad for the midwest.
The problem is that the aisles are only about as wide as a side-by-side double stroller. And so when they come rolling through, one has to practically climb over the booth table to get past. I don’t begrudge the stroller-hey, parents with multiple cuties have to do what they have to do! :) But if the organizers of the market could widen the aisle just a little, it would allow a much better flow of traffic, and could perhaps even foster folks to linger a little bit, rather than move along knowing that there’s a humongous line of shoppers waiting behind you.

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10 raleigh-elizabeth November 15, 2012 at 7:58 am

That’s exactly how I feel, too. Like I’m either holding the line up or being held by the stroller-width-aisles. I agree, broadening the aisles a bit would be the easy solution. A friend of mine, whose post started this whole line of thought, felt the same way, too. I wonder if we just speak loud enough if organizers will listen? I know there’s enough room at our market for a little extra width…

http://vrai-lean-uh.tumblr.com/post/34796349843/unpopular-opinions-farmers-market-edition

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11 julie November 14, 2012 at 2:53 pm

I love our Downtown Farmer’s Market and we run even in the rain! The desert is a beautiful place in the rain. We tried being vendors for the first time this summer.
http://mikedumascopperdesigns.com/blog/2012/07/27/friday-night-prep/

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12 Anne November 14, 2012 at 7:55 pm

The lines can get pretty long at my market. If I am carrying a big bag of apples or potatoes, and I get stuck in a line, it’s a real bummer. I like that the grocery store has carts!!

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13 Hayley November 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm

I’d just like a farmer’s market. :)

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14 Jane November 15, 2012 at 4:43 am

We have a wonderful farmers’ market in Canberra, with huge aisles so no problems navigating ever, and it is under cover at the city’s Exhibition Park. Many stalls do offer samples of their produce which is lovely. It’s not atmospheric – like a giant tin-roofed shed (walled on 2 sides, open on two), but the atmosphere comes from the people, and the almost certainty of bumping into friends.

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15 raleigh-elizabeth November 15, 2012 at 7:59 am

I think that sounds wonderful: samples at the market! The atmosphere sounds so great. We’ll have to plan a trip to Australia!

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16 Sarah November 15, 2012 at 8:11 am

We have the best market here in Charlotte called the Atherton Market that’s located in an old trolley depot. Each booth has a chalk board labeled with what they have, if they’re organic (or grow with organic practices) and all the prepared food vendors offer tastes.

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17 jHill November 15, 2012 at 10:02 am

knife sharpening! It can be hard to find, but a few of the ones in Boston do have a knife sharpening vendor, I just wish she was at mine.

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18 Katy November 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm

This may sound odd and I wonder if anyone ever feels the same way, but my biggest complaint of shopping at the farmer’s market is the sellers – sometimes friendly, sometimes strictly business – just watching you, expecting you to buy something. If I don’t buy something from their stall, I feel guilty. It’s hard to just feel like an anonymous shopper when eyes are you. Is that totally crazy?! Please – someone tell me if I’m being totally silly.

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19 Marieke November 18, 2012 at 8:46 am

+1! I love anonymous shopping – being able to just browse without feeling like I *have* to buy something or the farmer will be left with all his goods because of meeeeee.

Also: I hate it when I have to ask for prices. And then say ‘no’ and feel guilty. Or say ‘yes’ and feel bad because over budget :) When I’m not in the mood, this makes me avoid our otherwise fantastic farmers’ markets sometimes.

I’m sure you’d all love it here: we have big markets three days a week in the middle of the old city (Noordermarkt/Lindengracht/Westerstraat/Haarlemmerplein), with lots of organic fare but also knick knacks, clothes etc etc, plus two big organic grocery stores (Ekoplaza/Marqt) in the same area.

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20 W. November 18, 2012 at 3:51 pm

I’m a former farmer’s market vendor and have worked at lots of different types of markets. They all have their quirks and the behind the scenes camaraderie or drama is always entertaining…some are quite a scene.

To those of you who feel awkward or embarrassed about interacting with a vendor and then not buying something, there’s no need to feel guilty. Don’t be afraid to say hello and smile when we greet you, we’re not offended if you just keep on walking (it was always weirder when people would look away furtively trying not to make eye contact). Obviously, all vendors are different, but when I’m behind the booth I’m just excited to talk or answer questions…maybe you’ll tell a friend about us or come back some other time. If there aren’t lines, I loved chatting with customers (usually I was bored!) though of course I got extra happy when they did buy something.

Also, if you have suggestions, you should talk to the market manager! There is usually an info booth or table staffed by the market for just this sort of thing, plus handling all the behind-the-scenes details with vendors and set-up and tear-down, etc. They want you to feel at home and keep coming back to buy stuff, so they are usually very happy to get to know you and listen to your ideas! Of course, they’ll appreciate it when you remember that changes may take time (there are a lot of different people to please at markets: vendors, customers, neighbors, officials enforcing accessibility and food safety laws) but if enough people say something, you never know!

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21 Katy November 21, 2012 at 10:37 am

this helps so much! okay good, i will not feel bad about not buying something, i will smile and chat politely with vendors and i will just chill out about the whole thing :)

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