Here’s a sure-fire way to know it’s summer in upstate New York: the farmer’s markets start cropping up all around us, just like the flowers in our gardens. Communities all around Livingston County sponsor weekly farmer’s markets with the goal of bringing fresh, locally produced foods to a central location for the convenience of those who aren’t lucky enough to possess a green thumb.

Here’s a sure-fire way to know it’s summer in upstate New York: the farmer’s markets start cropping up all around us, just like the flowers in our gardens. Communities all around Livingston County sponsor weekly farmer’s markets with the goal of bringing fresh, locally produced foods to a central location for the convenience of those who aren’t lucky enough to possess a green thumb.

Why shop at a farmer’s market instead of just going to the local grocery store? Freshness, for one. I have often heard a farmer speak about how the vegetables in their booth were plucked from the dirt that morning. 

According to the Worldwatch Institute, produce in most grocery stores has traveled an average of 1,500 to 2,500 miles to get there. Every hour that food sits after harvest, it loses nutrients and flavor.

Nutrition experts have been telling us for years that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is good for us on many levels. These foods are chock full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and probably some other substances that are good for us that we aren’t even aware of yet. The diversity of foods that is available at a farmers market encourages us to try new items that are highly recommended for our health.

Did you know that shopping at farmer’s markets is good for your mental health? According to an article published last summer on the Psychology Today website, hanging out with other people in one’s community can foster a sense of wellbeing and belonging. Most farmer’s markets are frequented by the folks who live in that town or village, so you are bound to run into someone you know.

Here are a few tips for shopping at a farmer’s market, taken from localfoods.about.com:

Go early or go late. These tend to be the least crowded times at the market. For the best selection, you will want to be there early. If you are hunting for a bargain, you might have better luck right before closing, as some farmers would rather sell at a discount than pack things up to take back home.

Bring your own bags and small change. Part of the allure of shopping at a farmer’s market for some is knowing that it is good for the environment to shop locally. Extend that advantage by
bringing your own reusable bags. Most vendors appreciate it if they aren’t breaking twenty dollar bills all day, and it’s easier for the shopper if they aren’t shuffling bills and bags.

Have an idea of what’s in season and plan accordingly. If you know that spinach is abundant, you can plan several meals worth and buy enough all at once. That’s another money-saving tip; buy in bulk and you can often get a discount.

Get advice. If a product is new to you, ask the farmer who sells it how to prepare it. Sometimes they will offer recipes and some markets even have a booth where someone is cooking with the week’s most abundant offerings for market-goers to sample. What’s not to love about that?

Take your kids. The atmosphere at most farmer’s markets is extremely family-friendly. Some even go so far as to have booths offering things like face painting and kids’ crafting supplies.

Plus, the colors of the produce and artistic displays at the booths are a real draw for kids to check out some new vegetables. If you let your children choose a new veggie as you shop, they may be more receptive to eating it.
In recent years, more and more markets are accepting SNAP benefits (EBT cards). Right now, the Geneseo and Mt. Morris markets are accepting them. Go to snaptomarket.com to familiarize yourself with the way this program works.

If you are not sure of where and when these markets are being held in your community, you can go to fingerlakeswest.com/eat/farm-markets for a list. But do yourself a favor and make the effort to go, mostly because it’s just plain fun!


Pam Maxson is a health educator at Noyes Hospital in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles, she can be reached at pmaxson@noyes-hospital.org or 335-4327.