I’m one of those people who love farmers markets for the ambiance, but often end up empty-handed. The abundance sends me into apathy, and all I can do is pull out my phone and snap photos of halved yellow watermelons or piles of golden squash blossoms, and then run back to my car – iced coffee sweating in one hand and my phone in others – while my empty tote bag flaps in the wind.
As much as photos of veggies make beautiful home screens, I’d much rather have a fridge full of fresh produce to feed me for the week. Of course, there are boxes to order that deliver produce to your door and grocery stores to visit, but nothing beats the feeling of strolling through a flavorful al fresco farmers’ market with a plan.
Here’s what LA-area farmers’ market vendors, chefs, and shopper pros recommend so you can truly shop for what you need at farmers’ markets without stress.
1. plan ahead
In order not to feel overwhelmed at the farmers market, make a list based on what you want to cook for the week. “I think it’s very important to plan ahead. Decide what you want to cook the night before. … When you show up at the market, you have an idea of the ingredients you want to buy and use,” Bar Lis chef Jose Contreras said while stacking end-of-season Sungold tomatoes in a carton Hollywood Farmers Market.
A list is also helpful save money and Avoid food waste. Seller Shae Seward from cobbler mania chimed in: “Keep a list so you don’t end up buying anything you don’t need and try to stick to your list. Don’t just walk down the aisles like you would in the supermarket…because you will inevitably end up buying what you weren’t looking for.”
2. Explore the area
Los Angeles County is home to Dozens of farmers marketsduck Every market has something different to offer. The Alhambra Farmers Market, for example, offers a wide range of Asian products. “You take care of two Walk a little before it opens to avoid everyone. me usually check which farms are in which markets, since I have favorite ingredients from certain ones. Hollywood and Santa Monica are my favorites, but lately Pasadena has been really good on Saturdays!” said Lexie Park, chef, baker and Jell-O artist eat nunchi.
I met microgreens farmer Jon Ho from Holistic Operations In the Redondo Beach Farmers Market. He recommends looking at the markets online first. “Like the school, we want to be prepared. Try finding a few markets on social media and see if they have a list of vendors. …Then you can go to the market and explore it. You don’t have to feel any pressure to buy something right away.”
3. Bring a shopping cart
While most people head to the farmers market with a few crumpled bags, I usually stuff 20 tangerines into my purse. Experts recommend roles Car/Behind or a bag with handles that don’t dig into the palm of your hand. “I definitely always bring a trolley to avoid carrying bags,” Park said. Mona Welch, a frequent shopper at Westwood’s Hollywood Farmers Market, recommends bringing empty yogurt containers for smaller purchases “so they don’t get crushed.”
4. Let the seasons guide you
There are hardly any seasons in California, but that doesn’t mean our products aren’t seasonal. Do something research in advance. Or, Wel recommends “Ask what’s good right now. Pretend you don’t know and trust the farmers.” You can also just observe your surroundings and see what’s plentiful and what other people are buying.
5. Put down your phone and make friends with salespeople
Many vendors have “no photos” signs, so keep your phone in your pocket and start a conversation. Who knows? Maybe the farmer will throw you another cabbage. “I don’t have to hard sell people because if they like the experience, they’ll come back… and build a bond of trust,” said Cheesemonger Jaz Persing of stepladder dairy. Sellers are also eager to share recipes and techniques, like Erika Wain Decker from Klausesbees at the Monrovia farmers market. “I can provide some new ideas on how to use honey if you are unfamiliar!”
6. bring cash
After all, cash isn’t dead. “Most vendors will take cards, but it helps to bring cash,” Park recommends. And the providers agree. Atef Alomari from brothers products at the Monrovia Farmers Market told me that while he accepts cards, he “prefers cash” to avoid those extra credit card fees.
7. Don’t forget samples
So your phone is put away. Your shopping cart rolls. You have a list in hand and cash in your pocket. You’re ready to make smart purchases… but don’t forget about free samples! There aren’t that many places outside of Costco that offer free samples anymore. What better way to make friends with the farmers and learn about new ingredients and seasonal products than to taste them yourself?
“You see things at the farmer’s market that you don’t see at regular markets. … Many vendors give samples. That way you can try the products instead of buying something that catches your eye and then going home and not liking it,” said Seward of Cobblermania.