How to Make the Most of Fall Farmers Markets

Autumn is the best time to supplement your grocery-store run with farm-stand produce.

Don’t let a chill in the air fool you into indoors-only grocery shopping. Experts say fall is the best time of year to get into the farmers market habit. “Everything is in abundance right now,” says Cynthia Singiser, Virginia programs manager for Community Foodworks, the nonprofit that runs the Arlington Courthouse Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, along with half a dozen other markets in Northern Virginia. Here are some helpful tips.

Photo by Whitney Pipkin.

1. Shop On a Mission

This isn’t window-shopping season; it’s peak produce time. Come prepared to make purchases just like you would at the supermarket. “So many times we hear from farmers market vendors that people just come in and talk and nobody buys,” says Emilie Tydings, president of the Virginia Farmers Market Association.

Bring your reusable bags and, just in case, some cash. (Though many vendors take credit cards, dollars and change can make the transactions go faster.) For markets that sell more than produce — which is almost all of them—it also makes sense to bring a cooler and ice packs for items like cheese, milk, eggs or frozen meats.

Not sure what the market will have on a given week? Ask your farmer the week before or print this master list of what’s in season in Virginia for each month of the year. Some local markets offer weekly email newsletters with recipes incorporating whatever is fresh.  The same is true of vendors like Twin Springs Fruit Farm, a Pennsylvania producer that sells at Arlington markets. Its newsletter lists what’s in season and whether wacky weather will affect the availability of certain items.

Categories: Food & Drink