The farmers’ market: A new way to shop

Shelly Barnes • Updated Jul 26, 2016 at 4:00 PM

The pantry is empty and the refrigerator is bare; it’s time to shop for groceries.  

But, what happens if things are changed up? What happens when it’s decided to shop a different venue, say a farmers’ market?  Well, in such a case, a traditional understanding of what it means to grocery shop has to change. 

According to Christopher Sneed, Extension specialist with The University of Tennessee Extension, the way consumers shop for food is based on a set of conditioned responses.  

“These conditioned responses guide consumers telling them ‘how’ to shop. In addition, the conditioned responses help consumers process information and make decisions during the shopping experience.”  

When shopping at new or different retail venues such as a farmers’ market, the conditioned responses may no longer work. Thus, how to shop should be rethought. 

To help make the shifts in thinking and to help make the most of the farmers’ market shopping experience, Sneed offered the following suggestions: 

• Arrive early, but not too early. For the best selection, be sure to arrive early to the farmers’ market. However, do not arrive too early. Many farmers’ markets have strict start times. Vendors may not be able to sell before the market officially opens.

• Bring a bag. It is a good plan to bring a bag or basket with you to the market.  Unlike, a grocery store, many vendors do not provide bags for items. 

• Have fun. Farmers’ markets are social, festive events. Take time to talk with fellow shoppers and the vendors selling your food.  Who knows? A new way to prepare a favorite fruit or vegetable might just be found.

• Bring a cooler, preferably one with wheels. Using a cooler helps protect perishable items such as cheeses, meats and dairy products while shopping. In addition, a cooler will help get the items home safely.

• Talk to the vendors. Unlike the grocery store, farmers’ markets allow the opportunity to talk – in most cases – to the person who grew the food you are purchasing. Use this opportunity to the advantage, and ask away.

• Be prepared for choices – lots of them. At the farmers’ market, more than one variety of the fruits or vegetables needed may be found. Making a decision among all these choices can be overwhelming. To help, talk with the vendors and the other shoppers. Both can help make a selection that best meets food needs.

• Ask questions. Don’t assume that all the foods at the farmers’ market are organic, grown in your community or even grown by the vendor selling them. Markets have different rules governing the types of items that can be sold. Asking the vendor is the best way to find out the information needed.

So, grab a favorite shopping bag and head out the door. A different – and fun – shopping experience awaits. 

 Make plans now to visit UT Extension at the Lebanon Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays through the end of August. The Lebanon Farmers’ Market is at 143 S. Maple St. in Lebanon.

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