• Shelly Barnes: The farmers market: a new way to grocery shop

    By Shelly Barnes -

    The pantry is empty, and the refrigerator is bare. You know what time it is…time to shop for groceries. As you drive to your favorite grocery store, you already know the actions you are going take. 

    You will enter the store, grab a buggy and browse aisles upon aisles of products.  After your cart is full and all items are checked off your list, you will head for the front to pay, hoping, of course, to find the shortest and fastest checkout line.

    But, what happens when you change things up? What happens when you decide to shop a different venue…say a farmers market?  Well, in such a case, your 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,” Snead said. “In addition, the conditioned responses help consumers process information and make decisions during the shopping experience.”  

    When you shop at new or different retail venues such as a farmers market, your conditioned responses may no longer work.  Thus, you must rethink how you shop.

    To help you make these shifts in thinking and to help you 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 to you 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 your items.

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

    • Bring a cooler preferably one with wheels. Using a cooler helps protect your perishable items – cheeses, meats, dairy products – while you shop. In addition, a cooler will help you get these items home safely.

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

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

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

    • Seek out the information booth. Almost all markets have an information booth where you can ask questions about the market. The information booth is a great place to start if you plan to use your SNAP benefits. The information booth can walk you through the process of how to use your SNAP benefits at the market.

    So, grab your favorite shopping bag and head out the door. A different and fun shopping experience is waiting for you.

    We are happy to be part of the farmers market fresh program. Partnering with the farmers market is just a natural fit for our office given our focus on food preservation, cooking skills and healthy eating. Make plans now to visit UT Extension at the Lebanon Farmers Market on Tuesdays and Thursdays in July. The Lebanon Farmers Market is at 143 S. Maple St.

    For more information on the Lebanon Farmers Market, please contact Jeff Baines at 615-444-0825 or via e-mail at [email protected] The Lebanon Farmers Market is operated by the city of Lebanon.

    The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture celebrates 50 years of excellence to provide real life solutions through teaching, discovery and service, ag.tennessee.edu/Pages/default.aspx. For more information on this or other family and consumer sciences-related topics, contact Shelly Barnes, family and consumer sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes may be reached at [email protected] or 615-444-9584.

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