Field of Science

Farmers' Market Etiquette

Farmers' markets are great things.  My Father used to like to take his young son to fading remnants of a big city market every now and then, and then such markets, where in days gone by grocers and restaurants used to buy their produce, just sort of disappeared.  How grand that they are making a come back across the country.  The Saturday morning affair in our city has continued to get bigger and more popular, however, some people need to be reminded about proper behavior at these markets.
1. Bring a market basket.  Why do you think they call them market baskets?  Traditionally a market basket is one-fourth of a bushel, but they need not be quite so big.  When you see people crowding around to purchase local, organic produce, but then requiring the vendor to put their fruits and veggies in plastic bags, you know they don't quite get it.  You can also just carry some reusable bags, but the point is you know you are coming to the market to buy produce and bakery items, so bring something to carry them.
2. Don't poke the produce.  You do not have to finger or handle each tomato or peach or apple.  Yes, you can ask how ripe something is, and a good vendor will show you or even have a melon or ear of corn displayed so you can see what they look like.
3. No dogs.  Why do people seem to think that the crowded throngs of a market are a good place to take you dog?  OK, it isn't.  So don't bring your dog.  Take you dog on a walk; take you dog to a park.  But do not take your dog to a market. 
4. Strollers.  Now this is getting a bit touchy here, but first there are strollers and then there are things about the size of small cars, and when one of these monsters rams into the back of your heel, you notice.  If you bring a dog too, you should be arrested.  So please consider the size of your stroller. 
5. Do not block the path.  The only place for people to move is down the center between the two opposing rows of stalls.  This is not the place to suddenly stop to discuss the latest non-events in your totally boring life.  Yes, you are in the way.  So excuse you!  Step to the side and have a nice chat.  Get a cup of coffee or a nice bloody mary (a new feature at our market!) at a sidewalk cafe, which is out of the path.
6. Bring a wad of cash in small denomination.  Sorry, but getting change for that $100 bill is not all that easy after you decided to buy that 50 cent zucchini.  So carry small bills and lots of quarters.  The vendors will love you and so will the people waiting in line behind you.
7. Display the quality of your goods.  Yes, vendors have to behave properly too.  The Phactor has been in more markets in more countries than you can imagine.  And giving you a bit of a taste, or at least having a melon or the like sliced open for a look is quite universal.  As many vendors are rather new at this, it falls into the category of a promotional to increase sales.  Anything new and unusual always needs some help, for example, the young couple selling some rather small cape gooseberries (Physalis edulis) were giving out tastes.  Oh, and if this is a family enterprise, make sure your kids are well enough versed in your produce to answer  people's questions.
8.  Do not disparage the goods.  People worked hard to bring their produce to market, and it's hard work, so no one wants to hear about the fact that their zucchini are too damned bit.  So be polite about the produce.
9. Bargaining.  Under some circumstances, bargaining is OK.  Like you decide to buy an entire box or bushel of apples or tomatoes or habanero peppers, then it's OK to ask "how much" for the whole thing?  But don't quibble about 5 for a dollar when the price is marked 4 for a dollar.  If you think it isn't such a good deal the stand down the block is probably offering them at 5 for a dollar.
What rules have been missed?


Carol Steel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carol Steel said...

Sorry my first comment had spelling errors so I am re-posting. You are sharing great advice. I hope market goers everywhere take heed. And I hope the people who stand and chat, blocking everyone ...get jabbed in the back of the heel by a stroller.

Melissa F said...

Yesterday morning, several of us waited in 95 degree heat while a woman spent a good ten minutes picking out every damn flower for her $10 bouquet at our local farmers market. Mind you, he had probably 15-20 gorgeous bouquets already made that were nicer than what she picked. At least be courteous enough to let those purchasing premade bouquets do so if you know your request is going to take some time.

The Phytophactor said...

Yes, Melissa, this is indeed rude behavior. TPP missed this one because my favorite Petunias are no longer doing their cut flowers for our local market.