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10 Tips for Shopping Michigan’s Farmers Markets

by Lisa Diggs

Summer is the most flavorful time of year in the Great Lakes State, and nowhere is that more obvious than in our plentiful farmers markets. However shopping them is slightly different than going to the produce aisle of a supermarket. These tips will help you make the most of the experience.


Know What’s in Season Getting a feel for what foods to expect each month can really help you make the most of a visit to a farmers market. These Michigan charts provide a great starting point, though timing and quantities available will change based on weather conditions. This is where farmers are really your friends. During your visit, talk to the growers about what will be coming to market in the coming weeks so you can plan ahead. 

Seek Out Recipes When you know what you're likely to find at the farmers market, you can do a bit of meal planning and shop accordingly. Have fun seeking out new recipes that will help you take advantage of what you expect to see at the market each week.

Bring Supplies Some market vendors offer bags, but they tend to be flimsy plastic ones that are bad for the environment, and don’t hold much weight. Make sure everything gets home from the farmers market without crashing onto the sidewalk or spilling onto the floor of your car by bringing your own sturdy canvas or nylon bags. Consider carrying reusable plastic containers for fragile purchases like berries. Also, depending on the size and location of the market you are visiting, a wagon may be helpful. There are few things more disappointing than passing up a delightful purchase because you don’t have an easy way to transport it home.
Carry Cash Although some vendors have begun to process credit and debit cards with the use of mobile devices, many are unable or unwilling to do so, plus it means the farmer has to give some of his/her profit back to the bank. Purchases will go easier and faster if you carry cash and offer exact change, when possible.
Go Early or Come Late Like most places, markets tend to be less crowded right when they open or just before they close. If your priority is getting access to the widest selection, definitely go early since the best items tend to disappear first. If you’re looking for the best deals however, go late. Vendors often prefer to discount products instead of loading them back up and hauling them home.
Take Your Time & Look Around While it’s tempting to start buying as soon as you arrive, take a few minutes and walk around. Get a feel for what is available, which produce looks the freshest, and who is offering the best prices. If you leap too fast, you may find you have a little buyer’s remorse when you see an opportunity that looks better than the first one you took.
Buy in Bulk Unquestionably the best deals come when you buy large quantities. This is especially true when you stock up on whatever is at its peak harvest. If you’re worried wasting some of it, consider splitting your purchase with a neighbor or relative. You can also try your hand at freezing, canning, and drying to preserve the flavors for future meals.
Taste Samples One of the most compelling reasons to visit a farmers market is the opportunity to try before you buy. Not only can this help you confirm the quality, it can even aid in the discovery of new favorites. Perhaps you always buy the same type of lettuce or apples for fear of the unknown. Markets often give an opportunity to taste and compare and decide what you and your family really like.
Ask for Advice If you find a food that is new to you at the farmers market and want to give it a try, but don’t know how to serve it, ask the grower for a recommendation. If you’re not sure how to tell if an item is ripe, or which part of it is edible, farmers are typically delighted to share their expertise.
Shake Things Up Planning goes a long way when hitting a farmers market, but so can your sense of adventure. Pick up what is on your list, but keep an eye out for surprises too. There are so many markets in Michigan now that you can also easily try a new one. Visit a neighboring town or stop while traveling thoughout the state. Different regions grow different crops so you never know what you might find. Search this database to find a Michigan market near your chosen destination.

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