Besides the obvious reasons for going to a market and getting delicious food, the market is full of a product that isn't always for sale: knowledge. Rows upon rows of booths are full of farmers and gardeners who are currently growing food in your specific micro-environment. My first year of gardening I was lucky to get acquainted with a farmer who was growing green beans by the acre. I was struggling with Japanese beetles attacking my beans that year, and he had some wonderful advice. He had disclosed to me that he was using traps found at the local farm store, and then feeding those beetles to his chickens. Making eggs out of pests cost him nothing and saved his crops. Every year since then it’s been a staple I use in my garden and with my chickens' diets.
Speaking with people who have knowledge that can help you source local food, grow better food, and get better prices on food is invaluable. Local municipalities want to bring these communities together so typically farmers markets are free of entry. Gleaning these lessons is worth the trip alone and then on top of that you can get some local food! If you started homesteading as a way to shorten the number of steps your food takes to get to you, like I did, then the farmers market is right up your alley. Cut out the steps of your food being shipped across the country or across the ocean and meet like-minded people all at once.
I have heard from people that the farmers market can be a bit overwhelming, and if you haven't taken leap of faith, then I'm sure it can be. Going from the sanitized and heavily thought-out grocery stores that are meant to put colorful packaging at your eye level, to the market where Jim brought bushels of corn and Terry brought summer squash can be quite a culture shock. The culture you will find is hard working people, bringing you produce they are proud of.
One thing that I love about farmers markets, that grocery stores can’t provide, is a good deal on the fly. If you are looking to get a bargain on a large quantity, wait till the last hour of the market and start asking around. Typically, farmers do not want to bring home any of the produce that they hauled to the market and are more willing to bargain with what’s left over at the end of the day. I once bought 6 large sized pepper plants for only a few dollars because the woman selling them was ready to let go of them. Those plants went on to produce gallons of food for me and I was really happy about the great deal I was able to get. I am reminded of that deal every time I walk past that raised bed and it always brings a smile to my face.
Lastly, the farmers market has a charm to it you won’t find anywhere but there. If you have someone in your life who can be challenging to buy presents for, a basket made of farm fresh goods is always a perfect gift. They always say that to get to man’s heart you got to go through the stomach and with Father’s Day coming up, a nice selection of fresh bread, just picked veggies and an assortment of hot sauces could really elevate the cookout many people have in order to celebrate Dad. This summer be sure to check out your local market, fall in love with local produce, and celebrate the hard work of your community.