Local Farmers Markets: 10 Things You Shouldn’t Do or Ask
Part 2 | 10 things you SHOULDN’T do or ask at the farmers market
It wasn’t until I started to get to know some farmers and vendors that I realized there are questions you definitely shouldn’t ask at the farmers market. There are also plenty of things you shouldn’t do. Fortunately I was enlightened by watching other people do these things and observing the farmers’ reactions, but I’m sure I’ve been guilty at times. Hopefully this list will help you avoid some potentially embarrassing situations!
1. Don’t fondle the herbs.
You may know that rubbing an herb leaf between your finger releases its essential oils and is an easy way to smell it. However, I don’t think anyone wants to buy a bunch of herbs that has been rubbed by a bunch of strangers. No offense, but I don’t know where your hands have been. Instead of being an herb fondler, you can lift the bunch to your nose and smell (but see #2), or you can ask the farmer if you may smell it. The farmer may have some reserved just for smelling and give you a leaf to rub to your heart’s content. Better to ask!
2. Don’t touch items to your nose when smelling them.
Nobody wants to buy produce covered in snot. So do yourself and other shoppers a favor and keep a safe distance between your nose and produce when you feel compelled to smell it. It’s an easy mistake to make (I’m guilty, too), but try to be mindful of this. Farmers and your fellow shoppers will thank you (but probably not literally or out loud). This applies to children and dogs, too…
3. Don’t let your dog sniff, lick, or pee on anything.
If nobody wants produce covered in human snot, there’s definitely no one who wants produce covered in dog snot or slobber! I love that most farmers markets are dog-friendly, but let’s make sure the dogs are friendly to the farmers market, too. Keep a close eye on your canine friend to be sure he or she doesn’t sniff, lick, or pee on anything (or eat anything!).
4. Don’t take samples (unless specifically marked).
Some stands will have very obviously marked samples–usually with a sign that says something like “samples” or “take one.” But when in doubt, ask! Most farmers are happy to accommodate reasonable requests or will even offer to cut something up for you. Just because a pint of blueberries looks like a sample bin, doesn’t mean it is one.
5. Don’t let your kids (or yourself) treat the samples as snack time.
Almost everyone loves samples, but the farmers market is not the place for free snack time (go to Costco if that’s what you want). The sample signs often say “take one” for a reason; it’s a taste, not a snack. It’s ok to try items that are marked as samples or are offered by a farmer or vendor (see above), but it’s not ok to chow down. The same thing goes for your kids. Even if you have no intention to buy an item that you sample, at least say, “thank you.”
6. Don’t poke, prod, or be rough with produce.
I’d hope this one is self explanatory, but it’s easy to do without realizing it. Resist the urge to squeeze the peaches, as you may bruise them. If you pick up an item, do so carefully, and set it back down gently. Be especially sensitive when setting down fragile items like eggs or tomatoes–bust one and that’s lost profit for the farmer or vendor.
7. Don’t make rude comments about a vendor’s items.
If you think an item is ugly or you saw a better looking one at a different booth, keep it to yourself! A lot of hard work goes into producing what you see at a farm stand, and nobody wants to have their work criticized. There’s no need to comment on bug bites in the leaves of produce–the farmer is mostly likely aware of them, and it’s just a reminder that it was grown in the ground (and hopefully organically)! If you have major problems with the way someone’s items look, there’s an easy solution that doesn’t involve rude comments: don’t buy from them!
8. Don’t ask the farmer if this is his or her “weekend gig.”
Let’s get one thing straight: farming is HARD WORK. There are many women and men that devote their lives to farming, and none of them want that devotion reduced to a comment about a hobby or weekend gig. And definitely do not ask if they, “actually make a living” from farming (many do!). Regardless of how much money they’re making, it’s important to respect the people who passionately work to produce food for us.
9. Don’t complain about prices (or anything, for that matter).
As we’ve already established, a LOT of hard work goes into farming (if you have any doubts, I dare you to spend a day working on a farm). Farmers should be compensated for their work producing our food. It’s easy to compare farmers market prices to what you see in the grocery store, but there is so much value in supporting people (rather than corporations) that are making our own communities a better place. If locally produced and/or organic food is not something you value, then the farmers market is probably not the place for you. But please, do everyone a favor and don’t complain about the prices!
10. Don’t ask for a discount.
While some places are fit for bargaining, your local farmers market is not one of them! The best way to get on a farmer’s bad side? Ask for a discount. Sometimes farmers will offer discounts for large orders, at the end of the day, or to loyal customers. If you’re lucky enough to receive one of those offers, take it as a compliment and say, “thank you!”
I’m sure there are exceptions to all of these things, but if you’re mindful to be kind, courteous, and respectful, you should be fine (at the farmers market and in life).