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Do you love supporting local farms and shops, eating only the freshest produce and baked goods, and interacting with business owners and artists? Great! Michigan’s Sunset Coast is filled with many opportunities in which you can achieve all of these things —  Farmers Markets! One perfect, central location that combines food, art, clothing, and wares in the beautiful outdoors of our lovely communities.
But for a market novice, Farmer’s Markets might seem a bit intimidating. What’s the best way to navigate a farmer’s market? Is there farmer’s market etiquette? Let’s discuss.

Can I sample the foods? If the vendor offers a taste or bite, then by all means, be happy in your tasting. Just please don’t go digging through pints of blueberries or tomatoes, fingering everyone else’s future meals, to find one to pop into your mouth before purchasing. (I’m sure you wouldn’t pull a deodorant off of the shelf at the big box store and slather it onto your misty pits.) Most vendors will be happy to offer a sample. At the very least, ask first.

Do I need to bring my own bag? You don’t NEED to, no. Some tables and tents will have bags for the abundance of purchases you will be making at their stand. CAN you bring your own bag? Abso-freakin-lutely. If you’re like me, Saturday morning farmer’s markets are a time portal to the country roads of France and Italy; men and women gliding from stand to stand with big, heavy baskets on their arms, filling them to the brim with delicious goods and treats. Fanny packs, plastic grocery sacks, anything that pleases you will work.

Cash only? Tricky question. Easy answer: yes. It IS 2019, so some vendors will offer some form of debit/credit card-taking ability, but just prepare to use cash. It saves time, paperwork, and card fees (all of which help out your friendly local farmer) and you won’t have to worry about sketchy WiFi. Cash is your friend and theirs. Plus it will leave you coins and bills to tip, if you are so inclined.

Do I have to wash my produce? I mean, yes? The produce you will acquire at the market has only touched a few hands. Almost all of the fruit and veg are traveling straight from the farm to the farmers market: no middle man to transport across states (or hike up the prices). You are getting  f r e s h  stuff: dew, dirt and all. But you don’t HAVE to do anything; your life belongs to you.

When is the best time of the day to go? Essentially, the earlier the better. Farmers and artists and crafters and vendors sometimes travel for hours to sell at these markets, so there isn’t a stocking center or nearby hub in which they can store extra product. What you see is what they have. If you can, research which vendors will be present and take note of their menu or product list that will be available on that particular day. It won’t be a good start to the weekend if you show up an hour before closing just to find that your favorite bakery stand is out of focaccia.

Can I haggle? *BUZZZZERRR* No. This is not a flea market. These are business owners, hardworking farmers…humans trying to make a living doing what they love– selling the products they believe in, and that they’ve handcrafted for you.

We live in the magical fruit belt, where produce is abundant and beautiful. We have art galleries, and coffee roasters, jewelers, and bakeries, soap makers, butchers, yoga instructors, and more— all working hard to bring the glory of Michigan’s bounty to you, any day of the week. Shop with ease, and shop with a smile. Our farmer’s markets are prolific and frequent! Check ’em out below!

St. Joseph Farmer’s Markets ~ Benton Harbor Farmer’s Markets ~ New Buffalo Farmer’s Markets ~ Three Oaks Farmer’s Markets ~ Niles Farmer’s Markets ~ Buchanan Farmer’s Markets ~ Dowagiac Farmer’s Markets ~ South Haven Farmer’s Markets Saugatuck Farmer’s Markets ~ Grand Rapids Farmer’s Markets ~ Holland Farmer’s Markets

Jocelyne Y Tuszynski