Figuring out Farmers Markets

Photo credit: Edwin Remsberg

Photo credit: Edwin Remsberg


By Shelby Watson-Hampton

Shelby and her husband farm alongside her aunt and uncle on their family farm and vineyard in Southern Maryland.


The morning sun shines down warm as you stroll amongst the tables and vendors, eyeing the fresh juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers and sweet watermelons piled high. The smell of cinnamon lingers in the air as the local baker sets up a tray of tempting breads and buns on her table, and wait, is that a local winery you just spied over in the back corner?

If this scene sounds familiar to you, then you know that farmers market season, in all its delicious, fresh and local glory, is now upon us!

Farmers markets are popular community meeting places, where residents can catch up, get to know their local farmers and producers, and purchase fresh, locally produced fruits, vegetables, baked goods and much more.

As a farmer who used to sell at markets – and also as a previous farmers market manager – I can tell you that farmers markets serve as integral links between urban, suburban and rural communities.

By talking with farmers, consumers can learn about the families that grow their food and their different farming practices. They can develop a bond of trust in the integrity and accountability of our growers and the safety of our food.

But over the years, I’ve seen consumers get distracted from these relationships by the myriad of new labels that decorate market tables.

The words practically scream at you as you walk by: fresh, local, free range, natural, organic.

With all that information, what’s a consumer to do?

As a farmer, and as someone who works with many farmers markets as an agricultural marketing specialist, I have a few thoughts for you to keep in mind the next time you visit your local farmers market.


Three Thoughts for Farmers Market Shopping

  1. Learn more about the many options that are available to you. Research reliable sources, have conversations with your farmers and then choose the best fit for your family, whatever that may be.
  1. Don’t let the constant buzzing of buzzwords distract you. For example, just because a farm isn’t certified organic, doesn’t mean it’s not sustainable. You can find out more about how a farmer’s product was grown or raised, and what sustainable production practices they use, just by asking.
  1. No matter the label associated with their farm or their products, farmers care. We want to grow and raise food that is safe for your family and the planet. Celebrate your choices and purchase with confidence.


So go out to the farmers market!

Enjoy the day in the sunshine (or the rain!). Show the farmers that you care about all the amazing local products they provide. Buy those delicious tomatoes.  Taste the juicy watermelon. And just maybe, treat yourself to those homemade cinnamon rolls…after all, you’re buying local, you’re supporting community farmers and you’re learning about agriculture along the way.

You’ve earned a delicious roll or two, my friend.



One Comment


Great post! I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of a farmer that didn’t want to provide quality product. That’s how they make their money, and no one wants to sell a product that the consumer will not like.


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