Farm-to-Table: Helpful Questions to Ask at the Farmer’s Market

Liz Weber, RD, CNSC, provides guidance just in time for the summer on how to approach purchasing produce at farmers markets.

Who doesn’t love going to a farmer’s market on a Saturday morning and returning home with delicious local fruits and vegetables?

  • But are you sure they’re local?
  • Are you sure you got the best “bang for your buck” when it comes to cost, freshness and flavor?

Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center Oncology Dietician Liz Weber, MS, RD, CNSC, says there’s no better way to find out everything you need to know about the produce (or meat) you’re buying at the farmer’s market than directly from the farmer.

“Don’t be shy. You can learn more about the produce by asking the farmer or vendor some of these questions to guide you to the best purchases of fruits and vegetables,” said Weber. What follows is her advice about asking questions when visiting a farmer’s market.

What is selling for the best price?

Have you come home from a farmer’s market with far too much produce and spent more money than you intended? If you’re working on a budget, ask the vendor which produce is selling for the best price. They’re running a business so they should give you a truthful answer.

When was the fruit or vegetable picked?

You want the freshest of the fresh produce. If it was harvested more than 48 hours ago, you may want to shop around and ask other farmers if they have harvested within the last 24 hours.

What produce are you spraying with pesticides or chemicals? Is this produce organic?

Have pesticides and/or chemicals been used on the produce? Does it matter to you if the food has been certified as organic? If so, ask. For example, you may gear more toward fruits or vegetables that don’t have edible skin if standard pesticides are used (e.g., bananas or oranges).

How can I cook this?

Variety in consumption of fruits and vegetables is key to great health. But often we’re hesitant to try something new — or perhaps we have no idea how to cook or prepare it. If you’re willing to try a new fruit or vegetable, ask the farmer how to prepare it.

Where is your farm located or are you a wholesale market?

Many of us shop at farmer’s markets because we love the idea of supporting local farmers and businesses. However, just because someone is standing behind a table selling produce, doesn’t always mean they’re a local farmer. Vendors can be just as knowledgeable, but some travel for larger wholesale companies selling other people’s produce, which does not equate to supporting local business.

Do you need an extra hand?

If you’re really eager to find out more about farming or how their farming is done, ask the farmer if he or she needs a free hand sometime. This may be an invaluable experience for truly understanding farm-to-table in West Michigan.


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