Farmers Market: Tips From a Pro

Shopping advice from Amelia Saltsman, market master and author of the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook

1. Buy what’s in season—it always tastes better. Our climate allows us to grow some produce nearly year-round, but it will be most flavorful and plentiful (read: cheaper) in season.

2. Some farmers are not certified organic for financial reasons but still grow at or above certification standards. So how do you choose? Is organic certification a must? It’s a personal decision. To make the most informed choice, ask growers to explain their practices. 

3. Great flavor and good farming practices go hand in hand. It’s the best indication that something was carefully grown. So always make sure to shop for flavor first. A farmer who grows varieties for taste rather than how well they’ll ship can usually be counted on to grow more sustainably.

4. Speak up! But do it politely. Don’t be afraid to ask the farmers questions about their ingredients. Give positive feedback when you like something. And look for the market manager, who should be on hand to suggest vendors and where and when to find your favorites.

5. Food shopping should engage all your senses, so pay attention as you walk through the market. How does something look, smell, taste, and feel? What does the farmer have to say about a particular ingredient? Use the market as a learning experience. 

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