10 Tips for Conquering Philly’s Farmers’ Markets

Green Philly Blog's Julie Hancher offers pro tips for scoring deals, asking questions, and making the most of your next farmers' market trip.

Clark Park, located along Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia’s Spruce Hill neighborhood, hosts one of the largest and most populated farmers'€™ markets in Philadelphia. More than a dozen vendors offering organic fruits, heirloom vegetables, milk, eggs, cheeses, meats, pastries and breads, honey, cut flowers, dried herbs and chocolates.

Clark Park Farmers' Market in West Philly // Photo by J. Fusco for GPTMC

Warm sunshine, shopping, and fresh, local produce—what’s not to love about farmers’ markets? With tons of new markets popping up around Philly and the ‘burbs, the place to go for the most delicious ingredients is a few steps away from your home.

Before you head over to your neighborhood market, it’s best to have a game plan to get the cream of the crop. Here, 10 tips to ensure you dominate the produce stalls like a seasoned pro.

1. Patience is a virtue.
When you first arrive, take a walk to the end as you browse products and prices. After you’ve surveyed the whole place, you can go back and purchase the best of the best. Otherwise, you may kick yourself for settling for the first vendor you see!

2. Bring cash.
Note: Most farmers’ market vendors do not accept credit cards.

3. Have a list and objectives.
Are you going to a BBQ in the next few days or need a gift for Father’s Day? Farmers’ markets aren’t exclusively for your grocery list: Many vendors have gifts like candles and handcrafted goods. Two birds, one stone!

4. Early bird gets the worm.
If you want the best produce selection, go early. Especially at popular farmers’ markets like Headhouse Square, Filter or Rittenhouse, many of the berries and best tomatoes go first.

5. But procrastinators also win.
Want to strike a deal? Try your hand close to closing time. I’ve had a few farmers throw in an extra cucumber or a couple of complimentary radishes because I went later and they wanted to lighten their load home.

6. Ask questions.
This is your time to meet the people growing and making your food! Feel free to ask about farming practices, ingredients and more. Pro Tip: Although many of the farmers in the region aren’t “certified” organic – many use organic methods. The certification is very pricey.

7. BYOB.
Bring your own bags—reusable are best—in various shapes and sizes. Having a few canvas bags will ensure you won’t need to take plastic or paper. Also, carrying a few smaller bags for loose berries or produce will allow you to leave the market plastic-free.

8. Wash off your produce when you get home.
Keep in mind the pesticide-free produce may contain the odd pest, so washing off your produce a little more than usual is wise.

9. Go outside your norm.
Looking for a Philly favorite but missed your go-to farmers’ market? Check with the vendor for other locations. Many local vendors do a few markets in the Philly circuit. For example, local fave Market Day Canele frequents Rittenhouse Square, Headhouse, Fitler, Bryn Mawr, Malvern and many other locations around the Philadelphia region.

10. Come hungry and thirsty.
Although most health experts warn agains shopping on an empty stomach, you should make an exception at the farmers’ market. There are many sandwiches, lemonades and treats to sample as you walk around. For example, Good Spoon Foods had an asparagus soup that’s tastier than I dreamed of. You’ll find them at Rittenhouse, Bryn Mawr, Chestnut Hill and Headhouse.

Tell us: Do you have any tips for making the most of a farmers’-market trip? Share in the comments!

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Julie Hancher is author of Green Philly Blog, where she shares the hottest eco-events & simple ways to become a little bit more sustainable in the city of brotherly love. When she’s not tasting organic wine or playing with her eco-friendly orange tabby cat, she enjoys long bike rides by the beach and testing CSA recipes. Follow her tweets at @greenphillyblog.