Heading to the farmer’s market is our weekend tradition – a fun one! Something about coming home with a straw tote loaded with fresh produce, cheese, perfectly baked bread – and maybe a bottle of wine – makes us feel both extremely accomplished and fully prepared for the week ahead.
Our weekly stop is, luckily, right in North Hills at the Midtown Farmer’s Market. You can stock up on seasonal goodness each Saturday from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m., now through November 5.
Some of the best farmer’s market finds we can boast have been found when we’re simply stumbling around! But that doesn’t mean that a plan isn’t valuable. It’s nice to feel fully armed as you head into the Market, so we figured it might be helpful to put together a guide, of sorts. Without further ado – our best tips for conquering the Midtown Farmer’s Market.
1. Delve into the behind-the-scenes
Before we go to a farmer’s market, we like to learn about who’s running the show. It makes our trips feel more personal, and helps us feel like we’re making informed purchases. This neighborhood market is run by Midtown Events, and is sponsored by Duke Raleigh Hospital – someone who you know is committed to healthy, nutritious food choices!
The Market’s vision centers heavily around organic offerings. This means that the food is produced by farmers who emphasize renewable resources, are focused on enhancing their environment and consider the health of future generations when producing their goods. The Market has an additional focus on seasonal eating, ensuring that the produce and other items you find when browsing are connected to the regional bounty during that timeframe.
You can discover more about the Market, and the vision behind it, here – and know that it’s a food source you can feel good about frequenting.
2. Research the farmers
While, like we said, exploring a market is half the fun of going to a farmer’s market, it’s also good to have some understanding of what you can expect. There’s nothing better than having a standing “egg guy” – and nothing worse than having to go to a generic grocery store because you missed a food item you banked on having!
Midtown Farmer’s Market has 45 plus vendors to choose from. That can be daunting. But also exciting! We recommend taking a few weeks to find your favorites, your go-tos. Start a list. Get perfectly ripe peaches from Chappells for three weeks in a row? We think you just found a produce destination. You’ll be surprised to notice what makes its way into your basket weekend after weekend – for example, we’ve discovered we can’t live without Cold off the Press’ addictive juices. And sometimes you just want a quick treat, which is when Dixon Dollops comes in handy.
If you check out the vendor list before, you could make a list of tents you absolutely want to find, too! Kick up breakfast by scooping up handmade goodness at Michael’s English Muffins, for example. We could wax poetic about the food combinations from Midtown Farmer’s Market all day. You should probably just read up on them for yourself, here!
3. Be prepared
Don’t show up blind, trust us. That’s how you walk away with ten of the same thing – or at least, ten of the same thing already in your refrigerator.
The best way to avoid this is, actually a super practical solution – decide on a budget, and maybe even meal plan, before you get to the market. Each Sunday, we sit down, determine our meals for the week using a simple printed-off-the-Internet template, and make a grocery list. This has turned into a good way to stay on track with our grocery shopping, and with our budget.
It also helps ensure we have a week of healthy, on-hand meal option. And that’s paid dividends in other ways. We’re much less likely to succumb to our nemesis of snacking all day, or ordering in every single night, when we know we have fresh, seasonal options simply waiting in our refrigerator.
But we also suggest being flexible with your farmer’s market budget – have enough to get what you need, sure, and then some unexpected gems, too! Discovering a new favorite fruit or vegetable, or taking advantage of squash blossom season to roast and stuff them with cheese (!), is one of the most exciting advantages of frequent market visits.
4. Ask lots of questions!
The farmers want to talk to you about their produce. It’s quite literally their livelihood. So if you don’t know what something is, go out on a limb and ask. That’s how, last weekend, we ended up with speckled pea shoots in our tote, which added a delightfully peppery taste to our salads for the rest of the week.
This is also helpful when it comes to getting a handle on produce that you might not otherwise know. Need to figure out what’s in season? The farmers can tell you. They can also steer you toward the expected expiration dates, what type of peach will taste best in your grandmother’s cobbler recipe, and the slice of nutty cheese that will complement that dessert perfectly. People that like to talk food are the best kind of people, in our opinion. So embrace it!
Hopefully, we’ve convinced you to work a visit into Midtown Farmer’s Market into your weekly rotation. You won’t be sorry. And if you have any more questions, you can visit their website (with a contact form) here.