It seems like we rarely have a weekend in Charlotte, but when we do, one of my favorite things is to ride our bikes to the Kings Dr Farmers Market. There is something about the Farmers Market that makes me feel organically trendy. I love to be able to support local farmers and you can’t beat the prices. We typically make a list of all we need for the following week and then stock up and load it in our backpacks for the trek home. If we’re buying flowers or herbs (or a watermelon) we’ll bring the car, but bike riding seems to fit the experience better.
The Charlotte Observer recently featured “10 ways to make the most of farmers markets”
What to do
• Plan ahead. “Almost any market of any size these days has an online newsletter or an email list,” says Daniel. Many farmers do, too. That will not only tell you if someone has a special crop, but it will also alert you to events, like book signings, cooking demos or festivals.
• Make a plan, but be flexible. “If you’re not an experienced cook, have a general idea (of what you want),” says Blacklin. “Otherwise, it’s overwhelming. Give yourself some framework for what you might want. But the key word is ‘might.’ You want flexibility to change.”
• Walk through before you decide what to buy. “Stand back and look where the customers are,” says Crawford. “That’s the way to find out the best people to buy from.”
• Go early. Really popular items sell out fast. “Things that are really favorites, like fresh eggs, sell out quickly,” says Daniel. “Some markets, if you don’t go within the first hour, you won’t get anything.”
• Go late. Sometimes the last customer can get the best deal, if the farmer doesn’t want to pack it up. “I personally don’t try to wheel and deal with farmers,” says Daniel. “They work so hard, they deserve what they make. But for some people who want a bargain, it’s OK to do.”
• Buy for multiple meals, but work in a midweek stop, too, says Blacklin. “Don’t think about it like a supermarket. It’s a shift of how we think of our schedule and our rhythms, but that’s helpful (to shop midweek) when you’re buying fresh things.”
• Get to know your farmer – but not when the market is really busy. “You really don’t want to hold things up by chatting too much,” says Daniel. Go in at a slow time or on a slower day of the week, or stay late and offer to help reload the trucks.
• Be considerate. Take small bills, don’t cut in line, and try to share if something is scarce. “I’ll look behind and say, ‘Does anyone else want okra?’ ” says Daniel. “And if they don’t, I’ll take it all.”
• Leave room for a treat. “I’m a big fan of leaving yourself some wiggle room (in your budget),” says Blacklin. “It’s a social experience. Buy yourself that flower or that scone or a cup of coffee.”
• Finally, if you really want to be a regular, volunteer. Most markets need helpers. “There’s always things we could use help with,” says Blacklin. “Even the information booth.”
You can also click here for an interactive map of the all of the Charlotte-area markets.