Getting to Know Your Farmer...
Chatting with a farmer is one of my favorite aspects of shopping at the farmers market.
But I have a confession to make...I'm actually quite shy.
Having previously managed the Lawrence Farmers Market, farmers there are old friends and conversations flow quite naturally. I now work with markets all across the state and frequently hit the road to visit them. Walking a new market is an adventure. Each has its own distinct atmosphere and personality.
Last week, I was in Atchison for a meeting and realized that I would have an opportunity to visit the city's Wednesday afternoon market. Driving up to the market, I had butterflies in my stomach as if I was about to go on a blind date. The vendors, of course, were all delightful and I ended up staying much longer than planned.
On the drive home, I wondered if others sometimes felt awkward in a market setting and remembered a blog post filled with coversation starters. David Becker, over at Friend of the Farmer, suggests seven great questions to ask your farmer...
Be Curious and Polite
Best not to turn the questions for farmers into an interrogation. Show your curiosity. Slow down. Listen and learn. Chat as you shop. Other shoppers nearby might pick up a thing or two. If the market isn’t too crowded, start slowly.
- “Beautiful day. So how’s the season been going for you this year?” If you live anywhere in the Northeast, the answer will be “very tough” or “a season to forget”—the farm equivalent of fuggedaboudit. Better to start with “is there anything here you’re particularly proud of? Anything unusual?”
- “When did you pick this fruit or vegetable? Is it ready to eat today? How do I store it?” Chefs will tell you that berries picked after a heavy rain are worthless. This year’s peaches were particularly insipid for the same reason. Some items like winter squash can last for months if stored correctly.
- “Are you able to use organic or sustainable principles on the farm?” It’s so easy to ask “is this organic” but the fact is many farmers do not have the time and in some cases the money for organic certification. That doesn’t mean they don’t follow those very same principles on the farm.
- “Does this produce come from your farm?” Small farms can grow an amazing amount of food but it is unlikely that they will have fruit trees and kale growing on the same patch. But that’s okay if your farmer gets produce from growers they know. It’s very likely they can talk about their neighbors’ practices.
For the farmers out there, I'd love to follow-up with a "Seven Questions Not to Ask Your Farmer" so mercedes [dot] taylorpuckett [at] gmail [dot] com (send me) your list!