There’s nothing better than buying fresh, flavorful, nutrient-packed food, that too from the person who’s grown it. If this sounds like something you want to do, then we suggest heading to your local farmers’ market!
And even if you’ve never shopped at one before, we’ve got you covered. Here’s your ultimate guide to 25 local, organic things to buy at a farmers market. So let’s get started!
What is a Farmers Market?
If you’ve never been to one before, you might be wondering, “what do you do at a farmers market?”. Well, let’s clear that up for you!
A farmers’ market lets you meet and interact with the people who grow your food. These events are either weekly affairs or pop-ups happening at regular intervals throughout the year. It’s a great place to buy seasonal, local produce and enjoy it in all its fresh, flavorful glory.
Locally-grown food items are “less traveled” than store-bought - and that’s a good thing! According to the USDA, over 85% of the food available at a farmer’s market comes within a 50-mile radius.
A huge relief considering most food we buy comes from a staggering 1,300-1,500 average miles before reaching our tables- an alarming statistic shared by some recent studies.
The “fresh” fruits and veggies at a supermarket are often the result of preservatives and artificially ripening. When you’re going farmers market shopping, you’re saying yes to a more sustainably, responsibly grown produce and supporting the local economy by handing the money directly to the farmers.
Such markets are also a gold mine for those looking to buy organic.
Why Shop Organic?
While nearly everything you buy at a farmer’s market is local, not all of it is organic. It’s important to ask around and check if it’s certified organic by USDA before you bag it.
For something to be labeled “organic,” it needs to be grown with natural fertilizers and be free of synthetic elements, harmful chemicals, and antibiotics.
The farming practices are also required to be easy on the environment by keeping water use to a minimum while preserving soil quality.
Organic food might feel a bit more expensive than conventionally-grown produce. But for something so rich in nutrients and antioxidants while being eco-friendly, we don’t mind paying more, now do we?
Quick tip - Carry your own bags on your trips to the farmer’s market as you won’t always find them there. And since you’ve decided to make healthy, eco-friendly choices by buying local and organic, try and ditch single-use plastic bags for reusable farmers market bags to take with you on your shopping trips.
25 Local and Organic Things to Buy at a Farmers Market
Next to only potatoes in consumption, tomatoes are produced abundantly and in a great variety across the United States. While in California, fresh tomatoes can be found all year round except in winters, everywhere else, they are generally grown in the warmer months with no chances of frost.
Available in red, yellow, green, orange, speckled, and striped at your local farmer’s market, organic tomatoes are loaded with vitamin B and E and flavonoids- excellent for the heart. The red tomatoes also happen to be a great source of an antioxidant, lycopene, that shields cells from sun damage, much like sunscreen. Heirloom varieties are generally more popular at such markets for being more authentic, sweet, and tasty.
From breakfast smoothies to a host of dessert recipes, there’s so much you can do with a bunch of your favorite organic berries. They’re also super healthy- rich in vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. These ripe-looking blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries are typically flown in from South America, Mexico, Canada, and Poland.
Wonder how they remain fresh for so long when known for being highly perishable? One word- preservatives! Conventionally-grown strawberries also tend to be drenched in pesticides. Want to gorge on chemical-free, juicy, sweet, and tart berries? Simply head to your local farmer’s market during the berry season and remember to buy only the organic variety.
At a time when the dairy and meat you buy in the U.S. is full of antibiotics, growth hormones, and whatnot, buying organic becomes all the more important.
Sure it’ll cost more, but this is the only way to make sure the butter and cheese you buy are from the milk of grass-fed, pasture-raised animals.
At a local market, you can chat with the farmers about the living condition of their livestock and even drive down to the farm, just to be sure.
Since honey isn’t something that can be certified organic by the USDA, finding out if it’s pure and responsibly produced becomes tricky. Typically, honey made from the pollen of organic flowers without exposing the bees to synthetic pest control is considered “Organic” in many countries. In that case, your best bet is to buy it at a local farmer’s market, where you can verify these facts firsthand.
White, purple, yellow, red - it’s such a delight to see organic carrots in a vibrant variety of colors compared to their standard orange avatar - a sight you’ll only come across at a farmer’s market. Whether you like them raw, roasted, or in a slaw, carrots are super delish and chock full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Carotenoids, found in all carrots except the white variety, are great for your eyes and boost immunity.
Like dairy, eggs are best when organic. Such eggs come from chickens raised on purely organic and chemical-free feed. This livestock is grown in more humane conditions without the use of hormones or antibiotics, except in the rare case of an infection.
A farmer’s market might also give you access to pastured or free-range eggs. These eggs are sourced from free-roaming chicken feeding on nature, making them rich in vitamin A and E and Omega-3s while being low in cholesterol than conventional eggs.
Did you know apples are a part of the “Dirty Dozen” or conventionally-grown foods with worrying levels of contamination? Every year Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a list of conventional produce highest in pesticide residue, and apples have a permanent spot on the list. Why? Well, blame it on the thin peel that allows pesticides to leech into the fruit.
Apples in their most natural form are nutrient-dense fruits high in vitamin C, B, fiber, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. So, next time you want to bite into juicy apples or bake a good ol’ apple pie, drive down to your local farm stand and buy only the certified organic variety.
Star ingredient in the art of wine-making, grapes are usually in season from July to November in the U.S. They are available in a wide range of varieties like Crimson, Concord, Candice, Jupiter, and many more, depending on the region. While each type differs in size, sweetness, and color, grapes are anti-inflammatory and known to lower the risk of several diseases, including Alzheimer’s.
Like apples, grapes keep popping up on EWG’s dirty dozen year after year. On average, a conventionally grown grape carries five pesticide residues! Surely that’s reason enough for you to buy only local and organic grapes. And while you’re at it, try out some farm-made jams, jellies, and juices.
Leafy Greens (Kale, Lettuce, Spinach)
A farmer’s market is home to a fantastic range of fresh, colorful veggies and fruits that you won’t find at your average grocery store or supermarket. It’s also the perfect place to shop for leafy salad greens that’ll load you up with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients with every bite. In fact, with kale and spinach occupying permanent spots on EWG’s pesticide-heavy produce, it’s best you buy them here.
Pro Tip: If you want to keep your kale fresher for a longer time then damp our muslin produce bags with water, put the kale bunch in it and put the bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
USDA-certified organic produce is your sure shot way of buying something good for your health and the planet. Both sweet bell peppers and hot peppers are prone to contamination from pesticides, so it’s always good to buy certified organic ones from a farmer’s market. They are low in calories but overflowing with vitamin C and when it comes to cooking with them, you can really get creative!
You won’t easily find rhubarb at a grocery store, so if you see them at your local farmer’s market, buy them right away! A flavor profile somewhere between tart and sour makes this stalky plant taste great with apples, strawberries, caramel, honey, and anything sugary sweet.
You could use it in pies, crumbles, custards, chutneys to add more depth and flavor to these classic recipes. Great for bone healthy and full of antioxidants, Rhubarb is easy to grow and perennial. While field-grown variety is seen around spring, hothouse rhubarb is grown and harvested all year round.
When in the mood for peaches, buy the organic ones - especially in the summer, after they’ve been freshly harvested. If you find them at the store anytime other than the summers, they’re most likely imported. Farm-fresh organic peaches beat store-bought ones in taste and aroma. Popular recipes to try with this summer bounty are cobblers, salads, pies, and yummy cocktails.
Celery might not be hard to find at the stores, but picking up the locally-grown organic ones will keep you from consuming the pesticide-heavy conventional variety. Besides being packed with vitamins A, K, and C, and minerals like potassium, it’s also low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Looking for meal ideas with celery as the hero? How about trying out an apple-celery salad, green smoothie, or a creamy celery soup or having it braised with potatoes and carrots.
Apart from the use of synthetically produced urea, there isn’t much difference between the cultivation of conventional and organic mushrooms. So it’s okay, even if they aren’t organic. Then why do we have them on this list? At your average store, you’ll usually find the common white-button variety. On the other hand, a farmer's market offers a fabulous selection of flavor-laden, gourmet mushrooms- shiitake, portabellas, enoki, oyster, and more.
In season eleven out of twelve months of the year, avocados are loved for their rich, smooth, buttery texture and their understated nutty flavor. Even though its thick skin shields the flesh from pesticides, organic avocados are still preferred. In fact, in 2022, organic avocados are trending among the top-selling fresh organic produce.
Along with investing in your own health, every time you buy organic and local - you’re also supporting the domestic economy as well as eco-friendly agriculture practices.
Aah, the smell of a fresh loaf of bread and other baked goodies always manages to lure the crowd at a farmer’s market. You’ll find everything from regular loaves to sourdoughs, croissants, bagels, and sweet treats, all homemade, handcrafted, and utterly delicious. Bread and baked goods can be organic too, but only if baked with organically grown grains and produce without artificial ingredients. Pro Tip: If you would like to cut back on plastic usage then check out our 100% linen bread bags.
Related Article: If you are looking for sustainable ideas for storing bread then check out our guide here.
When in doubt whether to buy organic or conventional, check if it’s one of the softer-thinner peel fruits. If yes, stick to organic to avoid the toxic load. Pear is one such fruit. In season from August to November, pears are majorly cultivated in the states of California, Oregon, Washington, and a few others.
The most popular varieties around here are Bartlett, Bosc, D’Anjou, and Asian pears. Each is different in texture, shape and can be added to all sorts of sweet and savory recipes for their somewhat balanced sweet profile. Pears also go incredibly well with cheese and wine- Anjou tastes great with Sauvignon Blanc, while Asian pears and Pinot Noir is a fan-favorite combination.
Like “Dirty Dozen,” EWG also has a list of “Clean 15” or low in pesticide produce that is acceptable to eat even if conventionally grown. So why buy organic and local? It’s because a lot of asparagus available in stores is imported from Peru and Mexico. This imported variety, even if certified organic in the home country, is required to be fumigated when it reaches here. This substance, methyl bromide, is toxic, and prolonged exposure to it can harm the central nervous system, lungs, eyes, and skin.
Popular for purees, cheesecakes, quiches, and the old-fashioned pie, pumpkins have been an American staple for as long as one can remember. It’s been a part of many traditions and festivities, including Halloween and Thanksgiving. Organic pumpkins are grown without using bioengineered genes (GMO) and synthetic elements. They are smooth, packed with flavor, and waiting to be turned into delicious treats.
Herbs and Spices
Fun fact- there are over 2000 organic herbs and spice farms all across the U.S. So, more often than not, you’ll find many of them set up shop at your local farmer’s market. If you’ve ever wanted a hard-to-find fresh or dried herbs or spice, chances are you’ll find it here. Buying directly from the grower is a great way to get some cooking tips, meal ideas on how to go about using a particular herb or spice.
Big, succulent, refreshing watermelons piled up at your local farm stand on a hot summer day are a sight for sore eyes. It’s the only fruit that can fill your tummies and quench your thirst at the same time while giving you a healthy dose of vitamin C and lycopene, an antioxidant known to reduce the risk of cancer and heart diseases.
It’s true, the thick peel makes it hard for pesticides to seep into the flesh, but there have been instances where some watermelons were found to be injected with nitrate, synthetic dyes and artificially ripped. Not only do such melons taste bland, but they’re also toxic and certainly not good news for our gut, liver, and kidney.
Zucchini or summer squash is a widely used ingredient in Italian cuisine and is a treat to the senses whether baked, roasted, grilled, or turned into thinly sliced noodles. At a farmer’s market, you’ll find these in a fantastic array of shapes, sizes, colors- green, yellow, and many shades in between.
Zucchini is one of the few vegetables that’s been genetically modified, and these varieties are widely available in North America. If you want to avoid buying GMO zucchini, stick to organic. Buying it from a local farm stand is even better because of its highly perishable nature.
Like pumpkin, corn is an iconic American crop native to the region. The most common varieties are baby corn, bi-color, and sweet corn, and they are typically in season from June to October. In recent years, the demand for organic, non-GMO corn has skyrocketed in the U.S., so organic corn is now imported in huge quantities from other countries. Fresh sweet corn is juicy, flavorful, and has a short season, so if you find them at the local market, there’s no way you should leave without buying some.
Nowadays, grocery stores and supermarkets are flooded with imported Peruvian onions, which were found to contain chemical contaminants like methamidophos. So it becomes all the more important to buy organic and local. This way, you’re not just getting 100% chemical-free onions for your family but also saving a local farm who’re probably reeling from the effects of the rapidly growing onion imports.
If you have purchased onion at the farmers market and would like to learn more on storing onion then check out our guide on how to store onions.
Not something you can eat, but if you’re planning to pick up a bouquet of floral delight for your home, why not pick the ones grown without hurting the environment? Here are some fresh-cut varieties you can expect at a farmer’s market- Daffodil, Calendula, Calla lilies, Iris, Jasmine, Lavender, Zinnias, Peonies, and many more, depending on the season and the region you are in.
We hope this list of things to buy at a farmers market helps you on your next trip there! Your reason for purchasing something organic and local shouldn’t just be because you don’t trust the conventionally grown alternative.
You can buy any veggies or fruits at a farmer’s market even if it’s okay to have them non-organic. Nothing can beat the taste of fresh, nurtured produce grown with love and as nature intended!