By Maggie Nykaza, ILFMA Grant Specialist and Social Media Guru
Is there anything better than tasting the first fruits of the season? Food lovers, rejoice! Summer is here and that means the growing season is in full swing in Illinois. Farmers markets are once again popping up all across the land!
If you’re thinking of vising a market this season, check out a few tips:
• Be prepared! Check the weather before coming to the market to know if rain, cold, high winds, or extreme heat are coming your way. Most markets are open rain or shine.
• BYOB! Bring your own bag to the market to avoid having to use plastic ones. This will save resources for farmers and will prevent plastic litter. Bonus points if the decorations on your bag are food related!
• Payment options – you have plenty! One of the most amazing aspects of a farmers market are the variety of payments accepted. Cash is a given (bonus points if you have exact change), and most markets now accept debit and credit cards as well. WIC coupons, Senior Farmers Market Coupons, as well as SNAP are becoming popular methods of payment at farmers markets. This means that more members of a community are getting access to fresh food!
• Traveling this summer? Visit the farmers market at your destination! You will learn about the region and its food plus get recipes and ideas from the local farmers.
• Make a date out of it! If you need an idea for a fun night with a friend, bring them to a farmers market! Pick out meal ingredients together and then cook the meal. Try making a farmers market omelet! Buy eggs, cheese, and veggies at the market and you’re good to go. At this time of year you’ll be able to get amazing spring onions and herbs. Soon you will be able to add tomatoes and peppers to the omelet as well!
• Attend market events! Many farmers markets are going above and beyond to provide educational programming for their communities. From activities for kids to chef demos, yoga, and live music, there’s a lot to discover at a market besides food. Follow your local market on social media to get the latest updates on events and what vendors are bringing to the market.
• Make that wonderful taste of summer fruits and vegetables last all year by preserving them. Try canning, pickling, or making jam. You’ll thank yourself later!
If you want to go above and beyond, consider volunteering at your local market. Try signing up for one date and see how it goes! You’ll get to meet many members of your community and you will be taking an active role in your local food system.
Farmers markets play vital roles in their communities by not only providing fresh and locally grown food, but also educating shoppers. The more you know about where your food comes from, the better choices you can make. Remember, you vote with your dollars every day. Bring your friends and family to your local market and let food education and fun begin!
Photos in this blog post were taken at the Ravenswood Farmers Market and Green City Market in Chicago, IL.