Food & Drink

10 ways to make the most of farmers markets

If you think all farmers markets look alike, you’re as out of touch as a rotary-dial telephone.

Drive across North Carolina in summer and you’ll find a big variety of market styles, from a few trucks pulled up in a parking lot to urban spaces surrounded by skyscrapers. Thanks to the continuing interest in locally grown food, there are grower-only markets, with rules about where the food is grown and who can sell it, and markets that truck in food from all over. There are weekday markets and Saturday-only markets.

Diane Daniel of Durham guesses she went to at least 50 spots all over the state, “from teeny to huge,” while working on her book “Farm Fresh North Carolina,” a guide for farm-related travel.

“The market experience itself is such a community draw,” she says. “And it just continues to grow.”

No matter how diverse the markets become, there are some keys for getting the best from any market. For tips, we turned to several experts – Daniel, vendor Suzanne McCord Crawford, who sells Yah’s Salsas at the Charlotte and Raleigh markets, and Sarah Blackfin, former manager of the state’s first grower-only market, the Carrboro Market.

The one piece of advice they all shared? Get to know your farmer. That’s really what farmers markets are all about.

“It should be at the top,” said Blacklin, who now works for N.C. Choices, which supports local-meat producers. “Talking to your farmers, building that relationship. As a consumer, you have every right to ask every question about what you eat and buy.”

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