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Great people-watching, lively conversation, the sights and sounds, and—especially—flavors of the season. What’s not to like about the farmers market?

A farmers market is a great place to find fresh fruits and vegetables, support fellow community members and try new things.

Try and eat a rainbow of colors such as tomatoes, carrots, beans, eggplant, strawberries and fresh herbs. Don’t be afraid to ask the vendor for a sample or recipes. Sometimes trying a new vegetable is the perfect way to stretch your taste buds.

If you’re new to the farmers market scene, it can be a little intimidating. Or maybe you’re a regular, but you’ve fallen into a routine. Read on for some tips on making your farmers market outing the best it can be:

Plan and prioritize. Are you after the most picturesque produce? Then it’s best to beat the crowds and arrive early. That’s when you’ll find the freshest selections and the most variety.

If you want the lowest prices, go ahead and sleep in. You can find some great deals as the market winds down and vendors become eager to sell off their remaining wares.

Stock up on staples but branch out too. Maybe you can’t get enough heirloom tomatoes. Or your kids eat berries and pears like candy. You can buy a week’s worth in one go.

But why stop at the familiar? While browsing the market, you may find foods you’ve never tried before. If a piece of produce is new to you, don’t be shy. Ask the vendor about the best ways to prepare it. You may even get a sample or a recipe.

Use a critical eye. As with any food shopping experience, it’s important to keep safety in mind.

Here are a couple of points to remember:

  • Meats, eggs, dairy, fish, and precut fruits and vegetables should be displayed on ice. If they’re not, pass them by.
  • Bring several totes to keep produce and raw meat separate. Bring an insulated bag or a cooler and ice for meat, eggs and dairy products.
  • Steer clear of milk, ciders and juices that have not been pasteurized.
  • Fruits and vegetables from the farmers market need to be washed just like produce from the grocery store. A rinse or scrub with plain water is best.

Bring some green. It’s best to bring cash to the farmers market. But many markets accept alternative forms of payment, such as checks, debit cards or other food assistance.

Aspirus Health established a Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program that helps provide patients with access to fresh produce. Eligible patients are given a “prescription” to use at one of many participating farmers markets in the Aspirus service area. Talk to your primary care provider to see if you qualify for the FVRx program. For more information, visit

To find a farmers market near you, visit

Carolyn Kelk is a clinical dietitian at Aspirus Health.