Shopping at your neighborhood's farmers market is an item on Neighbors Project's Neighbors Checklist because you're likely to meet your neighbors at that type of market. Those markets are usually on the weekend. But shopping at your downtown farmers market is also neighborly because buying your groceries in batches from multiple locations tends to increase your likelihood of supporting local stores and farms and decrease your likelihood of using a car to buy groceries. Having lived in a neighborhood that tended to get saturated with people driving to the nearby Costco every Saturday morning, I can assure you that that type of shopping ain't neighborly. Thanks to the people in cars, the streets with the local shops and neighborhood institutions were noisy, dangerous to cross and smelly; not exactly conducive to local businesses and chatting with your neighbors on the street.
I hate cooking (except baking) and don't know much about food in general. So it's really important for me to have good fruit, vegetables, cheese, breads and other basics around. That's what I slap together for meals. Otherwise I'll make myself sick eating an entire cake or bag of candy or pick up a slice. So getting basics from a farmers market is a key part of be a reasonably healthy and energetic person for me.
To do this Instructable, you'll need:
-Canvass or plastic bag(s)
-Transit pass or money for your train/bus commute
-A farmers market within walking distance of your job
This is written mostly for people who work in a walkable downtown and commute by train or bus.
Step 1: Find Your Market
If you don't know if there's one near you, and are unsure of when it is, just google for it or ask one of your co-workers or your friends who you've seen with a bag from the market. The one I went to at the Civic Center in San Francisco runs from the early morning to 5:30 pm on Wednesday, but many markets don't operate beyond the late afternoon. Since downtown farmers markets usually only operate on one or two days of the weekday and are seasonal (San Francisco's markets are year round), it can be easy to forget. I recommend that you put it as a recurring appointment in your work and personal calendars so that it just becomes part of your routine.
Step 2: Pack a Bag
Various friends of mine have those super neat, unexpectedly sturdy bags that roll into tiny bundles. Those rock. It's also totally fine to bring a plastic bag; just make sure it'll hold a reasonable amount of weight.
Step 3: Get Cash
Farmers markets are made up of lots of small vendors from various local farms, creameries and bakeries, so they mostly take cash. That means that, if you aren't carrying cash (which I tend not to), then the first thing you should do when you leave your office is to get some cash from an ATM.
Definitely eat before you shop so that you aren't tempted to overbuy out of hunger. Though it doesn't hurt to skip desert at your lunch place in the expectation of buying a cookie or box of fresh strawberries at the market. But go early enough that you can get the best at the booths.
And don't forget to bring your canvas/plastic/mega bag that you packed that morning.
Step 4: Make a Full Tour of the Market
One of the benefits of taking an initial tour of the market is that a lot of the vendors give out free samples. Definitely take advantage of this!
I also recommend observing which booths appear to be the most popular, and what people are buying at these booths. Keep an especially sharp eye out for any chefs. If you see a chef or cooking school student at a booth, follow her around and see what she's buying. It's like a free class.
If you haven't been a fruit or vegetable aficionado your whole life, then you may encounter a very basic problem of not knowing what a lot of stuff is. Apples and carrots are easy to recognize, but you may never have seen a winter squash or various fancy mushrooms. So don't be afraid to ask the vendors or other people milling around the stand. I'm a huge fan of fresh spinach, but I still have trouble recognizing it when it's not labeled (the various kinds of lettuce completely mystify me), so I had to ask some vendors to point it out to me. Sad but true.
Finally, if you're concerned about eating organic food, then use your tour to note which booths sell organic.
Step 5: Buy!
Use the small plastic bags at each booth to gather your purchases from that booth and pay the vendor directly. Remember: cash. Then place your purchases in the bag you brought with you. There may be lines at some of the more popular booths, so be patient.
Most people who start shopping at their farmers markets just buy things like apple, apple cider, baked goods and maybe cucumbers. I personally started with eating a lot of carmel apples. Once you get comfortable with those really basic items, you'll probably want to move on to buying actual vegetables -- like tomatoes, greens, squash, peppers, etc -- as well as herbs, cheese and yogurt. The next stage is experimenting with vegetables you've never seen before, mushrooms and meats.
If you're going to buy meat, make sure you have a place to refrigerate it in your office. The market in San Francisco sells fish. I don't recommend buying fish if you plan on a long, crowded train or bus commute. Your fellow commuters will hate you. And for good reason.
Step 6: Take It Back to Your Office
If you bought herbs like basil or cilantro and you keep them near your desk, your office will smell wonderful for the rest of the day. The pleasing aroma will make everyone who comes into your office bend to your will.
Then get back to work.
Step 7: Take It Home
At the end of the day, whenever that is, get your bag and head to the train or bus. If you're lucky enough to get a seat, put your bag of groceries between your legs at your feet. If you have to stand, you can also keep it between your legs at your feet. By doing this, you'll be more likely to avoid the contents being squashed by the people around you. It's kind of like protecting the ball when you're running down the field during a soccer match.