Shopping at the Farmers Market can be a vastly different experience than a trip to the grocery store. For starters you are outside in the open air and behind each produce stall is a real live farmer, with everything you need to know about the products for sale. Shopping at the market has its advantages but it can be a confusing concept for first time or novice shoppers. By following our simple tips you will leave satisfied with your reusable bags full of delicious local produce and goods, all while leaving your wallet intact.
If you have what it takes to get up early on Saturday for the Kalamazoo Farmers Market (KFM) or Sunday for the Portage Market (PM) you will be rewarded. If not grab a coffee when you get there. As the old adage goes, the early bird gets the worm, or in this case you will beat the crowds and get first picks on the highest quality and most ripe produce. If you appreciate your sleep in the morning, don’t worry, some vendors offer deals at the end of the day. Just don't expect a giveaway, after all farmers gotta to eat too.
Looking for a slower paced market day? Visit KFM on Tuesdays from 8-1pm or Thursdays from 3-7pm. You'll usually find around eight vendors on Tuesdays and twenty on Thursday afternoons, but it changes depending on the season. And for those that like the crowds... check out the Night Markets from 5-10pm, on third Thursdays June through September.
If you don't have cash don’t worry The KFM and the PM can swipe a credit or debit card to purchase Market Bucks, which can be used just like cash with nearly all of our vendors. Just like an ATM, there is a small $2 fee to withdraw market bucks. The KFM also has an ATM on site if you prefer to withdraw cash, for a slightly higher fee.
Both markets also proudly to accept many types of food assistance currencies, such as SNAP, Double Up Food Bucks, WIC and SENIOR Project Fresh, and Hoophouses for Health. Every time you use your Bridge Card at the market, we'll double your money through a program called Double Up Food Bucks. Through this program, your SNAP dollars will be matched up to $20, and those tokens can be used to purchase Michigan grown fruits and vegetables. The Double Up program originated in Detroit and is now being adopted around the country. It's a win win situation as it helps lower income families have access to more fresh produce while also gaining new customers and income for farmers.
Finding unique heirloom and specialty produce is the reason many people come to the Farmers Market over the grocery store. Another reason is that every produce stand comes standard with an expert that has either grown the product themselves or knows who did. When I am shopping and see an unusual item I will simply ask, “how do you prepare this?” or for some items I may ask, “what the heck is that?”. Our Farmers take pride in what they grow and they will be happy to tell you about their products. We only ask that customers be respectful of our vendors time during peak hours.
And don't forget to check our blog for the latest recipes for in season produce too! We have cooking demos daily on Saturdays at KFM and have them regularly at PM as well. Those are great times to talk to a chef, learn a new technique, and try something before you buy it.
If you follow these simple tips you will be ready to hit the market like a fruit ninja and snag great deals in no time.
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