Nine Tips for Digging Through Local Farmers Markets

Categories: Basket Case

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​It didn't take a study of Vermont farmers markets to tell us what we knew for a long time: Supermarkets aren't cheaper. That being said and this being spring, it's a good time to riff on farmers' markets, plus give you a few shopping tips on how to navigate them.

1. Find Your Market
I always assumed this was easy. Ask around in your neighborhood, read the local paper, and somewhere, someplace, there's some mention of farmers' markets, opening hours, and weeks of operation. After moving from San Francisco to Dallas I was shown the error of my ways. Two websites helped me get back into the game, LocalDirt and LocalHarvest, both of which sport large databases of markets sorted by distance and seasons and days. Yelp isn't that bad of an idea, either.

Another way for me to get the goods on the goods was to email a whole range of local bloggers. Some responded; some even made sense. After a week of all that I had my list, a small list of currently open farmers' markets and a bonus list of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and local meat sellers.

2. Go Early
This goes against anything a weekend should stand for, but believe me, the earlier you go, the better the selection. Like finding a market, I assumed this to be general knowledge until I read market descriptions on Yelp and found a lot of "nice place but bad selection" reviews, all of which after a little prodding told me that, yes, they'd been there after 10 in the morning. Hit the hay for another hour afterward if you must (and I certainly do), but be there at opening.

In some cases it helps, after establishing a relationship, to call ahead or order the week before. My favorite meat purveyor always gets my order the Sunday ahead and has my phone number in case something cool comes in (last week he called me about a half hog he could get me, I said yes, of course, and went to buy another freezer from Lowe's).

3. Ask Questions
One of the most annoying things in restaurants, diners asking "where does this come from" about every single piece of food we send out, is actually a must when buying from farmers' market sellers. Quite a few booths seek to amend their offerings and expand their reach by
reselling Costco produce or Sysco delivered fruits and vegetables. That stuff is better bought somewhere else, if at all, and defeats the purpose of farmers selling their stuff. Don't get up early to buy Mexican tomatoes, all I am saying.

Our local farmers depend on markets and shops to sell their produce. The alternative, selling to large warehouse concerns, usually comes at the price of one's soul and lifelong bonds to the buyer. Aside from supermarkets and the frozen foods section, those local sellers also face stiff competition within farmer's markets from the above mentioned resellers. By buying and insisting on local you'll support your local economy, job creation, and get better product in the process. It's a win/win.

4. Buy Food
Today's farmers markets are a weird mix of food and non-food items. From insurance policies to seashell jewelry, from ice cream to Fushigi balls. Balls and insurance agents aren't farmers or produce, so skip over them. This is a little bit the opposite of P.J. O'Rourke's "don't vote, it only encourages the bastards." Vote, vote, vote, with your wallet. I know it's tempting to snag up a genuine crystal pyramid that is guaranteed to improve your test scores by 60 percent and
makes you sleep better if placed on a windowsill facing north, but -- again -- don't get up early to buy miracle cures and car wash products.

5. Get Frisky
Do get frisky with your product. If it's meat, pick it up (it should be vacuum sealed) and check for freezer burn or, if its unfrozen, for ice crystals and mushiness. If it's produce, ask to take a bite, check for bruising and for discoloration. One doesn't have to be an expert in fruits and veggies to see what's worth it. Again, this exercise not only brings you closer to your food (and don't we all need to get a little bit more frisky with our dishes?), it also helps you pick out the stuff that you came for -- fresh, seasonal and local.

6. Speaking of Seasonal
Buying a tomato out of its local season guarantees its origin to be somewhere far, far, away. Don't buy out of season. That might mean you won't have the asparagus souffle for dinner, but who wants a crappy tasting hothouse item from Chile when there's better foods, grown in season, right next to it? The National Resources Defense Council has a database of in-season fruits and vegetables that helped me out a lot.

7. Bring the Right Stuff
At the very least bring cash (something I forget in this credit card world quite often). Some places have ATMs that charge outrageous fees, so better bring your budget in cash and leave it at that. Reusable bags are another one of those "must bring" items. I always have three in the back of my car along with a small cooler which, should I buy perishables, I fill with ice from a gas station nearby on my way out.

I also bring a stack of business cards since many vendors will call you if they get something cool in. Last, but not least, bring a friend or two and come hungry -- wouldn't be a farmer's market if we didn't make a trip out of it and had coffee and cake afterward.

8. Try the Bread
I wouldn't have guessed, but it appears that the first sign-ups for most any farmers' market operator I spoke to are bakers. Apparently there's more of them than any other group. And, given the competitive market, they'll bake their heart out for you. Skip over the supermarket aisle bread next time and get yours from a farmers' market.

9. Egg'd
Another surprise to me was to find out that many sellers do carry eggs. But because 40 states have extremely rigid licensing requirements for egg sellers, those generally don't get displayed. Ask around, some might give them to you as a gift and charge you for the carton they come in. Worried about salmonella? Don't be, if they're trustworthy enough to sell you lettuce (which, statistically, gets you sick much more often and more easily) they can be trusted with eggs.

Take it from there, go out and have some fun at your local markets. There's nothing cooler than driving home, planning a meal in your head, and knowing it will taste great thanks to local and fresh produce and meats. Did I miss any websites or tips? Please do let me know in the comments.

Follow City of Ate on Twitter: @cityofate.

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I love the farmers market, this really really helps on getting the best and freshest food. I'm a dental hygienist that's always looking forward to being healthy and at the same time supporting the locals.

Sales Associate
Sales Associate

Thanks for all the tips. As a sales associate I barely have time to visit these things, but I've been meaning to buy my produce at a farmer's market in some time. I'll check out one out soon keeping these in mind. Thanks!

Floppy Drive
Floppy Drive

i used to go in markets to buy the vegetables......but now my maid do this job for me....


Coincidentally, the day before this post came out Kim Pierce did a huge piece in the DMN here:  . if you dont have a subscription here is some of the info

This list includes only farmers markets and outlets that sell farmers-market produce. Check the websites or call for more information.

Arlington: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or sellout Friday and Saturday. The Downtown Arlington Farmers Market. 215 E. Front at Elm; 817-637-1144; www.downtownarlington

Celebration Farmers Market: 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. 4515 W. Lovers Lane at Bristol, Dallas; 214-352-0031; (choose “market”).

Colleyville Farmers Market: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. 5409 Colleyville Blvd.; 817-427-2333.

Coppell Farmers Market: 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. 455 W. Bethel Road, between Denton Tap Road and Freeport Parkway, in Old Town; 972-304-7043;

Corsicana Brick Street Farmers Market: 3 to 7 p.m. Friday. On Commerce between 200 E. Collin St. and Sixth St. (next to Napoli’s Pizza);

Cotton’s Produce Market: 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 4200 Broadway, Garland; 972-240-8810.

Cox Farms Market: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. 1026 S. Main, Duncanville; 972-283-8851.

Cowtown Farmers Market: 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. State Highway 377 at Southwest Boulevard, Fort Worth (east side of Weatherford traffic circle, parking lot in front of Texas Outdoors); 817-462-1426 (Fresh Line).

Dallas Farmers Market: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. 1010 S. Pearl Expressway; 214-670-5880;

Eden’s Organic Garden Center: Market day, 9 a.m. to noon the first and third Saturday every month. 4710 Pioneer Road, Balch Springs; 214-348-3336;

Fort Worth Downtown Market: Two locations: 8 a.m. to sellout Friday-Sunday; 4800 S. Hulen (Sears parking lot). 8 a.m. to sellout Wednesday-Sunday; 600 Rosedale at Hemphill (Cash America lot). 817-925-3965.

Four Seasons Market-Richardson: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. II Creek Plaza, Custer Parkway at Valley Glen;

Frisco Farmers Market: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or sellout Saturday. 6048 Frisco Square Blvd.;

Georgia’s Farmers Market: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. 916 E. 15th St., Plano (east of Central Expressway); 972-516-4765;

Gnismer Farms: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays; check the website for updates. Gnismer Farms: 3010 S. Bowen, Arlington; 817-469-8704;

Grand Prairie Farmers Market: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Market Square, 120 W. Main St. at NW Second Street; 972-237-8000;

Ham Orchards: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 11939 County Road 309 (at U.S. Highway 80), Terrell; 972-524-2028;

Keller Farmers Market: 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. Keller town center fountain, 1100 Bear Creek Parkway; 817-709-9411;

McKinney: Two locations: 8 a.m. to noon Saturday is the McKinney Farmers Market at Chestnut Square Historic Village, McDonald and Anthony (park in the lot on McDonald). From 2 to 6 p.m. every Thursday is the Historic McKinney Farmers Market at Adriatica, 6851 Virginia Parkway; 972-562-8790.

Ridgmar Farmers Market: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. 900 State Highway 183 North (across from Ridgmar Mall), Fort Worth; 817-246-7525.

Rockwall Farmers Market: 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. Downtown square, 101 Rusk at Goliad; 972-772-6400; www.mainstreet.rockwall .com.

Rosemeade Market & Greenhouse: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday. 3646 E. Rosemeade Parkway, Carrollton; 972-306-2899;

Rowdy’s Fresh Produce: Noon to 7 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. On State Highway 78 between Wylie and Lavon (mile from Wylie Wal-Mart).

West Village Farmers Market (a.k.a. Farm-to-Market 3699): 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. West Village, 3699 McKinney, between Mi Cocina and the Magnolia Theater, Dallas;

White Rock Local Market: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. the second and fourth Saturday of every month. Green Spot Market & Fuels, 702 N. Buckner at Northcliff, Dallas; 214-319-7768; www.whiterocklocal


D. Jones
D. Jones

 Nice piece. However I'd like to suggest one change: your comment there's "nothing cooler than driving home..."  It'd be far cooler to walk. Or bike. Or take a bus.  Cooler for the climate-changing world, cooler for our cool quotient, and cooler to burn off some of those fabulous calories. I'm lucky enough to live in Vancouver, Canada, and there are farmers markets within walking distance of most neighbourhoods in the city. It took countless volunteers years to establish these, and also change the car culture, but it is worth it.


Great article.  Also check out a local, organic farm at  They produce some of the BEST cheese, milk and yogurt I've ever had in my life!  They offer home deliveries to the DFW area.  They're also at the Coppell Farmer's Market.   I visited this organic farm outside of Sulpher Springs (Yantis, Texas) last weekend.  I am happy to report that their dairy cows are happily grazing on almost 1,000 acres of rolling fields and not confined into tiny feed lots.

Margie Hubbard
Margie Hubbard

This was really inspiring!  I haven't been to a farmer's market in ages and now I'm all stoked to go! 

Jonas M Luster
Jonas M Luster

Dallas ... walking is decidedly uncool unless you can afford to live close to the markets. If I had the money to live in Vancouver (again) or anywhere near a Farmers' Market in Dallas, I'd find walking cooler. But, alas, I am one of the 95 percent of Americans who can't afford to live in a place where walking is an option.

Jonas M Luster
Jonas M Luster

Thanks for the pointer, Zeigen, I think I'll see if I can stop by there and have a chat and take some pictures for City of Ate next week (I'll be in Chicago at the Food and Wine show before that). 

Jonas M Luster
Jonas M Luster

Thank you, Brian. It's on my "must read" list, now :)

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