It’s no secret that our VSAG team of food & beverage consultants are huge farmers markets fans! Not only is visiting a local market an enjoyable way to spend a weekend morning, celebrating the best of what the season has to offer, we love supporting the local community, the inherent suitability and the farmers who work so hard!
Whether your chefs drive an hour to the nearest farmers market or walk across the street, it’s always worth the trip to add fresh, farm-to-table fare to any season’s menu development. The possibilities and inspirations are seemingly endless: From fresh fruit and herbs, to produce, to meats and cheeses, the choice is yours!
With over 6,000 farmers markets listed on Local Harvest, the go-to online database of sustainable producers throughout the US, chances are there’s a farmers market near you. But, some of your chefs and their kitchen support staff may need a little help navigating their way through a farmers market:
Don’t be Tardy: Early arrivals are often rewarded with an abundant selection and no crowds to wade through which allows you to peruse the entire market to check out the goods before purchasing. Not to mention, ingredients have had the least exposure to the elements (sun, heat and/or cold).
Remain Flexible. Even though you may have a specific ingredient in mind, due to seasonality, weather issues, crop loss, etc., you may not find exactly what you want. So, remain flexible and let the fresh produce inspire you!
Cash is King. Since most vendors are not able to process credit cards or accept checks, arrive armed with cash. Also since receipts are a rarity as well, bring a receipt book to keep track of purchases. Your accountant will thank you!
Ask About a Discounted Rate. As restaurant professionals buying in bulk have a greater chance of returning, farmers often extend a courtesy to chefs and culinary staff by way of 5-30% discounted/wholesale prices. Begin building a relationship with farmers: Tell them about yourself, your restaurant and your cooking style, and merchants may be more apt to offer a discount.
Get involved. Encouraging chefs to host live cooking demos at a farmers market is a great way to get your chefs, and your restaurant, on the map.
Check out Local Harvest and Local Dirt, a directory of local producers across the US, for more information.