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Farmers' market tips & tricks

Perhaps I'm late to this party, but I think this year is the first year I've really grown to appreciate a good farmers' market. Despite my previous belief, they're usually so much more than just expensive vegetables. In fact, many times the produce is cheaper than the grocery store and almost all the time, fresher. And who can argue with supporting local farmers and merchants? The selection is great - from kale to heirloom tomatoes to rare herbs - I love finding something new to cook with or try.

And, as I've said, farmers' markets are usually so much more than just produce! My local market has an empanada stand with 4-5 different varieties every week that you can eat there or buy frozen and cook at home. A buffalo chicken empanada?! What have I been missing all these years?! Markets usually have butchers with fresh cuts of meat and fish, florists, wine, milk and dairy, honey farmers, lavender, the tastiest treats from local bakeries, crafts and even live entertainment!

So, with that background I leave with you a few tips for farmers' market shopping:

1. Arrive early: Not before they open, but right on time so you have the largest selection of goodies. And it's the least crowded. 2. Ask questions and sample! You may not realize how much you like a certain vegetable or hummus spread, so try something new while you're there. The vendors are very knowledgeable about their products and happy to talk to you, so ask away! Not all markets require vendors to use only Certified Organic ingredients, so if that's what you're looking for be sure to check with the merchants, too. 3. Bring your own bags and cash: This is a green environment, respect the planet and bring your own reusable bags. Also most markets are cash only, so be prepared.

Many markets run through October or November, so find your nearest market and go grab some fresh fall goodies!

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