How to Shop Your Local Fall Farmers Market in Texas
I’ll admit it – as much as I want to support local farmers, the summer heat discourages me from shopping for groceries at my local farmers market. And we have some really good ones in the greater Houston area!
So with the dryer air and cooler temperatures that mark the arrival of fall, the nip in the atmosphere gets me excited to head out Saturday morning and fill my basket with loads of goodness. Not only do the vendors and their produce excite me, but the sense of community does too, especially the conversations about sustainability, food preservation methods, and growing organic food with new and old friends.
Grab your bags, bring the kids, and spend your Saturday, soaking up the good sensations of fall you can only feel from the abundance of pumpkins, freshly baked croissants, and hot cups of local coffee. These six tips will help you navigate your local Texas farmers market this fall.
Before we begin: it should go without saying that you should avoid items not in season. The whole reason to go to a farmers market is to get the freshest stuff growing right now!
1) Buying Meats
If there’s one item to put on your farmers market “must-buy” list, it’s buying meat locally. When you shop at a meat stall here, you’re typically looking at the farmer who raised the meat you’re buying right in the eye. You can find out which town the meat came from and whether or not that beef, sausage, or chicken is truly grass-fed, locally made, and truly free-range. You can also find out whether or not any growth hormones have been used. Ideally, you should buy your cuts of meat fresh, as opposed to frozen.
I love talking to the meat farmers in general because they are characters who provide a down-home perspective into the life of the farmer. You can also feel good about the cut of meat you take home, knowing your money is going into the pockets of a local, hard-working family, or group of farmers.
2) Shopping for Produce
Growers offering vegetables and fruit stalls often make up a majority of the tents at your average farmers market, which is great when it comes to both variety and buying in bulk. It’s important to find out whether the produce is grown organically (without pesticides) or conventionally (with the use of chemicals).
Microgreens are a big item these days at the markets. These great little power houses of anti-oxidants and minerals are perfect for juicing, fall salads, and smoothies.
You can also find little bags of fresh beans as opposed to the dried or dehydrated beans you see at grocery stores. I love throwing these in a pot with sautéed onions, a bit of local bacon, some fresh oregano, salt, and pepper for a simple yet hearty soup that’s perfect for chilly fall evenings.
3) Cheese, Please
Local cheesemongers are sure to be set up at your local Farmer’s Market. And they’re often the first to sell out of their items, so get there early! Spreadable goat cheeses are super-popular, and Texas is home to some of the country’s best chevre.
4) Baked Goods
A farmers market is the perfect place for a budding bakery to show off its goods, which makes for a great way to expand your family’s palette in terms of bread. Think of herbal cheese scones, pumpkin muffins, and crusty rye loaves.
Vegan bake shops have become popular too, serving the needs of those that avoid animal products all together. Branch out and grab something new. Nothing says fall like warm bread slathered in butter, served on the side of a hot bowl of pumpkin soup!
5) Oh, Honey
To gain the benefits from using local raw honey, pick up the jars you see for sale to discover exactly where the beehives are kept and where the honey is bottled. You ideally want honey produced within a 50-mile radius to gain the local benefits, since eating local honey can help you fight seasonal allergies. Hopefully, the actual beekeeper is selling the honey to assure you of its authenticity.
Honey is also a great addition to a cold weather tonic when illness strikes. Simply mix the juice of half a lemon, one inch of grated fresh ginger root, hot water, and two tablespoons of local honey into a mug for a wellness herbal tea.
6) Locally Roasted Coffee
You won’t find fresher coffee beans than those roasted in your area, and they run circles around anything you’ll find on the shelves at the supermarket. Coffee carts will often have fresh coffee for sale, along with organic loose teas. If you’re a coffee addict like I am, there’s nothing that starts my mornings off nicer than grinding my own coffee beans, bought from a local roaster!
Did we miss something? What’s your favorite thing to scope out at the Texas farmers markets this fall? Let our readers know!