Farmer’s markets have become a trendy place to shop but for good reason. Every Sunday the block surrounding the American Museum of Natural History is filled with shoppers looking to find the best local produce brought there by Greenmarket NYC. The benefits to buying local food include helping the farmer, the community and the environment while also eating food that is full of flavor and nutrients. I often describe the marketplace at Julie’s Beet as a local farmer’s market but filled with small producers from around the world. While I frequent the Greenmarket on the UWS in New York on a monthly basis, I love to find a farmer’s market when I am travelling. It lets me see the culinary gems from that state or region and perhaps find a treasure to bring back and share with all of you.
When I go to a new farmer’s market, I first take a look around to see what the trends are in the area. This could change seasonally. For example, are there a lot of apples and pumpkins or are we looking at a lot of greens and plants? Are there any local specialties like shellfish by the sea or a local wine? Most importantly are there any local producers of specialty food products? Some farmers markets are diverse while others are filled with a lot of similar items.
After my initial survey, I start to look for products that might be good for Julie’s Beet. There are requirements a product must meet to be considered for our marketplace. The first is that they are from a small producer and not available everywhere on a large scale. Farmer’s markets are the perfect place for products like these. I can pretty much guarantee that an item sold at a market isn’t also being sold in Whole Foods. For a product to join our marketplace the item must also be shelf-stable. That allows for easy shipping and gives the receiver time to enjoy the product. That means we don’t sell things like cheeses or fresh sauces that won’t be in their prime for very long. Part of my mission at Julie’s Beet is to share the story of the producer which is part of what makes their product unique. I enjoy walking around and chatting with the artisans and listening to what they have to share. The last requirement to join the marketplace is that the item must be out-of-this-world, amazingly delicious. It is hard work tasting all of the different products but we do it to ensure that every item available is the best of the best.
Once I have all of my ‘work’ out of the way, I take another stroll through the market and gather produce I’ll use to cook with. I always tell my children; I will get them anything from the farmer’s market they would like to try. I mentioned before that buying local helps support the community, and it also means the foods you are buying have travelled shorter distances and are at their peak freshness. The result is the apple we bought on Saturday was recently picked and is super juicy and delicious. I am always encouraging my boys to eat more fruits and vegetables, and this is a great way to introduce them. We may also pick up a fresh baked loaf of bread or a cookie as a treat. Again, these small produced items are better for our bodies than anything we would find on the grocery store shelves wrapped in plastic.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about a trip to the farmers market from the perspective of a food buyer and mom. If you are out and about and find a product at your local farmers market that you think would be great for our marketplace please let me know.