Going to my local farmer’s market is basically my favorite thing to do. But lately, I’ve noticed some rudeness cropping up amongst the artisanal cheese, fresh fruits and organic veggies. I’m talking about line-cutters, complainers, and one dude trying to talk a farmer down from $0.50 for an ear of corn. So I got to thinking: what’s the etiquette of these local grower’s markets? Should people be concerned about their manners when buying from local farmers and food producers?
I talked to some growers, sellers, and market experts to find out what really rots their peaches, so to say. Here are the top farmer’s market faux pas:
1. Not bringing enough cash: “Most vendors only take cash and there may not be an ATM near. Even with technology like Square Up (taking credit cards on your smart phones), many farmers like doing business old school: cash only.” -Chef Lisa Brisch of Orange Pomegranate, a recipe and meal planning web site
2. Talking too long: “One of my biggest pet peeves is when people hang out and ask a million questions when there is a
line behind them. Sometimes it’s friends, sometimes it’s regular customers, sometimes it’s new people. I appreciate their questions but there are people behind them who are waiting to be served and I’m trying to move the line along as fast as possible. I just don’t have time to chit chat.” -Staci Davis of Radical Eats
3. Manhandling the produce: “Nobody will buy a piece of fruit with your thumb prints and nail indentations, so when you check for ripeness, be gentle.” -Jorj Morgan, author of the cookbooks Fresh Traditions and At Home In the Kitchen
4. Lecturing the farmers: “They’re doing the best they can. It’s fine to ask about growing practices and to say you’d rather have organic produce. It’s not fine to berate someone for not being able to grow organic peaches in the weevil belt.”- Linda Watson, chief cook and researcher of Cook For Good
5. Haggling: On this my sources were divided. Autumn Giles, a frequent farmer’s market goer and food blogger in Queens, N.Y, said: “The #1 thing that makes me cringe is when I hear folks trying to bargain with greenmarket vendors, especially early in the day. I know some people will disagree with me here, but DO NOT try to talk a vendor down on their price unless they explicitly invite bargaining. It’s not a yard sale.”
Jorj Morgan disagreed: “If the price is ridiculous (and this does happen), politely suggest something along these lines to the vendor: “you know, I’m a big fan of this at other farmer’s markets and the going rate is (insert your competitive price).”
Other things that annoyed my experts? People that don’t bring reusable bags, people that cut in line, and smokers (ew). In addition, the consensus seemed to be that, if you have a problem with a product you bought from a vendor, it is ok to complain. But be a little more polite than you would at the big-box supermarket. After all, these are independent business owners. It’s in their best interests to offer quality products and keep up a good selling relationship. But no one wants to experience awkwardness over the organic produce.
Photo: via USDAgov’s Flickr account. USDA photo by Lance Cheung