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A first-timer’s guide to farmers markets

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Fresh — and colorful — fare from a farmer's market.

Fresh — and colorful — fare from a farmer’s market.

Allison Laypath

Related story: Where to find a farmers market near you

Farmers market season in Utah is here. Farmers markets have become more popular in recent years as many people have become interested in buying food in season from sources close to home.

Don't know where to find one near your neighborhood? A list compiled by the Deseret News is here. Also, a directory of farmers markets throughout the United States and Canada is available at farmersmarketonline.com.

Here's what first-timers need to know about visiting a farmer's market:

Farmers markets are fun

This is not at all like a trip to the grocery store. This is a place I want to take my children. Many farmers markets have playgrounds, children's activities, live music and lots of free samples. A visit to the downtown Salt Lake City or Ogden markets can be the start to a full day of fun in the city. My family even visited the farmers market in Boulder, Colo., during a family vacation.

More than fruits and vegetables

There is nothing better than taking home a bag of local cherries, peaches, tomatoes or a watermelon from the farmers market, but you may also find artisan cheese, local meats, bakery-fresh bread, salsas, honey, fresh flowers and more.

Vendors selling hot, prepared meals and snacks are often represented as well. Our family loved the dessert crepes at a smaller market in Kaysville, Utah and cashew milk ice cream in downtown Salt Lake City.

Farmers markets showcase arts and crafts vendors

Farmers markets are fun places to find unique art, jewelry, scented soaps and even clothing. My daughter bought a dress for her doll last summer at the Ogden farmers market.

What to bring

  • Cash: Some vendors offer credit card processing, but many still do business on a cash-only basis. Bring small bills and change.
  • Grocery bags: While most vendors will supply plastic bags, experienced shoppers bring their own cloth bags, which are larger and sturdier.
  • Cooler: Keep a cooler in your car for perishables, especially if you live more than a few minutes away or will not return home immediately afterward.
  • Tips for successLarge, urban markets can be crowded. Go early if you are want the best selection and parking, though it's still worthwhile to go later.
  • Don't buy anything until you have seen all the booths. Multiple vendors may sell cherries, for example, but in different varieties, prices and quantities.
  • Talk to vendors. Find out where your food came from and what will be for sale in the coming weeks. Get recipes and tips for preparation. If you are buying large quantities or late in the day, you may be able to get a better price, though haggling is not the norm at farmer's markets.

Whether the trip is for groceries or just for fun, farmers markets are a good way to get out on a summer day and be a part of your community. Allison Laypath is an expert on family travel and author of the family travel blog tipsforfamilytrips.com. With her family, Allison especially enjoys road trips, national parks and local field trips. Email: allison@tipsforfamilytrips.com.