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5 tips for navigating a farmers market with a family

As the weather warms, farmers market season is already underway in many parts of the state. These markets can range from a handful of tents in a parking lot to large coordinated events such as the Downtown Farmers Market. Unlike grocery shopping at your local supermarkets, farmers markets focus on local produce and artists in an outdoor environment, which allows for a slower-paced but very enjoyable family experience.

Here are a few tips for making the most of your visit to the market.

1. Feed everyone before you go. Many farmers markets have food stalls, and vendors often offer samples, but if you haven’t planned to buy everyone a pastry, food at the market can be an unexpected financial drain. Hungry people, be they adults or children, tend to be grumpy and irritable. Have a plan for your eating so everyone knows what to expect, and pack small snacks for young marketgoers to avoid the "hangriness."

2. Do not wipe out the sample trays. Many vendors serve bite-sized samples at their booths. They want you to try luscious peaches, spicy garlic sauces and handfuls of kettle corn. These little tastes help you decide what flavors you like and encourage brisk business. However, samples are not your lunch and shouldn't be treated as such. One or two samples are plenty unless you are specifically encouraged to try more. Children should only sample with permission and supervision. Vendors are not aware of allergies and do not want their entire sample tray consumed by one or two kids.

3. Bring your own bags. Vendors may have plastic bags on hand to package up your goods. However, you can end up with a dozen bags per trip to the market, many of which are only holding one or two things and will just be tossed. Reusable bags are inexpensive to buy or make and will last through many summers of market visits. It’s also fun for children in a family to have their own bags to carry home their treasures.

4. Bring water bottles and stay hydrated. Large farmers markets can take a while to get around, and it gets hot very quickly. Bringing water bottles is an easy way for family members to have the water they need to be comfortable without paying several dollars each for refreshment on the spot.

5. Let kids select some of what you bring home. When children are allowed to select a favorite treat — many markets feature treats such as honey sticks or small cookies — or piece of produce to take home, it makes them feel involved and excited about going again. This also provides an opportunity for parents to talk about proper nutrition, trying new things and enjoying fresh fruits, vegetables and local products.

The most important thing to remember is to look for opportunities to have fun and try new things. You may be surprised by what your community has to offer.

Jana Brown is a writer, wife and mother. She loves visiting farmers markets around Utah and stocking her pantry with local produce. Find her @janastocks or at www.cornabys.com/blog.