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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Budget-Wise, Season-Wise: Farmers Markets

By Cassandra Silveira, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition
Spring weather is almost here and with that comes the beginning of farmers market season. In Minnesota, farmers market season starts in May and extends all the way to October. This gives you opportunities to try everything from radishes and garlic scapes in May to hard squashes and pumpkins in October.

Farmers markets provide a fantastic learning opportunity to try new fruits and vegetables — this can help broaden the variety of foods you get in your diet. If you see produce at the market you don't recognize, ask the farmers. Not only will they be able to tell you what the produce is, chances are they will have tips on how to prepare it. Many farmers provide samples of their produce for buyers to taste, so you can try a food before you buy it.

Shopping at farmers markets also helps you eat seasonally, which is one of the best ways to eat on a budget is to eat seasonally. Eating seasonally means eating foods that are grown and harvested at the time of the year when you buy and cook them. The Minnesota Grown website includes a handout that shows the many varieties of fruits and vegetables that are grown here in Minnesota and when they are available: A Seasonal Look at Fresh Produce. If the produce is locally grown, it didn't have to travel as far to get to a market near you and what the farmer saves in transportation may be a savings for you.

Eating seasonally also is kinder to more than your wallet. Buying locally grown food puts money in your neighbors' pockets by supporting smaller farmers. What's more, locally grown foods will also likely be fresher than the produce shipped from longer distances, and you may even find yourself getting to know the person who grows what you and your family eat.

Many Minnesota farmers markets also accept SNAP/EBT benefits to better reach families with limited incomes. Some of the things you can buy at farmers markets with SNAP benefits include vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, bread, cereals, jam, syrup, honey, rice, grains, and dried beans. See which farmers markets accept EBT on this map: SNAP/EBT at Farmers Markets.

Goals for this Month

  1. Find a market close to your home and find out when it opens. Search the  Minnesota Grown Directory.
  2. Plan a visit to the market with your family. Depending on the size of the market, you may need 15 to 30 minutes to walk around and see what's available.
  3. Plan to buy and prepare a vegetable that you have not tried before. Here is a recipe to which you can add many different types of vegetables (besides those in the recipe): Fresh Summer Pasta Salad (317 K PDF)
Find a farmers market near you at

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