On asking questions at the farmers market

It’s not altogether uncommon for me to hear groups of people making their way out of the market asking questions of one another as they go: What happened to our favorite ice pop vendor from last year? It’s mid-August, why are there no tomatoes? What was that person eating?

My question is — has that been you? If so, on your next trip to the market keep in mind that we — whether it be the market staff or our vendors — usually have answers! 

Farmers markets are now widely touted to be economic engines that promote small business growth and job creation, facilitate consumer access to fresh, healthy food, and support the development of regional food systems. But there are also intangible benefits contributing to what keeps shoppers coming back week after week.  Whether you’re sitting down to share a pizza with the folks you came with, running into your neighbor, getting messy over seed art, or engaging with a vendor, studies have shown that farmers market visitors have 10 times more conversation than those shopping at a grocery store. 

It’s entirely possible that you don’t want to be engaging in conversation at the market.  If you’ve got your shopping list set and want to get in, out, and on with your day, go right ahead. 

But if you’re perusing the market wondering how spicy the different peppers are, or what a particular vendor’s approaches to soil fertilization or pest management are, or why a vendor doesn’t have garlic this year when you know they had it last year, the answers might be right at your fingertips.

Sarah of Uproot Farm would tell you that as someone who spends full weeks on her farm with just her mother, brother and an intern, market days are her day to see people and socialize.  

Moses and Ronah of Dawn2Dusk Farm would tell you that in order to harvest and each attend a market on back-to-back weekend days, they spend minimal time with their two toddlers from Friday to Sunday.  

There are sacrifices and perks that come with being a vendor at a farmers market; our vendors are deeply committed to what they do. They would much rather have you take advantage of their presence there and interact with you than not! 

But perhaps your questions don’t have as much to do with the produce as with the market itself.  Wondering what’s going on with the construction on the Fulton site? (It’ll be finished and looking gorgeous by the time you’re reading this!) How much longer our outdoor season runs? (Through Oct. 26 and 27.) Or if we’ll be doing winter markets again?  (Yes, stay tuned!) 

I, our assistant manager, and the occasional board member will do our best to answer these questions and more under the blue or green tents that say “Fulton Farmers Market” and “Kingfield Farmers Market,” respectively.  And if you can’t find us … just ask the closest person next to you to point you our way.  

Alexandra Cortes is the executive director of the Kingfield & Fulton Farmers Markets.  She has grown with the markets since 2011.