Navigating the farmers market (and a listing of markets near Tacoma)

FarmersMarketCROWD
Great crowd at the Proctor Farmers Market.

We’ve all heard it a million times.

“Buy local.”
“Get to know your farmers”
“Real food, real close”

All the locavore, yadda, yadda, mess. That’s what people say we should be doing and yet not all of us do it. So maybe you aren’t into green living. I mean sure you recycle (sometimes), and you don’t throw garbage on the ground, but you would never consider trading in your car for a bike or investing in solar panels. But if the idea of buying locally grown food appeals to you then keep on reading.

farmersmarketONIONS
Sweet onions look tasty!

I love going to farmers markets. I love being able to buy food that has been picked from the ground in a farm not too far from where I make my home. In our house, Craig is the one with the green thumb. I am not the best at keeping plants alive. It’s just not one of my gifts. I am, however, great at eating fruits and vegetables. I could seriously sit down and have a bowl of cherry tomatoes and call it a meal. That’s why I love farmers markets. I don’t have to grow any of the food, but I still get the benefits of fresh, local produce all while supporting local farmers!

FarmersMarketAPPLES
Washington apples are glorious. I never knew there were so many varieties of apples. Honey Crisp is my absolute favorite.

In my early years of market shopping I often found myself going home unsatisfied. I was always buying spinach when I didn’t need spinach, just because it was in season. I’d eat half and then the rest would turn to green mush in the back of my refrigerator. Does this happen to you?
I’m pretty sure not everyone who visits a farmers market leaves satisfied. I mean sure there’s the people who come in with their cloth bags and make a beeline straight to the farms they know and trust, purchase exactly what they want and walk away happy. Then there’s the newbies. We like the idea of going to a farmers market. We like the idea of buying fresh, whole food from a local farm. But when we go we just end up hopping from stand to stand and then leaving with a few apples and some lettuce that’s just going to wilt before we remember we have it three days later.

FarmersMarketFLOWERS
Beautiful flowers grown from a local farm.

Well fear not gentle readers! I’m here to help you navigate your way through your local farmers market so you don’t end up spending your money on things like dandelion root (it’s only good for one thing people) and overpriced smoothies.

Here are three things I do when shopping at our local farmers market:

FarmersMarketEDITSQUASH
Pardon my shadow, this vendor was swamped with people.

Step 1. I try not to go to the farmers market after I’ve been to the grocery story. My advice to you is just don’t do it. You will end up buying something you don’t need because in your head you’re thinking “I don’t need those tomatoes I just bought a whole bunch two days ago!” Instead you’ll leave with a bag of beets that will go uneaten. So, make sure you visit the market before your big grocery shop.

farmersMarketsBAND
Live music while you shop! This was taken at the Proctor’s Farmers Market.

 

Step 2. I have a list of items I want/need. Duh, right? Well oftentimes a trip to the farmers market is a spontaneous thing. In my house it goes something like this:
Me: “Oh hey, it’s 10 a.m. and everyone’s awake. We should do something!”
Craig: “OK.”
Me: “I know! Let’s go to the farmers market!:
Craig: “OK.”
Cat: “NANA DADDA STOP!”
Then off we go to the farmers market and nine times out of 10 I don’t buy anything because once I get there I realize I don’t need anything. Yeah, I’m one of those shoppers. So, if you’re going to the market have in your head at least three things you’d like to buy. Maybe some lettuce for Taco Tuesday or berries to go with your breakfast oatmeal. Whatever it is just make sure you have a plan. Otherwise you’re just going for the live music and pastries, which, is totally fine, but this post is to help you get the most out of your shopping experience.

 

Taking time to speak to the farmers is all part of the shopping experience.
Taking time to speak to the farmers is all part of the shopping experience.

Step 3. Find the right vendor. When I frequented the farmers markets in the Tri-Cities in Eastern Washington it didn’t take me long to find my favorite farmer. It was a small family farm that was at every Pasco and Richland farmers market. I probably chose them because the son was always wearing Dallas Cowboys gear. I mean the man’s got great taste! But if you’re new and you don’t know anything about any of the farmers then take your time going to each stand and do a little window shopping. Look at what they have to offer. Is it organic? Is it organic, but they didn’t want to go through all the trouble of obtaining the organic certificate? How far away is their farm? Who’s doing the selling? Is it farmhands or the family? Are their goods fresh or are they selling you apples in April? If you want fresh produce then you’re going to have to make sure you know what’s in season.

When it’s finally time to purchase something you might have to take a chance on what the food might taste like. Fortunately, lots of stands offer free samples so people can taste what they are about to buy.
If you frequent markets enough you’ll eventually find the farm you prefer, just like I did. My favorite farmer hooked me with his asparagus. It was yummy! I kept going back for his purple lettuce and peppers. He didn’t have any fruit trees though, but fortunately there were a ton of berry and apple farms represented in Eastern Washington.

FarmersMarketCHARD
I bought a some rainbow chard. Perfect for wraps and soup. I might be sharing a recipe pretty soon.

I’m very fortunate to live in an area where there are a number of farmers markets. There’s practically one every day of the week. But since I’m still pretty new to the area I haven’t figured out which farmers market is the best. Any locals out there have an opinion?

-Veronica

Here’s a list of farmers markets in your neighborhood. Don’t live in the area? This SITE will help you find a farmers market in your area.

South Tacoma
Location: MetroPark STAR Center, 3873 S. 66th St.
Hours: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Sundays.
Duration: June 7 – Sept. 27.
Broadway
The Broadway Farmers
Location: Downtown Tacoma from Ninth to 11th street.
Hours: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Duration: May 7 – Oct. 29 Thursdays.
6th Avenue
Location: Corner of Sixth Ave. and Pine St.
Hours:  3 – 7 p.m. Thursdays.
Duration: May 5  – Sept. 29.
Eastside
Location: 44th Street and Portland Avenue.
Hours: 3 – 7 p.m. Wedesndays.
Duration: June 17 – Sept. 30.
Visit: tacomafarmersmarket.com
Proctor
Location: 2702 N. Proctor St. in Tacoma
Hours: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays
Duration: Now – Dec. 19
Visit: proctorfarmersmarket.com
Multicare Market
Location: Multicare Tacoma General Hospital Rose Garden, 315 M.L.K. Jr. Way
Hours: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Friday
Duration: Aug. 7 – Sept. 11.
Visit: tacomafarmersmarket.com
Puyallup
Location: Pioneer Park, 330 S Meridian
Hours: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays
Duration: April 18 – Oct. 17
Visit: puyallupmainstreet.com
Lakewood
Location:6000 Main St. SW
Hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays
Duration: June 2 – Sept. 15
Visit: cityoflakewood.us
Steilacoom
Location: Corner of Lafayette and Wilkes Streets
Hours: 3-7 p.m. Wednesdays
Duration: June 24-Aug. 26.
Visit: steilacoomfarmersmarket.org
Gig Harbor
Location: 5503 Wollchett Dr. NW (Saturday) and 4701 Pt. Fosdick Dr. (Sunday)
Hours: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday
Duration: All year.
Visit: gigharborfarmersmarket.com.

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