Getting the Most from Your Farmer’s Market – Guest Post


Today’s post is written by Jeremy Arendt, head cook and co-owner of Sprouts Home Day Care, an organic, eco-healthy day care located in the Northwest Chicago Suburbs.  He graduated from the University of Illinois Springfield where he studied sustainable food systems.  When he is not cooking for the kids, you can usually find him tending to the gardens or hanging out in the greenhouse with his dog. You can follow his writing at

May is one of my favorite months, because it is when outdoor farmer’s markets across Chicagoland reopen for the season. It means the long, dark days of winter have passed for yet another year and a time of abundance is upon us. At Sprouts, an eco-friendly, organic home day care I run with my wife, we love to get as much produce, meat, dairy, and eggs from local producers as possible. We believe eating close to the source and seasonally is not only better for the planet, but better for our children’s health and allows them to develop a palate for a wide variety of foods. We have been regular attendees at local farmer’s markets for many years and have a few tips we like to share with people who are interested in eating more locally.

Ask Questions

One of the most beautiful things about farmer’s markets is that you get to actually meet the person who is producing the food. This allows you to truly know about the food you are buying. When you purchase something from the grocery store, all you know is the price. You don’t know what was sprayed on it, where it came from, or who picked it. At a farmer’s market, you can shake the hand of the person who most likely picked the produce. You can ask how it was grown, where it was grown, and even how to cook it. And this applies not only to produce, but to meat, dairy, and eggs. You can learn about what the chickens eat or if the cows are humanely raised. You can have a real connection to your food and know that you are getting the best, healthiest food for you and your family.

Learn to Embrace Seasonality

I once took a good friend of mine to the farmer’s market for the first time in early May. He went with the expectation of being able to find sweet peppers and corn and left feeling rather disappointed. When you go to a farmer’s market in northern Illinois in early Spring, you will not find those types of food items, which need the heat of summer to grow. Instead, you will find a great deal of green leafy vegetables and over wintered root vegetables. I love this time of year and it is one of my favorite times to eat. A good cookbook, such as From Asapargus to Zucchini, can help you to learn all sorts of recipes for the vegetables that are available this time of year. We like to make dishes such as pasta with green garlic and asparagus, pestos made from kale, sorrel, or spinach, big fresh salads, and light, delicately flavored soups filled with seasonal greens and asparagus. If you go to your farmer’s market on a regular basis, you can fully experience all the seasons have to offer by seeing what the farmers bring to market every week.

Be Adventurous

Shopping at farmer’s markets not only allows you to use your money in an environmentally and socially responsible way, it also allows you to become a more adventurous eater! Even as a seasoned market shopper, I still often run into vegetables and fruits I have never tried. From goose eggs to ground cherries, there are many new eating experiences to be had at a farmer’s market. This is a great opportunity to get your children into trying new foods and eating vegetables. You can let them pick out a special vegetable at the market and bring it home and let them help prepare it. I always recommend trying it in at least two different ways, cooked and raw. It is a great hands on experience for children and a great way to get them excited about eating vegetables.

Now you are a little more prepared to go out and get the most out of your local farmer’s market. Just be warned, once you taste truly fresh food, you will never want to go back.

Check out my previous post about area farmer’s markets. What are your favorite things to buy at the farmer’s market?

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