By now farmer’s markets are in full swing across Westchester county. If you haven’t already, add a visit to your local market to your family’s checklist of warm-weather activities. Farmer’s markets are a great way to pick up affordable, local produce, support small businesses and get your entire family out of the house for a fun adventure.
With the help of Jennifer Furioli, director of the family-friendly New Rochelle Grand Market, we’ve compiled some tips for making the most of the market in your neighborhood.
Remember That Farmer’s Markets Sell What’s in Season
“Farmers markets are a venue where local farmers and small-batch producers, usually within a 100-mile radius, come together to sell their seasonal farm fresh products,” says Jennifer. “This is as fresh and local as it gets.” Jennifer points out that because food is coming from Hudson Valley farms, just up the road, the vegetables and fruits you see at the stands may not reflect what you see at the grocery store. “I’ll have people ask me on opening day why we don’t have broccoli or corn for sale, and I always have to remind them that those items aren’t in season yet,” she says. “We only sell what’s in season and growing in the fields near where our customers live. You’re able to buy certain produce year-round in stores because it was flown, then trucked in, from a completely different region.”
Jennifer likes to encourage people to look at the labels on their store-bought produce. Even if you’re buying organic in at the grocery store, think of the environmental toll it takes to get that piece of fruit or those veggies from across the world to your table — and how long that item has been bouncing around a plane, truck or boat, then sitting in a store, before you eat it. Nutrients in produce degrade over time. “When your farmer’s market is in season, why not buy something you know was grown nearby and was probably picked yesterday?” says Jennifer.
To help customers know what to do with seasonal produce, the Grand Market has a library cart filled with farmer’s market and CSA cookbooks that visitors can browse. Find a recipe you like? Snap a picture of it to prepare at home.
Talk to Your Farmer
Where else but at a farmer’s market can you talk to the actual farmer who planted and picked the produce you’re buying? Don’t know what that funny-looking squash is? Ask! “Farmers love to talk to their customers about their products,” says Jennifer. “One of our meat vendors, FarmEats, not only shares details of how his animals were humanely raised, he also always offers excellent cooking tips: how to braise his short ribs in white wine, how to perfectly cook pork belly.”
Seek Out Family-Friendly Markets If You’ve Got Little Ones
Shopping with kids is never easy, and crowded parking lots and a lack of age-appropriate activities can send some kids into an immediate tailspin. As a mom of three young children herself, Jennifer has tried to craft a farmer’s market where every age looks forward to the weekly excursion. “We’re situated on an enclosed grassy lawn in front of a library, which makes it a little less nerve-racking,” she says.
Every Grand Market session offers entertainment for kids, whether it’s a hands-on craft or live music (with favorite Westchester children’s performers like Armelle Gloaguen, Zev Haber and Kurt Gallagher). The Grand Market also presents the “mini-market,” three toy farm stands filled with play veggies, fruits, eggs and breads. “That’s probably our most popular attraction!” Jennifer says. “Kids love to ‘work’ at the mini market.” Lawn games, a hands-on children’s garden, and special-themed events like Bastille Day (July 15 this year — see the image at top!) round out the fun.
“Some vendors come weekly, and some come periodically, like our knife sharpener, our mini-muffin baker and our crafters. If you love a vendor’s products, be sure to ask when they’ll be back. That gives them feedback that this market has a customer base that will support them and lets you know when you can stock up again,” Jennifer says. If your local market has an email list or social media accounts, it’s a good idea to sign-up or follow them as well. “We always publish our upcoming special events, vendors appearing that week and our entertainment schedule news through our newsletter, Facebook page and Instagram.”
The New Rochelle Grand Market is a farmer’s market and festival taking place every Saturday, 9am to 2pm, June through October, on the library green in front of the New Rochelle Downtown Public Library. The market offers farm-fresh and artisanal food, children’s entertainment, lawn games (chess, cornhole, ping-pong), live music and more. Visit www.newrochellegrandmarket.com, Facebook and Instagram (newrochellegrandmarket) to learn more.