Do's and Dont's: Farmers Market Etiquette - Modern Farmer

Do’s and Dont’s: Farmers Market Etiquette

Do: Take as many free samples as you damn want. “Sampling is a big part of our business,” says Miller. “It gives us an opportunity to make better choices about what [customers] want.” Do: Feel free to haggle. But don’t be surprised if the staffers don’t negotiate. While the staffers at Hawthorne don’t consider it […]

DO

Do: Take as many free samples as you damn want. “Sampling is a big part of our business,” says Miller. “It gives us an opportunity to make better choices about what [customers] want.”

Do: Feel free to haggle. But don’t be surprised if the staffers don’t negotiate. While the staffers at Hawthorne don’t consider it rude to try to bargain, they do stick to the marked prices.

Do: Buy the bad-for-you pastries.One of my chief complaints is that I feel like some sort of monster when I eschew the healthy produce and buy a pie. Miller assures me this is all in my head.

Do: Flirt with the staff. “Flirting is kind of fun of its own accord and it’s part of the markets.” After I ask Miller about this, he asks for my email address so he can send me an article he recently read about flirting in farmers markets. (I never got the email.) I can’t tell if he’s flirting with me.

Do: Return stuff if you hate it. Who returns food? Still, the farmers do take returns. “We don’t mind losing $4 if it’s going to make someone keep their trust in us and our products,” Miller says.

DON’T

Don’t: Bother asking before taking a sample of something that’s not labeled as a sample. “Most people know how this works.” (No, I did not.) “You don’t really have to ask, but you can ask anyway.” So apparently it’s fine to just grab a strawberry or string bean and chomp away in the name of sampling.

Don’t: Feel obligated to purchase just because you’ve accepted samples. For reals. From Miller “Our purpose with sampling is not necessarily to make a sale on the spot. Our goal is to give people a familiarity with our products so that we become a part of their regular shopping circuit. So we don’t want people to be discouraged from sampling even if they’re not going to buy that day.”

Don’t: Be afraid to use large bills. I thought breaking $50 or $100 bills would be a no-no, but it’s fine. The sellers start the day with lots of small bills for change. Hawthorne accepts credit and debit cards and also food stamps via EBT cards.

Don’t: Jump other customers in line. This was literally the only thing Miller would admit is bad customer behavior. Cutting in front is wrong, everywhere, all the time.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the Hawthorne Valley Farm employee. It is Chris Miller, not John Scott Legg.

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Hannah
1 year ago

I’ve set up at several farmers markets. As a woman vendor who’s often been cornered by men who felt entitled to flirt regardless of my reciprocating or not (particularly since you can’t leave your own booth), I’d say proceed with caution on the flirting front. It can get icky quickly if you’re not strongly aware of social cues and body language.

Xena
1 year ago

I work in the farmers’ market industry for a state in the western US. This is truly one of the worst, poorly researched articles about farmers’ market etiquette I’ve ever read or heard about in my entire career. This author knows nothing about food safety laws, or how hard a farmer works for little pay. Absolute rubbish.

Sarah
1 year ago

Yikes. After seven years working at farmers markets, I disagree with most of this etiquette. Maybe it’s regional? The advice I give to those who ask: 1) If it’s not signed, it’s not a sample. We make most of our money in peak-season on berries, and every time I have to refill cartons that customers have grazed on without buying, I’m losing money. (Plus, you’re sticking your fingers in the berries that someone else is going to buy…) If you’re eyeing product for a particular recipe or have had an iffy experience with the product in the past, feel free… Read more »

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