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Never shopped a farmers’ market before? You’re missing out! They’re a great way to support local growers and eat the freshest food of the season. I’ve put together seven handy tips for next visit and would love for you to share yours.

With the rise of sustainability and “locavore” movements, farmers’ markets are growing in popularity almost everywhere you look. Farmers’ markets are a great way to lay hands on some of the freshest fruits and vegetables while supporting farmers and their families right in your community.

Though you might not be aware of it, there’s probably a farmers’ market near you. A good place to start is the Local Harvest website (http://www.localharvest.org/) which can help you find a variety of markets in the U.S.

If you’ve never shopped a farmers’ market before, don’t be intimidated! Below are some helpful tips to make your experience fun, affordable, and convenient:

1. Be sure to bring small cash bills (and change, if you have it). Typically ATM/Debit cards are not accepted. Payment is usually handled at farmers’ stands, not through a check-out line.

2. Having your hands free is a big plus, so consider carrying a fanny pack for securely storing your money. (Prevents you from having to put your wallet down… a big reason wallets get lost!)

3. Old strollers can make for handy shopping carts, plus they fold up nicely for transport to/from the market. Don’t forget any reusable bags you may have at home, too!

4. Don’t haggle for small lots of fruits and veggies. Looking to buy a big box? Then you might suggest a deal.

5. Some of the best tasting fruit may not look waxy and “supermarket fresh.” Don’t let this deter you. Often quality fruit from the farm is never shipped to supermarkets because it’s fragile. Handle gently, and don’t be afraid of minor cosmetic flaws.

6.If you want to ask farmers lots of questions, try to time your visit for very early when the market isn’t slammed.

7. Remember that fresh means seasonal! Go with an open mind, not a “must have” list. Part of the pleasure is discovering what’s at its peak and getting creative with ingredients.

Have you been to a farmers’ market in Jacksonville? We’’d love to hear what your favorites are! Kevin and Jennifer Hanley 904-422-7626 http://www.facebook.com/hanleyhometeam

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