You’ve been through the drill. You want to buy your fruit and vegetables directly from a farmer and you go to a “farmers market” market and find booth after booth of crafts and lotions and soaps. All of which are fine, but not what you are looking for. How do you find the actual farm and the real farmer?
Table of Contents
1. Search online for “Farmers Markets”
A farmers market is usually a market venue that happens once a week in a specific location for limited hours, bringing several farmers together to create the market.
This can get a bit confusing. Often, there is one or more organizations that sponsor farmers’ markets in a particular city. In Philadelphia, you can find markets sponsored by Farm to City or The Food Trust or by specific neighborhood organizations. The organization will recruit farmers to set up at selected locations on different days. If you go to The Food Trust or Farm to City, you will see the different markets, locations, and hours. Often there is a market manager who helps the farmers accept EBT, WIC, or other vouchers. Sometimes it’s easier to find a compilation of farmers markets and go from there. Visit Baltimore lists the different farmers’ markets that are sponsored by a variety of organizations. This will be true of other cities as well.
How did I find this when I have never been to a farmers’ market in Baltimore? (I have participated in Philly markets run by The Food Trust, so I know these folks.) Google is my friend. I asked Google, “What are farmers’ market organizers in Baltimore?” A lot of information popped up. It’s often important to add “organizers” to your search as most large cities have more than one group that sponsors a farmers market.
The benefit of going to an organized farmers market is that there can be multiple vendors so that you have a choice of produce. There can also be meat or cheese farmers as well. Usually, the organization has checked out the farmers to make sure they really are growing vegetables and not acting as brokers or wholesalers.
2. Search online for a “farm market near me”
A farm market is the market at a single farm, usually open several days each week. The farm market may be open seasonally or be open 3 days per week or be open all year. It’s different at each farm.
If you want to go to the farm itself, a fantastic tool is www.LocalHarvest.org. Local Harvest provides free listings for farms, which makes it easy for them to have an online presence. When you go to the site, click on the search bar for your zip code. Any farms within 30 miles will show up on your screen. You can browse, check out hours, and see what they have to offer. Always verify current hours and status before you set out on a journey.
Google is a great resource, and you want to ask your question carefully. If you put in “farm near me,” you are likely to get real estate sites with acreage for sale. “Farm market near me” will bring you a better selection of farms that have produce for sale. Check out the sites carefully. Grocery stores that use “market” or “farm market” in the name will also show up in the results. There should be websites that will clarify if you have found a farm or a grocery store. Nothing wrong with grocery stores, of course, but if you want a farm, it’s a bit disconcerting.
Does your city have a name that is used in other parts of the county? If so, then using your zip code might be more helpful. Our city name, Wilmington, shows up in Delaware (that’s us), or North Carolina, or Ohio. When I search for specific items near me, I have to specify which location is my interest. There is Philadelphia, Mississippi, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for example. Different results for each location! This is often why using “farm market near 19803” is better than “farm market near Wilmington.”
3. How do you find the best “Pick Your Own” Farm?
This depends on what you want. Do you want a few hours so the kids learn what it’s like to pick blueberries and to have fun eating some right off the bush? Are you looking for a location where you can pick a lot and then freeze for the winter? You can ask Google for “pick your own blueberries near me” and then do a little research. If the website does not have pricing information, then call to see what the pricing tiers are. Generally, there is a minimum price or a price per person (they know you are eating a lot while you are there), and then a progressively discounted price by quantity. You will want to know if you have to use the farm’s containers or if you should bring your own containers. They will weigh the containers, first empty and then filled.
The weather may close the fields temporarily, so always double check if there is rain or thunder in the forecast. See if the growing practices are what you want for the crops you will take home.
4. How can you tell if you want to go to that farm?
Your first step is to check out the website. There should be some information about the farm, what they grow, how they grow, and when you are able to visit the farm. This should give you information regarding the specific questions that you have. Are you looking for farm animals that the kids can visit? Are you looking for pick your own? What kinds of vegetables does the farm grow? Are they open seasonally or all year? Are you looking for a market with hours that fit your schedule? Are you looking for a CSA? The information should be available on the website.
What if the farm does not have a website? How can you find them? Many small or new farms do not have a website yet. If you have not checked out Local Harvest yet,
then now is the time. Local Harvest provides free listings to farmers, which makes it easy for small farms to reach more people. The farms will have brief description of what they grow as well as contact information. You can put your zip code in the search bar of Local Harvest to find farms near you. Always call or email first to be sure the information is current.
Another online sales venue for small farms is the GrownBy app. This lists individual items that a farm offers, often with on-farm pick, and also at other locations.
If the farm has a website, they usually have a social media presence. You can also look at the farm’s Facebook or Instagram pages. Often, you can find behind the scenes photos or videos which will give you more information.
5. Check out reviews
If there is a website, then there are probably reviews. See what others have to say. You can see if people enjoy their visit, like the produce, and if they have a connection with the farm.
Think of visiting the farm as a field trip and enjoy the visit. Even if you do not purchase anything or find exactly what you were looking for, you have found something new in the neighborhood. You may find that the farm is very different from what you expected. Farming in the 21st century has made farmers shift expectations, also.
Please be respectful of the posted hours, as the farmer lives there and she/he wants some family time without the public
If you are close to Wilmington, Delaware, we invite you to visit our farm market. The farm is open Tuesday-Saturday, all year. In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, we have fresh cut herbs and herb plants, cut flowers and flower plants, perennials and annuals, eggs from free-range chickens, locally sourced meats and cheese, and four-season Community Supported Agriculture programs.
About Ruth: I am the 6th generation of my family to farm here at Highland Orchards in Delaware. I grew up here, learning from my grandparents and parents how to plant, weed, harvest, and store fruits, vegetables, and flowers. My graduate degree is in history, so I love to research anything and everything. I have taught at all levels, including university and continuing education. I have done everything on the farm from planting to harvest to selling to social media. I love that I can share knowledge with people through blogs and courses.
About Highland Orchards: Completely surrounded by suburbia, our small farm has been growing beyond expectations since 1832 in this location.
Growing a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and flowers, Highland Orchards provides true “farm fresh” for the community all year at the farm market and through CSAs. If you want to shake the hand of the farmer who grows for you, here is the farm! With plants in the ground or under cover in tunnels, we grow for every season. A family farm, we have three different generations involved in running the farm right now.