4 Questions You Should Never Ask at Farmers Market

//4 Questions You Should Never Ask at Farmers Market

4 Questions You Should Never Ask at Farmers Market

Stacy Carlsberg of Potomac Vegetable Farms helps a customer at farmers market.

Stacey Carlberg of Potomac Vegetable Farms helps a customer at market.

I’ve spent over 1,000 Saturdays and Sundays selling at farmers markets, and even after all this time I still love to answer questions. Farmers markets are one of the few places where customers can directly connect with their food, meeting face-to-face with the people who grew it. Questions are expected at market, and even encouraged. From livestock breeds to production practices, organic certification to chemical usage, I’ve been asked just about every food-related question under the sun.

Though most farmers will happily answer all inquiries, there are a handful of questions that make even the friendliest farmers want to choke a carrot. If you don’t want your farmer to turn three shades of beet red, here’s the reasoning behind 4 questions every customer should avoid.

1) Was this picked fresh this morning?

So what’s wrong with this question… you just want to know if it’s fresh, right? That’s totally understandable. But let’s take a moment to think about how a farm really works.

Imagine market has just opened, and it’s 8 a.m. For the last hour and a half, the farmer has been setting up his booth. Before that, he drove two hours to get to market. Sometime earlier he brushed his teeth, made a pot of coffee, and—with any luck at all—put on his pants. At what point this morning would he have had time to pick 20 bushels of tomatoes, 100 pints of blueberries, or gather 50 dozen eggs?

Truckloads of fresh food don’t magically load themselves in fifteen minutes. It takes many hands many hours to pick basketfuls of green beans or apples. This doesn’t even count moving the harvest from the field to the packing shed, or loading it onto the truck itself.

Eggs are laid fresh each morning (see the sunshine in the background?), but these hens are still asleep by the time I roll out for market in the morning.

Eggs are laid fresh each morning (see the sunshine in the background?), but these hens are still asleep by the time I roll out for market in the morning.

So when should the harvesting happen… at 2 a.m.? I’m picturing a bleary-eyed farmer with a headlamp, picking corn with one hand and drinking coffee with the other. As Rachel Bynum of Waterpenny Vegetable Farm explained to me, most market produce is picked a day or so before (depending on the fruit or vegetable), then loaded onto the truck in the cool of the evening before market day.

If you want it any fresher than that, you’re probably going have to grow it yourself. In the meantime, let those farmers get a good night’s sleep! Which leads me to my next question…

2) What time do you get up?

This one’s a classic, something I’ve been asked hundreds of times. Farmers are famous for being early risers, so it’s understandable if people are curious about a specific hour. So why add this question to my list? Because—as I’ve learned from years of experience—there’s never a satisfactory answer.

For instance, if I say, “Oh, about 6 o’clock,” the questioner’s face turns thoughtful for a moment. “That seems kind of late, doesn’t it? I mean, I get up at 5:45 myself.” If I say “A little before 3,” their eyes go suddenly wide. “Why do you have to get up so early? To milk the cows or something?”

Yes, that's my Kermit the Frog pillow.

Yes, that’s my Kermit the Frog pillow.

One day, I realized there’s only one correct answer for this question: 4:30 on the dot. Not too late, and not too early. Not too lazy, and not too crazy. 4:30 a.m. is the Goldilocks of responses.

So in case you were wondering, all farmers—everywhere—get up at precisely 4:30 (although I sometimes hit the snooze button on my rooster). Any more questions?

3) I know you’re not open yet, but I’m in a hurry… could you sell me something before the bell?

Hello, Starbucks? Sorry to call so early, but your door is locked and I really need a latte. Could you open up early just for me? I’m in such a rush, and it’ll only take a second!

Where else in the world could someone get away with this question? Despite how it might appear at first glance, it takes farmers a long time to set up their booth each morning. Trucks must be unloaded, tents erected and produce arranged. If farmers opened early for even one person (and I’m talking to you, Latte Lady), they’d never be ready for the opening bell of market. Which is a perfect segue to my last question…

4) Since it’s the end of market, can I get a special deal on what you’ve got left?

This one’s a little trickier. I once asked my friend John Hyde, a baker for 25 years, what he thought about discounting leftovers at the end of market. His face lost all expression as he gave me this advice: “Forrest, that path leads to madness.”

Farmer Rachel told me that they pick squash one, two or even three days in advance, and stagger the different pickings across the course of a market.

Farmer Rachel told me she picks squash one, two or even three days in advance, and staggers the different pickings across the course of a market. Looks fresh to me!

He elaborated. “If we gave discounts at the end, then people would simply wait till the last ten minutes of market to shop. And what about the loyal customers who paid the normal price? They’d be insulted to learn they got charged more for showing up on time. It’s always better to donate it to a food bank than to discount things at the closing bell.”

Markets must never become Priceline.com or GroupOn, where last-minute deals and discounts are the norm. In order to stay in business year after year, farmers must get the price they ask for. Discounting at the end of market might seem harmless and even logical, but it’s an unsustainable practice for the farmers themselves.

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Farmers markets are a place where customers should expect to have all of their food questions answered. But just like anyone else, we farmers get a little grouchy from time to time (it’s probably because we get up at 4:30). So bring your shopping list, your cloth bag and your farming questions, but leave these four at home. You’ll be a ‘market insider,’ and your local producer will love you for it.

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By | 2018-08-04T09:35:20-04:00 April 10th, 2013|Farm|218 Comments

About the Author:

Forrest Pritchard is a full-time sustainable farmer and New York Times bestselling author, holding a BA in English and a BS in Geology from William & Mary. Smith Meadows, his farm, was one of the first “grass finished” operations in the country, and has sold at leading farmers’ markets in the Washington DC area for two decades. Pritchard's books have received starred reviews from The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, NPR, and more.


  1. Mike April 10, 2013 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    Great blog Forrest. I’ll see you at 4:30.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 10, 2013 at 6:28 pm

      Right you are, Mike… see you then, and mind the dew!

    • Keith April 18, 2013 at 7:13 pm

      One question i used to get a lot from “thrifty” older ladies.. are these todays apples or yesterdays apples.. my response…Last october’s apples.

    • Nadine April 22, 2013 at 11:40 am

      “Hit the snooze button on my rooster.” That made my day, lol.

  2. MK Burbank April 10, 2013 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    This is awesome. I have been guilty of two of these questions (GULP). Never again! And, I love the Kermit sheets… just taught my students “The Rainbow Connection.”

    • Forrest Pritchard April 10, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      Thanks MK! Don’t beat yourself up too bad… these are innocent questions that everyone asks :^) And I love the Rainbow Connection, though it’s challenging to play on guitar; it’s got like 12 different chords in it!

  3. bluprint April 10, 2013 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    What happens to the produce that is not “donated to a food bank”? Do you haul it back or is there a dumpster (or even enough to worry with)? If there is any such waste, I live in the city of conway and would love that material to feed to my worms.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 10, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      Great question… and as you allude, there are many scenarios for market leftovers besides donating it. For instance, on our farm we have a commercial kitchen that allows us to take ‘leftover’ farmers market food and turn it into fresh products the following week: empanadas, potpies, raviolis, etc. Many farmers have become very innovative at this sort of thing, and even freeze/can excess to sell later in the season at winter markets.

      For other farmers, returning it to the soil from whence it came (i.e., composting it, or feeding it to worms as you suggest) is a sensible alternative to selling it at a discount. After all, if farmers don’t ‘feed’ the soil, then there will be no nutritious food to grow!

    • carrieann May 30, 2013 at 3:27 pm

      Hi blueprint,
      Not all food is considered “disposable” after a market. Food can still be sold for a few days like carrots, broccoli, tomatoes and many other things that don’t go bad right away. Many farmers are pretty crafty on how much they sell and harvest accordingly!Depending on how many markets one does in a week, food can be carried over.

  4. Barbara April 10, 2013 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    Artists and craftspeople sometimes hear this one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if farmers did as well: “That’s too expensive. I’ll buy if you let me have it for $xxx.”

    As my brother, a professional artisan, once told me: “Never try to haggle over the price of someone’s work. It might be different at a garage sale where what’s being sold (usually secondhand manufactured items) doesn’t necessarily represent personal labour on the part of the seller. But when a person sells his own work, it’s worth whatever he asks for it. If you don’t agree and don’t want to pay it, fine! Go shop somewhere else.”

    • bexvankoot April 25, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      Such an upper-North American concept…. Remember that in the places on this continent where markets are still a real thing – open every day, in every town – people give you the price EXPECTING that you will haggle with them based on what you need and can afford.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 25, 2013 at 4:07 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I will try to keep in mind that I don’t attend real farmers markets, and that I should expect to reduce my prices to whatever people tell me they can afford.

    • bexvankoot April 25, 2013 at 6:40 pm

      I didn’t say “real farmers markets”. I said “real markets”. They don’t call them “farmers markets” in the places where market culture still exists, because ALL the markets are farmers markets.

    • bexvankoot April 25, 2013 at 6:42 pm

      And you’ll notice that I didn’t actually say anything about what you should or shouldn’t do, unlike in your comment where you presume to know how all people should act towards all producers and how all artists wish to do business.

    • appletree June 1, 2013 at 9:10 am

      I think the market-culture is a real thing. As far as I know, none of us in the U.S. RELY on a farmer’s market for food. Yes we may prefer it with extreme prejudice, but it doesn’t mean we can’t go to Walmart and buy something that is out-of-season, like tomatoes in February, or not typically grown like avocados (at least here in Missouri). So the market mentality here is that we’re really just going to a store that just happens to be outside. I think if there was more reliance on a market, and a lot more vendors (competition / supply & demand), you would see more room for haggling.

    • Forrest Pritchard June 1, 2013 at 11:55 am

      Sorry, can’t haggle. Must pay bills.

  5. Mark Shenk April 10, 2013 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    I,ve always noticed that we farmers take for granted that the things we know we take for granted that everyone else should have the basic concepts of what a farm is about. New generation, if they don’t see it on a computer they’ve got no clue. And you know the customer is always right.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 10, 2013 at 6:50 pm

      Thanks for the reply, Mark. Yes, I definitely understand your perspective, and that’s why I consider it part of my job description to answer questions each weekend. And you hit the nail on the head… the customer IS always right… but it’s in both the farmer’s and the customer’s best interest to create an open dialogue about food production questions. ESPECIALLY when they’re funny questions, ha ha…

  6. Jeff Ruyle April 10, 2013 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    I always get asked if my lambs are happy?

    • Forrest Pritchard April 10, 2013 at 6:47 pm

      Jeff, I get these kinds of questions too! I always reply, “Umm… as far as I can tell, yes?”

      It seems to be a satisfactory answer :^)

  7. Stacey April 10, 2013 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    Good points! I do not enjoy the looks of disappointment when I have to say I did not pick the tomatoes that morning. But, I did pick them at 4:30 the day before.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 10, 2013 at 7:23 pm

      Moon-ripened tomatoes: $100/lb.

    • ugavic April 16, 2013 at 11:37 am

      Love the moonripened price….good way to help them ‘think’ about what they are asking!!

  8. Jeff Ruyle April 10, 2013 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    Lots of left over produce, bread, etc, is also given or traded, to other vendors. One of our hydroponic lettuce vendors gave me a weeks worth of romaine and red bib, so I sent him home with some loin chops. I always tell another veggie vendor, that I trade with every week, “I am happy to pay you for this, or trade you”. He always says, “Oh no……that lamb is better than money”.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 10, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      Absolutely, great point! Bartering is one of the stealthiest perquisites of being a farmer.

  9. alicia April 10, 2013 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    I love the way the ‘farming’ generation is going, the awareness of people changing the way they eat and feed their families. A long way to go still, many young people have never seen how food is grown, no idea how a chicken looks like, or the work involved in producing the food they eat. Probably we are going thru these changes because we all have to wake up and smell the coffee? Or die of poisoned, over-processed food overload?

    • Forrest Pritchard April 10, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Alicia. Yes, farmers markets are one of the few places where people can find an authentic connection to their food, and reasonably expect to have their questions answered. Speaking with a real farmer is a whole lot better than waiting on the line with an automated call center!

    • Radha April 16, 2013 at 6:02 am

      If I could wave my magic wand, the growing of food and all of it’s components would be taught in the schools K-12th grade. The more simple age appropriate concepts, seed planting, watering, harvest for the early years and adding in soil science, composting, pests (integrated pest management), why organic, bee keeping, raising happy chickens, sheep, goats, food preparation……. as the students mature. It’s not about raising everyone to be a farmer (but why not – everyone eats!) but more about having a connection with the food you eat and learning a healthy respect for nature. I think it would be empowering for everyone to know how to grow their own food as a second nature. Not that everyone would but it would/could put a ka-bosh on the notion of “food shortage”. Even in areas of the country/world where the conditions are less hospitible for food growing there is always SOMETHING one can do to contribute.

  10. Kathleen Wiltsey April 11, 2013 at 4:10 am - Reply

    Fortunately, I don’t have to ask the first question . . . ever!! The people at my local farmers market get their produce from Walmart the day before. How do I know? The produce stickers are still on the produce. There’s not another farmers market that is within a reasonable travel distance and I never ever ever buy produce from Wallyworld. This makes me want my own backyard garden even more.

    • Patrick April 11, 2013 at 6:53 am

      Depending on the farm those stickers are for certain accreditation’s the farm may have so they may not have been picked up at walmart. also most “farmers” who sell that way peel the stickers off…

    • Forrest Pritchard April 11, 2013 at 7:15 am

      Oh no, that’s terrible!!!

      What part of the country do you call home? I’ll see if I can put you in touch with some bonafide producers.

  11. StephLove April 11, 2013 at 4:21 am - Reply

    I have those Kermit sheets, too!

    • Forrest Pritchard April 11, 2013 at 5:14 am

      Down to one lonely pillowcase, but ol’ Kermie and I have enjoyed a lot of good snoozes together.

  12. Kathie Martin April 11, 2013 at 4:26 am - Reply

    Things are soooooo peaceful at 4:30 a.m.! Even the coffee pot gurgles more quietly.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 11, 2013 at 5:13 am

      Hey Kathie! This is coming from a lady who knows all about 4:30 coffee :^)

  13. Mark April 11, 2013 at 4:53 am - Reply

    If we don’t ask you these 4 questions,do we get a discount at the end of the day?

    • Forrest Pritchard April 11, 2013 at 5:09 am

      I see what you did there… very funny.

  14. Courtney Sullivan April 11, 2013 at 5:04 am - Reply

    Wonderful article! We get different question, glad we’ve avoided these so far, I’ll get back to you when I reach 1,000 markets though, it’s only a matter of time 😉

    • Forrest Pritchard April 11, 2013 at 5:08 am

      Courtney, the secret is to just keep waking up. At this point, my truck practically drives itself to market!

  15. Maya April 11, 2013 at 5:18 am - Reply

    Forrest, love the Kermit pillowcase – my 7-year-old self is exceedingly jealous, while my 35-year-old self has matured to envy 🙂
    The freshness question boggles my mind, folks don’t walk into the grocery store stalking the produce aisle questioning whether the mangoes from Mexico or the grapes from California were picked that morning!
    I confess, I do ask questions about growing practices, locality, CSAs, meat larders, etc.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 11, 2013 at 5:24 am

      Maya, no confessions necessary… these are precisely the kinds of questions you SHOULD be asking. And honestly, most farmers are genuinely happy to answer production/farming questions. This list was more of an Emily Post etiquette piece, ha ha.

  16. Kassi April 11, 2013 at 6:17 am - Reply

    My most pressing question is, what makes your pork the best tasting pork in this area?! Yes, I know you raise your animals sustainably, but you’re doing some kind of pig magic at Smith Meadows as far as I’m concerned. Is it the breed? The specific sun-to-grass-to-pig ratio?

    Don’t get me wrong, the rest of your stuff is the best around, too, but the pork is what’s on my mind this morning as I’m eating some homemade sausage made from your ground pork.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 11, 2013 at 6:32 am

      Kassi, THANK YOU so much for this nice compliment! Really, this topic is probably worth a blog unto itself (see how I get my ideas?), but the easiest answer is this: when you taste our pork, you are actually tasting the rich, organic soil and minerals of our farm.

      How can this be? Because our pigs genuinely “root” the ground, and eat minerals straight from the soil. As omnivores, our pigs are always digging in the ground for whatever tasty treats they can find (keep in mind that pigs are used to find underground truffles in France), and as they dig they are munching on the soil, taking in all sorts of minerals as they go. We rotate them every 14 days to ensure fresh soil and pasture, as well as giving plenty of time for the ground to recover.

      Soooo… what you are tasting isn’t just the byproduct of fresh air, sunshine and exercise. It’s honest-to-goodness nutrition. Hope that sheds a little more insight!

    • sara April 11, 2013 at 7:07 am

      Kassi- I 100% agree! I was just craving some Smith Meadows Chorizo this morning. Also, I stopped by their market on the farm one day and saw these very pigs that Forrest mentioned in his reply – rooting their way through some very nice looking soil…I’d have to add that they also looked VERY happy! Thank you Forrest and everyone at Smith Meadows for providing us with amazingly delicious high quality food, looking forward to the farmers market this weekend!

    • Forrest Pritchard April 11, 2013 at 7:26 am

      Cool, thanks Sara! Glad you got to visit the pigs, they can be really entertaining :^)

    • just someone June 1, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      His pork is the best cuz he got up at 2am and butcher and packaged a pig before market opens so you would know your. Pork is REALLY REALLY REALLY. fresh 🙂

  17. Jeff Ruyle April 11, 2013 at 6:19 am - Reply

    As Forrest said, questions are good, and appreciated. It is about the only place you can ask questions about your food. Any good grower who does this for a living, not only takes pride in their product but also takes immense pride in the process. So, we never get tire of talking about it. People will sometimes ask, “how does your lamb compare to “_______”? (national health food chain). So I spend about 5 mins talking about our sheep and lambs, and how we grow them but I always finish with, “Of course, their lamb comes from the other side of the world……….ours comes from right up the road in Lampasas County’. I never get tired of saying that. 🙂

  18. Alan Schreck April 11, 2013 at 7:21 am - Reply

    I have to agree with Cassi about the pork – it is AWESOME. I like roasting the loin until just done, around 145 in the center, and take it out and tent it with foil for 10 minutes.

    I probably shouldn’t put this out, but the leg of lamb when available is better than any huge supermarket leg. When Forrest has them I get two for the freezer (I am still hoarding one).

    • Forrest Pritchard April 11, 2013 at 7:28 am

      Thanks Alan! No need to worry, I’ll always save a couple of legs for you guys whenever they’re in season!

  19. Sunshine Vortigern April 11, 2013 at 8:20 am - Reply

    I’m a farmer who attends the Morgantown Farmer’s Market in WV and loved your blog. I do disagree with you about discounting things at the end of market. When I speak to groups of people about shopping at farmer’s markets, I spread the word that some farmers are happy to discount after the close of market (even though our market rules highly discourage this too). I especially encourage people who want to can to approach farmers during that time. I donate to food banks and bring home leftovers for my pigs and lucky friends. However, my argument for encouraging people to take advantage of last minute discounts is the following: 1) If they always wait until the end of market, they’ll start to find that they don’t usually get everything they wanted (the popular items are long gone). If they’re most normal customers, they won’t continue the practice for long cause they want blueberries. 2) I’m always happy for a human to get what they want to eat, especially if it means my hard work gains me one more addicted customer who will make sure to come during the early hours of the market to get what they want next time (I call this the “gateway buy”) 3) Not everyone can afford the normal prices but don’t they have just as much right to the food as me? That’s why I went into farming. If they’re smart enough to figure out that some farmers might be willing to strike a deal, why not help them out? I have yet to find that it’s a slippery slope, and very few people have ever taken advantage of the opportunity anyway. It’s more of a philosophical stand.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 11, 2013 at 8:42 am

      Hi Roundright Farm,

      I think these are totally valid points, and well spoken. If a farmer wants to promote their business this way, then that’s certainly their right, and in certain instances may even be wise.

      However, I was speaking more from an etiquette point of view from the other side of the table. By all means, if farmers offer this, then customers should seize the opportunity. But it’s probably more polite to be offered, instead of asking :^)

      Btw, I’ve been to Morgantown market… what a lovely space with that new covered roof. Hope you have a great season!!!

    • Jessi March 31, 2014 at 9:17 pm

      I found this blog kinda late and from a nutrition teacher. Here in Arizona farmers give discounts if your the first 10 in line at 5am-9am depending on the location and the day. The best discount I ever got was at 6am and it was buy 3 eggplants for regular price and get one free. I needed 8 eggplants for the potluck and it worked out great. I didn’t need a discount, but it was nice he offered and it made my day. I think each farmer should do what they feel is best for their business there is no right or wrong way to sell something people should already want and need.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 1, 2014 at 6:50 am

      Thanks for the insight Jessi! And it’s never too late to add comments, my blog stays open year round 🙂

    • Stacy Martin April 1, 2014 at 8:04 am

      Kobayasho-I believe that the difference and the hard feelings come when someone EXPECTS you to give them a discount because after all, you are just a farmer. I often give discounts to good customers, people who I know are struggling financially, people who are buying in bulk, days I have lots of extra product-but the difference is that it is MY choice to do that and to know when I can afford to do it.
      When someone expects me to give them something for nothing, then yes, I do find this offensive as a farmer who has worked 8 hours before most people roll out of bed. That would be like me coming to you and asking for part of your paycheck for the week. Farmers are very giving people, but we have to live too and our expenses are very high and our profit margins are narrow. WE stretch dollars until you can see through them, believe me!

  20. Emmy April 11, 2013 at 9:23 am - Reply

    OH how you make me giggle! Thanks so much for taking the time to write your blog posts.

  21. kerry April 11, 2013 at 10:01 am - Reply

    i generally dont like to ask when something was picked because for the most part because you can tell if something is fresh. the one exception is SWEET CORN. it tastes insanely better if it was picked the day/night before, not several days before. i usually go to several vendors and get the freshest corn, and its always the tastiest!

    • Forrest Pritchard April 11, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Kerry, you’re right… all grasses (corn is just a glorified grass) reach peak sugar levels in the afternoon after a full day of sun. If you don’t believe me, just ask a cow!

      So… you definitely want your corn picked in the afternoon, not in the wee hours of the morning before market. Your taste buds are telling you the truth :^)

  22. pablo1paz April 12, 2013 at 4:43 am - Reply

    Why do you have bells? none of our markets do…

    • Forrest Pritchard April 12, 2013 at 6:44 am

      The opening and closing bells give us a consistent way to know (especially in a large, noisy market) when to open, and to ensure we don’t start selling a few minutes before another vendor is ready. It’s a courtesy/ritual to both the farmer and customer.

  23. Michele Levy April 12, 2013 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    My personal favorite market question: “Do you all sell vegan cheese?” Double thumbs up on the post, friend. Happy spring!

  24. Farmer Margie April 13, 2013 at 4:55 am - Reply

    Excellent article – a little look behind the scenes from the farmer’s perspective. We are regularly asked all these questions. Sometimes I am amused, sometimes frustrated, sometimes I wonder – just WHAT are those people thinking/imagining? I can add another one – when I’m placing the customer’s purchases in their bags, many are often quite worried about how I’m packing them, concerned I might damage something. Lately, I’ve taken to saying “Look around you-how does our produce look? good?” Of course they say “yes”, to which I answer- “Well, we managed to pack it all into the truck, got it all unpacked, and stacked it all up in the displays, and it still looks good. I think I can handle a bagful! without crushing something” (with a smile). It does provide a different perspective – you see, we are not the grocery ‘bag boys’, who often have no clue what they’re bagging-try asking one sometime what that fruit or veggie is, and see what answer you get… Since we actually grow it, these are our babies that we want to coddle and hand off proudly, in the best condition possible, so they keep speaking for us in your home. (We farmers secretly want to addict you to FRESH veggies!) 🙂 See you at the market!

    • Dayeseye (@Dayeseye) April 16, 2013 at 10:16 am

      I have to say, if you responded that way to me, I would be SHOCKED and disappointed, not to mention offended; I would not purchase from you again (happily and “with a smile”).

      It’s not about how you got it there, stacked with care, in a truck designed to accommodate perfectly stacked produce in crates. It’s about how I am going to get it home. I’m the one preparing it later, I want it to make it home in as good condition as it is at your stand.

      Stand in the customer’s shoes for a sec.

    • Caitlin April 16, 2013 at 11:42 am

      Customers shoes, yes, this is to be considered as it was all the way from the plant or animal all the way to the market. It’s a valid point. Don’t take offense so easily! If you get damaged produce at home, because of rough handling, you may not choose that farmer again. We’re invested in our goods and wares. We’ll usually even make good on a damaged product the next time we see you.

  25. Adrienne April 15, 2013 at 7:23 am - Reply

    As a customer, the question that I ask that makes the farmers most annoyed is “is this organic?” If it’s not organic, s/he becomes defensive and tells me how their stuff is “practically” organic. (practically??) It it is organic, s/he becomes indignant because it says “organic” on some sign (which I clearly didn’t see or else I wouldn’t have asked the question). Many farmers at farmers’ markets are very nice people, but several of them are quite rude. This is off-putting and a big reason I’m happy I found a CSA I love – so I don’t have to deal with the snobby farmers at otherwise excellent markets.

    • Omnivore November 11, 2015 at 12:28 pm

      The reason farmers often have to say “practically” is because some profiteering snob trademarked “organic” and you have to pay a $600 annual fee to use it. Most farmers who say that aren’t trying to get one over you: they’re just legality conscious.

  26. Boo April 15, 2013 at 8:20 am - Reply

    I have to agree with Sunshine Vortigern; many of the freshest and most popular items will be long gone near the end of the day, leaving many items that may have been not-so-desired for whatever reason. (Maybe even touched/inspected by many people.)

    I work with durable goods that don’t have an expiration so we can always pack up and go to the next event. However, it would also be good business practice to sell things for less, even if you don’t take as big of a profit as you might, if you sold the item than to have to transport it home and have a chance it may not survive the haul.

    Also, what is “fair” is not always full-price. With durable goods (like jewelry, antiques, sealed board games) a vendor has to decide whether to ship his/her items away and whether it would be better to sell the item then and there maybe a bit less (he/she would otherwise have to pay for shipping and might not be able to sell it at the next event). With food items, there is an expiration, so some food items might not even last the whole day in hot weather. “Fair” is whatever the buyer and seller agree to.

    • J.M. Rodriguez March 8, 2015 at 9:41 pm

      Yes our products have an expiration, but we can take them home, compost them, feed them to livestock, or eat, can, or freeze them for our use. I never give closers a discount, as someone pointed out the word gets out and the regular customers who come during the rest of the day get mad and do not come back, or customers get the word and show up only at closing for the “shaft the farmer discount”

  27. dragontech64 April 15, 2013 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    Trickier question for you. Some of us are on VERY tight budgets, but still want the flavor benefits, health benefits and nutritional benefits that come from “farm fresh” produce, rather than stuff shipped from half-way round the world in the grocery store. What about trying to bargain with the farmer? Or possibly some form of bartering?

    • JCRose August 8, 2013 at 9:05 am

      He addresses bartering in the story. He’s in favor of barter.

  28. Laura Durden April 15, 2013 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    Great article. I can relate to the last question, as my son’s Boy Scout Troop holds a plant sale every spring. It is held on Friday-Sunday and in the past, we used to discount the plants at the end of the day Sunday, until a few years ago when we didn’t have as many people showing up on Friday and Saturday and many showing up on Sunday afternoon. We decided that lowering prices on Sunday afternoon was a bad idea.

  29. Douglas Lee Davis April 15, 2013 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    I have a question. Why can I often find produce, eggs, meat, etc in local grocery stores cheaper than I can from the exact same farmer directly at a farmer’s market? I have also seen this happen repeatedly with one of our local CSA’s.
    Do they think we arent going to compare prices?

    • Alicia April 16, 2013 at 12:25 pm

      I would assume it has something to do with quantity buying.

    • hopefarms April 21, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      From the exact same farmer? Really? Maybe they sold items in bulk for fast cash – and by the way, CSA’s are often modeled after the “pay first, then receive item” model. This is very reassuring to the farmer and can sometimes make the difference between making or breaking them in one particular month – especially at the beginning of a season after a winter off.

      Is this same farmer producing all of these things? Produce, meat and eggs?

      My thoughts: if you come to my farm and pick up a doz. eggs – your price is $3.50. If I sell them to you through a CSA – paid 6 months in advance, $3.50 and I deliver twice a month to a central location. If I have to package my eggs, refrigerate them in transport while hauling them to the market and then plug in while they’re there – the price is $4/doz.

      If a store wants to buy 30 dozen eggs and put them in their pretty display-case refrigerators – I’d probably sell them for $3/doz. So, why don’t you ask this local farmer what’s up?

      Often I find that just asking the question usually yields the answer, or something close to it. My guess, here, is that this farmers isn’t really a farmer at all but a retailer from other farmers from whom he/she buys at wholesale prices…

  30. juleesuz April 15, 2013 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    I have that same alarm clock….soon to be a farmer, but not at 4:30 a.m…..cheers!

  31. Tyler April Saber April 15, 2013 at 11:00 pm - Reply

    Almost the same exact four questions go for all of us that work at a bakery. Yes, everything is made fresh daily…which means that everything is made fresh daily. And I understand that our front door was unlocked (because we were loading orders into the van) but we don’t open for another hour…so no, I cannot sell you a muffin, just this once. We also don’t discount (but do donate) towards the end of the night for the exact same reason. And I actually do get up at 4:30 am…but our overnight guys get there between 10pm – 2am…and people still seem dissapointed by the 4:30 am wake up answer.

  32. skylermoon April 16, 2013 at 12:00 am - Reply

    We often get great deals at the end of the market day, coming from the perspective of a mid/lower income family this is one of the ways we supplement our needs for healthy local food, getting those deals makes a huge difference for us, we will always happily take your brused fruit at a lower price your extra dirty veggies that lone leek with a travler on it. I understand what your saying about donating to the food bank, and thats good too. But helping local families that you can know face to face is great too, when our income grows we come back to those same farmers and pay regular prices, and they are happy to know we are doing better.

    We have had quite a few CSA’s let us pay in payments and that has also made a huge difference. Just because i dont have a big wallet does not mean i dont value the healthy food my local farmer produces.

  33. Mark Blackwell April 16, 2013 at 2:57 am - Reply

    I LOVE how groupons and priceline are spoken of with disdain.

    Thank you. Sanity.

  34. Frank Wendeln April 16, 2013 at 4:04 am - Reply

    I agree with you on the end of market discount as long as you’re not throwing it away. I went to a local store that had only one fried chicken dinner for sale but it had already went past its sale time (4 hrs from cook time) and when they said they were going to throw it away, I said, well, why don’t you discount it? and she said she couldn’t do it and just tossed it into the trash. My brother works for the same chain and he said they don’t allow it to be sold late for health reasons.

  35. Chrys Art April 16, 2013 at 6:20 am - Reply

    I’m looking forward to the day when Farmers Markets will be more common than the big chain supermarkets. My day literally brightens up when I see the tents and the activity of a Farmers Market. I can never walk away without buying something. In certain countries in Europe they close off many blocks from car traffic every week for one day so the vendors can set up. Their prices are so much lower than the supermarkets and everyone brings their shopping carts to do their shopping for the whole week.

    • Radha April 16, 2013 at 7:38 am

      I remember the days when farmers market prices were lower than supermarket prices. In my world, that is no longer the case. Still, I support the local farmers. Often the prices at our farmers market are higher than our food co-op.

  36. funkyvailchick April 16, 2013 at 7:12 am - Reply

    Love it! Thank you Forrest

  37. Calamondin Laurie April 16, 2013 at 8:06 am - Reply

    Great blog. Thank you! I will never again discount to customers at the market’s end. But it’s a great time for some giveaways to or trade with the other vendors.

  38. Georgie Lea Smith April 16, 2013 at 9:27 am - Reply

    This is great. Just shared on my farm page in anticipation of our market opening in a few days. I particularly get annoyed by the people who want to buy early – especially when it is other market vendors! My absolute favorite market question (and we’ve had a lot of good ones) was one we got last year however. I guy asked if our Japanese Turnips were vegan!

    • Forrest Pritchard April 16, 2013 at 10:43 am

      Thanks for all the amazing comments, folks! As I mentioned in the blog, question #4 is certainly a little tricky… for both the producer and the customer. I’m learning that this one might reflect cultural differences across the country. For example, several people from the South have told me that this is a common practice at farmers markets; in the Mid-Atlantic, not so much. But as they say, when in Rome, do as Romans do :^)

      One thing we can ALL agree on… that by getting to KNOW YOUR FARMER, then these questions become much more answerable!!!

  39. Morgan M April 16, 2013 at 10:51 am - Reply

    That’s funny, my husband worked on a farm for over a decade and they always started bright and early to pick veggies fresh for the market. Then again it doesn’t take two hours to get to there nor an hour and a half to set up.

  40. ugavic April 16, 2013 at 11:47 am - Reply

    I have never read your blog before but enjoyed this post greatly. As a farmer in the FAR north I don’t get to deal with Farmer’s Markets….too rural, but we do get to interact with our customers.

    Having lived in the nations capital for many years I do remember getting up early, 6 AM, so I could get to the market soon enough to not miss out…it opened around 5-5:30AM.

    Thanks for the chuckles!

  41. Zoe ZenGarden April 16, 2013 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    Thanks for a great read! I am curious, though, about how you feel when people ask if you have any ‘seconds’… I make a lot of fruit butters, jams, jellies, and the like and it just doesn’t make sense to use the pretty stuff for that… but I’m also reluctant to ask the farmers or booth workers about it… I don’t want to annoy the people who produce all of the wonderful food!

    • Forrest Pritchard April 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      Hi Zoe,

      I think the ‘seconds’ question is a much fairer inquiry than asking for a discount at the end of market. Two very different things from the farmer’s perspective. Go for it!

  42. Kandy April 16, 2013 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    So how do farmers feel about asking if there is a discount for buying bulk quantities? I was guilty of this last year…

  43. Viki April 16, 2013 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    I so enjoyed the article. When living in town we had a small garden and I was picking broccoli and the neighbor was surprised, she thought it grew underground! There is so much about farming and gardening that this generation knows nothing about, so those “silly” questions are a great opener for teaching. Keep up the great farmer to consumer work.

  44. Susie April 16, 2013 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    I felt guilty/silly asking if one seller ‘s produce was chemical free…until she firmly answered NO! 😉 I don’t sell at market but I have sold from the farm. I get all crazy inside when people say they can get eggs cheaper at Wal Mart or they took a dollar off because the jar wasn’t quite full or they don ‘t want to be a customer because I won’t deliver! 😉 I love the 4:30am remark !

  45. Claire H April 16, 2013 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    Having worked many markets I can relate to this post. Shoppers *need* to ask questions and be savy – but rudeness and thoughtlessness get to you after a while. What used to frustrate me was the asking for discounts – we needed to make a living and weren’t exactly rolling in money.

    On the other side of the coin, customers need to be aware that not all stall holders are honest, and the stall holders need to be patient with consumers because the dishonest ones spread distrust amongst consumers. At one market I worked, the stall next to us was selling organic fruit and vege. The sign on the oranges was “locally sourced, seasonal and fresh organic oranges”. As oranges were way out of season, we went over to investigate. Our question was “So are you sure these a local?” The answer was a roll of the eyes and an “of course”. Our reply? “Well, you’d better take the little stickers off that say “California”. We were in Australia.

  46. megan April 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    I had to laugh at the corn comment. At my last location, a neighbor grew tons of Silver Queen corn. He’d call and say, “Get the water boiling, I’m going to pick some corn.” I gave up trying to grow my own when the deer found mine super tasty (not Silver Queen, and multicolored variety, and yes, I checked with my corn neighbor to make sure we were far enough away not to have to worry about cross-pollination).

    If I want to can some items, I let the farmer know and ask if I can get a flat or box of whatever the veggie is. I always say I’m glad to wait a week if s/he hasn’t got enough that day, and they nearly always give me a discounted price. Now, sometimes it’s a mix of seconds and some firsts, sometimes all seconds, but I don’t care as I’m canning or freezing. I also let them know I’m okay with all number twos.

  47. Leann Sebring April 16, 2013 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    In Missouri, many ‘farmer’s markets’ are items that people have bought at auction to resell and these items are NOT from their own farm or garden. I’d rather buy from a legit source instead of someone pretending to be a gardener.

  48. Kemmy April 16, 2013 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    We were at a farmers market tasting some apple cider from Harcourt, Victoria. Question from a wine drinker who was tasting as well nearly made me burst out in laughter and Mr. Apple farmer cider maker was very polite and answered with a straight face with no sarcasm whatsoever. Question asked “This cider is from green apples yes? Do you have red cider that’s from red apples?”

  49. Diana Hall April 16, 2013 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    These people are whining. Just be polite and answer the questions and be happy you have people stopping at yr stand who may do business. You are in a public forum. These questions are repetitive for you but thats the business in your market and other markets.

  50. Cynthia H April 16, 2013 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    The one exception (well, two) I can see to end-of-market discounts are 1) where the product has suffered through sitting in the market itself (although that may be corrected by handling) and 2) where the product is going to be dumped rather than being transported back to the farm (not likely among the farmers at the markets I go to! that’s food, y’know!).

    As far as “waiting till the end of market to shop”, that happens anyway among people who want to wander around unencumbered till they’re ready to leave (or the market is closing).

  51. Nicole April 16, 2013 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    As a farmer, I can take most of the questions you have above. I pick everything the day before market, and stay up til at least midnight picking greens so I can have them as fresh as possible, because let’s face it. Not all farmers need to be morning people. But my stand has many odd vegetables to accommodate different ethnicities. So I guess I have a few different questions that make me want to pull my hair out.

    – First, “Is it Peaches N’ Cream?” There are so many better varieties out there, but so many farmers get tired of the question, and just answer yes. So customers believe the last dozen of sweet corn they purchased was peaches n cream.

    – Second, “Are you organic?” I agree you want chemical free, but you don’t want bug bites either, right? I use them as needed, and can’t afford to have chemical jets fly over my farm or have quarantined areas that they picture “non-organic” farmers using.

    – Lastly, this type of customer may be the most annoying to me. “What’s that?” I will gladly tell you what it is, what country of origin it is from, how to cook it, and any other details that may come to mind. But after 50 people taking up my time that could be used with other customers, I’m gonna be a little ticked when I can tell you’re going to be the 51st person to walk away and say “well that’s interesting…” I understand curiosity, but there’s a reason the cat died from it.

  52. Deb Potter April 17, 2013 at 7:04 am - Reply

    Love it. I do a fabulous farmers’ market where I see our free range eggs & handspun yarn from our own sheep & other fiber animals. Years ago when the market started I made arrangements with a few of the other vendors to leave refuse buckets with them at the beginning of market. They put their culls, oddball leftovers, etc. in the buckets for me & I tote it home for the livestock here. We have a pasta fellow who has to discard the beautiful uncooked samples that he has had out on his board all day & our oxen go nuts over those treats. They kick up their heels & trot across the pasture when I return home from Saturday Market.

  53. Deb Potter April 17, 2013 at 7:05 am - Reply

    eeeesh – “sell” our free range eggs…. I’ve been up since 4:30 & have only had a single cup of coffee 😉

  54. jeaniene April 17, 2013 at 8:28 am - Reply

    Oh I am sooo lucky to have had grandparents who were farmers and pig farmers. My summers were spent detasseling corn and walking the bean fields,not to mention being around for the hogs to go to market. If my grandparents went to town it was for flour and sugar only. Their bathroom was the outhouse even though they had a tub and sink in the bathroom. When/if I was hungry I would just go to the garden and grab something. I dug potatoes at 500am. Actually my grandfather dug and I picked up and put them in the burlap sack. Canning was done outside and finished product was stored in the underground cellar(snakes and all). Any left over food from dinner was slop and fed to the pigs.My grandfather had over 300 pigs so they all did not get table scraps.Just the ones who came running to the trough first…lolol So lucky to know what a farm is and the workings behind it. Was up before dawn and in bed when the sun went down. Harvest time was a different story all together…My grandfather fed his pigs corn he grew. He grew corn to feed his pigs and corn to harvest for people consumption. He did not buy his feed at the store.

  55. PattyLA April 17, 2013 at 8:52 am - Reply

    My husband grew up on a beef ranch and my Father In Law is still ranching. Other than when his cows are calving he is not an early rising farmer. He likes to sleep (and so does his son although he now gets up earlier for his office job than he did on the farm).

  56. Minde Herbert April 17, 2013 at 10:45 am - Reply

    I respectfully disagree with #4. I haven’t met a single farmer that wasn’t thrilled to sell me his after-market surplus at a discount, especially goods that have been sitting out all morning and aren’t “pretty.” I have farmers call ME to let me know that they have extra that they’d like to sell off. The difference in helping a farmer out and turning them into Priceline.com is the relationship. And respect. If a farmer doesn’t want to sell his after-market stuff at a reasonable discount, then fine. No problem. But they all do. 🙂

  57. Linda Jordan April 17, 2013 at 11:28 am - Reply

    thanks for the insight, Forrest. However, I firmly believe that questions are good.. Questions show interest and curiousity. Questions other than “how much does this cost”.. show that a non-farmer is attempting to learn about a different way of living. If the questioner is a child, maybe their condiering farming. Questions aren’t bad – although I’m sure the same four (as above) do get monotonous. But, remember If the farmer has answered the same question 1 million times, the question is still NEW to the current curious customer. Farmers are the backbone of our country, epitomize the American work ethic and we that shop markets appreciate the exchange of questions and answer. In my humble opinion, answer with a smile, no matter how inane the question may be. That is all;o)

    • Forrest Pritchard April 18, 2013 at 6:35 am

      Thanks Linda! I agree wholeheartedly with your comment. Sometimes a humorous list like this is just a way to open dialogue… I certainly don’t discourage questions of any kind :^)

  58. Megan Alton April 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this post! Thankfully I haven’t asked these questions before, but I certainly was curious about the answers. I’m thinking of doing a “get to know your farmer” series about the farmers at our local market. Any suggestions for questions that people SHOULD ask their farmers?

    • Forrest Pritchard April 18, 2013 at 6:33 am

      Hi Megan,

      Frankly, any and all questions are good… these were just some tongue-in-cheek examples of how the questions are viewed from the farmer’s point of view. Any questions you can think of will probably be good ones, and feel free to drop me a note if you want feedback.

  59. Susan Randall April 18, 2013 at 5:51 am - Reply

    When people ask about #4, we always tell them we take the leftovers home and feed them to the hogs. Then, in turn, bring the produce back in the form of sausage.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 18, 2013 at 6:30 am

      Ha ha, many farmers ‘recycle’ their food this way. Despite what some posters have suggested, making a last minute discounted dollar isn’t the end-all-be-all for some farmers.

  60. Kimberly Nelson April 18, 2013 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    Ok Forrest, how about , I saw it cheaper in the other row, can I get it for that??? grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

    • JCRose August 8, 2013 at 9:31 am

      I was raised on a farm, in a farming community where different farmers raised a variety of types of veggies and quality was also varied, depending on the attentions and abilities of the individual farmers . So the first thought that comes to me in answer to this question is: If you saw, say, beans cheaper in the other row, but prefer to buy these beans rather than walk a few steps back to buy the cheaper beans, then these beans are obviously better quality beans and worth the extra cents. Right? Otherwise, go buy those cheaper, lesser quality beans at the lower price. It’s just obvious from the question itself that the other beans are cheaper for a very good reason, since you prefer these beans. See?

  61. lunagrown April 18, 2013 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    This was a wonderful read! Thank you for writing it!

  62. Tea Temptress April 21, 2013 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    great blogpost, funny as well. 4:30 sounds a very likely hour for any good farmer.
    Having a small business, I’m often asked if I’ll donate my product as it would be good advertising. As they are not putting up banners stating that people are sipping my product, that seems unlikely to generate sales later. I do donate plenty of product, but it’s to help funds for causes. The product of the small, craft business takes $ and time to develop, create, grow.
    Most people, if they do not farm or have tried to run their own business from scratch, they just don’t know and so these questions must be endured in exchange for their enthusiasm of what we are offering.
    Hopefully, this article will get people thinking and appreciating the non corporate business model in more than one way and support local, small businesses from every angle.
    Happy Farming!

  63. Farmwife April 21, 2013 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    Of you go to a farmers market, take money. We have had many people who ask a million questions, and take time from other customers just to have them say they didn’t bring any money. We know that talking to you this week might make a sale in the future but be aware of what is going on around you and don’t take vendors’ time if they are busy and you have no intention of buying.

  64. R. Price April 21, 2013 at 11:45 pm - Reply

    Re: special deals at the end of the day. I’ve lived in France for 25 years, in various regions, and I visit farmers markets several times a week all the year. It is very common for the vendors here to give a special price at the end of the market. I don’t think it interferes with sales earlier in the day because the markets are always packed and bustling, and the most desirable produce, at peak of season, disappears early on. At the end there are fewer buyers and less selection. The early shoppers get the best quality and the rarest items. At the end the vendors are happy to sell off what’s left so they don’t have to cart it home.

    • JCRose August 8, 2013 at 9:41 am

      The local market culture is what makes the question valid in France or in any area where fresh local markets are the norm. The fresh local markets are not the norm in most of the U.S., and so it’s a seller’s market here. People go to the farmer’s market expecting better quality and they accept that they may pay more than they would at, say, Walmart. After all, Walmart’s tomatoes could conceivable made of red Styrofoam, but the tomatoes at a farmer’s market will make you high just to smell them. At the end of market, the farmer may take those leftover tomatoes and make cans of tomatoes to sell on the next market day, so they probably aren’t going to be thrown out at all; even if they’re fed to the hogs, that’s not wasting them. So, asking for cheaper prices at the end of the day can get you a lot of different answers, depending on where you live, the availability of fresh produce in your area, an whether the farmer considers the day’s leftovers to be a loss or simply to be repurposed.

  65. Valerie Low April 22, 2013 at 12:19 am - Reply

    “I sometimes hit the snooze button on my rooster”…thanks for the laugh….farmers CAN be funny! 🙂

  66. Jessica April 22, 2013 at 3:17 am - Reply

    As for me, I live in a country with a short growing season. Farmers markets happen during the summer with the, then, peak of the season in August and September. In September the late season mushrooms pop up (chanterelles, cep and others). Some of these you can’t grow, you forage (which is my favourite way to spend a day) and that jams up the price. The selling stuff at a discount at the end of the day DOES happen here but usually not at a farmers market per se but rather at a permanent outdoors fruit and veggie market. I can’t really say that people wait until they begin to offer those discounts. You can make a good deal but you need to eat the produce the same day (even more so than at any other market).
    All this said, I would definately refrain from asking those four questions.

  67. Leonardo Rota-Rossi April 22, 2013 at 4:03 am - Reply

    I don’t know about the fourth one. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but here in Brazil, the farmers uses to low his prices near the end of the market. The products tends to be in worse condition than in the beggining (or the worse ones are the only ones lefting), and usually low-income families uses this as a way to save money. If you wanna the prettiest tomato, go early!

  68. Mick April 22, 2013 at 8:12 am - Reply

    Any time someone tells me (or tries to tell me) what I can and cannot ask them or how I can or cannot interact with them, I simply go elsewhere.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 22, 2013 at 8:44 am

      C’mon Mike, have a sense of humor! :^)

    • JCRose August 8, 2013 at 9:47 am

      Oh, Mick, it’s just a fun blog entry to get a discussion going and share ideas. If you don’t want to take etiquette lessons, nobody says you have to. Relax and smell the tomatoes.

  69. Bonnie April 22, 2013 at 9:40 am - Reply

    I have a sister who was born on Kermit sheets just like those!

  70. Nisha April 22, 2013 at 10:36 am - Reply

    I came here seeing David Lebovitz share this on his Facebook. Fun write up, haha.
    I have not got the chance to go to any farmer’s market since I moved to US two years back, but will definitely remember this article when I go visit one 😀

  71. Mickie Warner April 22, 2013 at 11:43 am - Reply

    is the farmers market in Kansas city Missouri a good market?

  72. Ann April 22, 2013 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    As a market vendor, I agree with all but 3. I welcome all sales, including early sales. The point of being in business is to sell my products and I will do whatever I need to in order to keep my customers happy.

  73. Barbara April 22, 2013 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    as a vendor, my favorite worst question is “is this good?” my answer-“no, it’s terrible and you’d hate it but I need the money…”

    • JCRose August 8, 2013 at 9:52 am

      LOL! Glad I wasn’t drinking my tea when I read this – it would’ve spewed out my nose. But, maybe they just need some help learning how to tell when something is ripe or not? I’ve had people look at me funny when I hold a melon up to my ear and knock on it. Very few ask what I’m doing, and at least the rest have enjoyed some entertainment.

  74. Gimme A Break April 23, 2013 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    As long as you want everything to be on your terms, let me elaborate a little. You might not want to discount your goods at the end of the day, but carrying bills is a lot lighter than carrying that box of fruits back to the truck and taking it out and putting back into storage or easier than blowing an extra hour driving it to the food bank. I USED to wholesale perishables (30 years) and I would rather take the money than to put it away. But good marketing on your part to keep the price up at the end of the day LOL. I would rather have the crowd at the end of the day personally. Less product to handle. You went there to move product, right? Besides the people during the earlier part of the day get the pick of the litter, why should someone get the leftovers for the same price? Also your “donation” to the food bank is actually a write-off for more than what you can write off as what the product costs as a grower if you were to just dump it in the trash and document the loss.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 23, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      I can appreciate the merits of this perspective, thanks for the feedback!

    • hopefarms April 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      That’s the main difference between you and Forrest; you were a wholesaler, he is the farmer. I can also see your perspective, but most farmers in this day and age aspire to make a difference, not just a living.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 23, 2013 at 6:29 pm


    • JCRose August 8, 2013 at 10:02 am

      I used to sell yardsale items by the box or trashbag full at the end of the day, then donate the rest to the local charity store because once I got that stuff out of my house it wasn’t coming back. But farms repurpose what they produce, so nothing really is going “in the trash.” It’s just going to be used in a different way, either canned, frozen, or fed to a food-animal. Even the compost heap is going to help raise more food. So, it’s really up to the farmer if he want’s to discount his “truck” or truck it back home. He’s not a grocery store with a dumpster out back; he’s a farmer who can reuse everything. It’s all good.

  75. Hevel House April 25, 2013 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    As a consumer and avid proponent of farmer’s markets, I am a little disappointed in this article. It comes across as whiny. While I understand that some things can be aggravating or annoying, I disagree with points 1 and 4.
    1. Was this picked fresh this morning? A person with a a little more patience should understand that this question should be interpreted as “How fresh is this?” In my old hometown our “farmer’s market” had few actual farmers and consisted more of people selling “wholesale” produce. The food was far from fresh, but some was “fresher” than others. Now that I have access to wonderful farmers markets (with real farmers selling food they grew themselves) I have come to understand from the farmers that some of the produce they have is also “fresher” than others with some having been gathered several days before the market. So as a consumer, it is a completely reasonable question. What I’m REALLY asking is, “How should I properly consume this?” If some is older than others I might consider canning it or consuming it within the next day, or so.
    4. Since it’s the end of market, can I get a special deal on what you’ve got left? Nothing wrong at all with asking this. And nothing wrong at all with answering no. If you get tired of answering the question, just post a sign that states you don’t give discounts. Bartering and negotiating is perfectly acceptable, and even expected, in markets.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      But I AM whiny! Nobody’s perfect :^)

      Being whiny, however, doesn’t take away from the validity of my personal experiences. Thanks for continuing the conversation, I truly appreciate the comment.

    • JCRose August 8, 2013 at 10:15 am

      I blame the American psychic educational system. See, this is where a sad lack of psychic ability can lead someone to ask a question they don’t want the answer to, then get snurly because the person they asked the question of didn’t psychically deduce that they didn’t want the answer to that question at all, but wanted the answer to the unspoken question the person wanted answered. My great-grandmother never had this problem because she could read people’s minds, which made her very cranky.

  76. Jeff April 25, 2013 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    Ann, Number 3 is a liability issue for the markets and vendors. It would be best if customers were kept out of the isles until the opening bell, because of people setting up there booths, tents, trucks pulling in and out, heavy boxes on dollies, etc. Our Sunday market doesn’t open until 10:00, and we have too many customers in the way before the market opens. It does not effect me so much because I’m always set up at least 45 minutes before but I worry with the later arriving, but still on time, vendors.

  77. friday link love | Sassy Radish April 26, 2013 at 4:55 am - Reply

    […] 4 questions to never ask at the farmers market. (Seriously, people ask that first one?) […]

  78. PHR April 26, 2013 at 7:51 am - Reply

    Thanks, nice post. I take issue with the logic behind #4’s slippery slope. I believe it is highly situational and do not agree that discounts at the end will in turn lead everyone to shop at the end – no more than discounts at Sam’s Club lead everyone to shop there. A market experience is made up of different elements and many different customer segments who value different things, and there is a small portion (in our market at least) who value price above all. Most want to come early when they get the first look, or come during music or kids activities or chef demos or when their friends are around to chat. Coming at the end means there may be nothing left, or limited selection, or mushy tomatoes; that is the trade off: lower prices for “you get what you get and don’t get upset.” In our market if someone asked that question, most vendors would say, sure, try me back at 12:55 and we can discuss and the shopper would just buy now. The other issue is that if they do come back at 12:55 the farmer is the one with the leverage! After all, if the shopper wants a deal, and has no other options if they want this produce: she or he has no time to compare vendors or markets with only 5 minutes to go, and they want to finish a transaction. So if the discount is only 20%, it may be mutually beneficial. THere certainly is a risk of the situation you discussed in some retail categories when people are indifferent to when they shop – so if CVS discounted Rx at 555, that’s when I would go because I get the same Rx at a time that is equally convenient. But in a good farmers market, coming at the end means you don’t see your friends, the hustle and bustle is gone, the selection is limited, the produce is picked over, and it is 90 degrees in the shade. Selection, pricing, music, cooler temps: those are the things other customers are paying for when they shop prime time and they most definitely would not be insulted to learn that someone got a better price by choosing to miss what makes our market a great and fun community event.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 26, 2013 at 9:35 am

      Hi Peter, great response and insight! Thanks for contributing to the dialogue.

  79. DM Kelly April 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    Farmer here. I have sold at farmers markets for about 7 years now. I feel incredibly lucky to be doing what I’m doing. I used to be a customer on the other side, and I was always intimidated by the farmers. I wanted to do what they do, and I wanted to know more about how they did it. But I was afraid to ask questions. I think most people are genuinely curious about the way we do things…and I answer questions sincerely, the way I imagine they ask them. When it comes to things like selling early, I love the fact that we are NOT a typical corporate place that only sells according to the times on the door. I like it when someone comes early and I am able to help them. I do think some people come late looking for deals, but again…they may not know any better. Some farmers can benefit by making deals at the end. Some can’t. If you’re a customer, the only way to find out is by asking. Customers, if you’re at my market, ask away. I won’t be annoyed. 🙂

    • Forrest Pritchard April 26, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      Thanks DM, I couldn’t have said it better myself :^)

  80. […] I laughed at these 4 Questions You Should Never Ask at Farmers Market. I grew up attending a weekly farmers market and will agree, people ask the strangest […]

  81. Tragic Sandwich April 27, 2013 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    I don’t get to shop at my local farmers’ market as often as I used to, but I have never asked for a discount if I go later. If I’m offered a lower price, I take it, but I don’t ask for it.

    Actually, the main reason I don’t go is that my 3-year-old eats produce when she finds it. Our local grocery store is very accommodating about this (also, we always get more and ask them to ring it up twice), but I am not confident about her behavior in a farmers’ market–and I can’t afford to pay for everything she might “sample”!

    • Forrest Pritchard April 27, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      Ha ha, the famous grazing 3 year old! Don’t worry, this happens to every parent… farmers understand :^)

  82. Paul Friday April 28, 2013 at 11:01 am - Reply

    I have 52 years experience in farm marketing and write a monthly marketing column in both the Fruit Growers News and the Vegetable Growers News. I have written an article, not yet published on the advantages of a sale at closing time at farmers markets.Particularly on a hot or rainy day it is a huge advantage to have a closing sale. One of the main purposes of direct marketing is to deliver fresher produce to the consumer than they can get at the supermarket. To have a closing sale and (clean up) is both profitable and supports always having fresh. Taking home (day old) and bring it another day is self defeating. As far as the age old argument that the customers will wait for the sale, I find this to be of very little consequence. First of all, at day’s end the quality is not the same as it was earlier and the early riser who pays top price is not the same customer as the scrapper at the end and we need them both. When the scrapper types are wandering around buying almost nothing at the close of the day and my competitors are tearing down with very limited sales, we are very busy (cleaning up) tomorrows junk and converting it to cash, making our 200 + miles round trip much more profitable.

    • Forrest Pritchard April 28, 2013 at 11:24 am

      Interesting perspective, much competing wisdom on this issue!

  83. KMM April 28, 2013 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    I must add to your list….I am a baker at a local market and the most frequent question I get is, “Did you make all this?”

  84. Michele April 28, 2013 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    This was great! I’ve only been shopping at my local farmer’s market for about the last year. It’s so cool being able to get the good stuff right from the source! Number 1 especially cracked me up! Do these people not realize how long produce at the super market sits around after it’s picked? It’s shipped from other states, or even countries, it hasn’t seen the vine in WEEKS. Loved the post!

  85. Jim April 29, 2013 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    I don’t understand why anyone should be expected to understand your business anymore than you understand their business.

    None of these questions sound outlandish to me but some of the replies do. If there is a market for that day picked goods that doesn’t imply you have to work 24 hours a day. Just like where I live the drug stores are open 24 hours a day doesn’t mean the shift is 24 hours. Hire someone to pick at 3am and deliver what the customer wants (assuming there really is such a demand (and perhaps price premium) for same day goods).

    As far as #4, tell it at Union Sq Market in NYC, where I shop and where, yes, don’t faint, people discount their goods later in the day. Everyone knows it and that’s how it works. Allow me to clue you in on why the entire business model doesn’t come crashing down. (1) what is left at the end of the day is just that — what is left at the end of the day. Shocking but the best goes first and you can’t rely on a sale that day or what may be left for any such sale. Sometimes there is, sometimes not, (2) many people either can’t risk waiting because maybe something will be left and maybe it will be on sale or can’t come at the end of the day. I believe the MBAs would refer to it as a form of price discrimination and not “unsustainable.” If you choose not to then give it away or eat it. You’re choice. The product, especially the good stuff, is perishable. It’s not a secret. And it’s not necessarily a problem.

    • Claire H April 30, 2013 at 1:51 pm

      “Just like where I live the drug stores are open 24 hours a day doesn’t mean the shift is 24 hours. Hire someone to pick at 3am and deliver what the customer wants (assuming there really is such a demand (and perhaps price premium) for same day goods).”

      If Forrest is anything like the Farmers in my local area, that would just about make any profit null and void. In a perfect world, all customers would be reasonable and not expect the seller to stretch to unreasonable actions and prices, and all sellers would be honest and fair in their pricing.

      As both a consumer and a seller – I can see things from both sides, but both sides can cross a line. This post resonated with me as a seller because it was so true and honest – and it was written in a tongue in cheek humorous way. Some days after a market I was left tearing my hair out. Perhaps don’t read so much negative things into it?

  86. Jim April 29, 2013 at 6:39 pm - Reply

    PS, I hope I did not sound rude it’s just that I find it remarkable that you’re making fun of the quality of your customers questions. You should be thankful there are engaging with you and possibly thinking of you as a place to return to. There are so many booths at my local market I don’t know one from the other unless and until I engage the farmer in a little Q+A. And believe me I remember who I found helpful and who could not be bothered.

    I’m one of those people that ask questions at a farmers market. I’m interested in where food comes from and how it gets to me. Aren’t those the types you might find at a farmers market. Why is any reasonable dialogue with your customer a negative. Can you not ring someone else up and answer a simple (to you silly) question at the same time ?


    • Forrest Pritchard April 30, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Thanks for the response Jim, but I think you took the tone of this piece very much the wrong way. If you scroll back through the comments, you’ll find that most people read this blog as it was intended: one farmer’s humorous point of view, providing some perspective of the story behind farmers market food.

  87. Krystal April 30, 2013 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    With the negative talk about GMOs, I read this article to educate myself on the do’s and don’ts of the farmer’s markets. We have one in my city and I plan to shop there for my produce needs in hope of better quality food and to support our local farmers. I even learned that bartering was not okay which I thought it was a standard since most are selling the same items.
    I then glanced at the first couple of responses as I normally do and kept reading. As a farmer’s market newby, I was shocked at some of the responses. I even checked to see if this article was for the consumer or just farmers. Some of the questions above look more like small talk questions to open a convo. I could see how it would get aggravating if asked 50 times and if I was a farmer I may vent to a fellow farmer that can relate. As a potential consumer and produce novice, just smile and answer my stupid question to the best of your ability. If several farmers are selling an item that I want I may even pay a little extra for great customer service.
    To help the consumers without frustration to the farmers, maybe and article titled “A Good Way to Ask a Farmer…”

    • Forrest Pritchard May 1, 2013 at 10:07 am

      Hi Krystal,

      I would never suggest that these questions are stupid, and I took special care to point out the exact opposite. And I’m sorry this blog didn’t meet your expectations about GMOs; I will plan to do another post in the future addressing this issue. Thanks for the feedback!

  88. Ellen Moliskey May 1, 2013 at 6:52 am - Reply

    As a physically disabled person living on a meager income of $269.00 a month since 2008, I would like to see farmers looking up folks like me within their communities to give some produce to, and even the occasional gift of meat. I live in a rather large farming community, and there are a lot of farmers that know of me and other folks like me, but none of them ever offer us any of their produce.
    Some of us, like me, cannot get out to the farmers markets, they are too far to travel for us , or in my case I am not well enough, so to have someone bring me some produce would be a great blessing.
    I hope you seek out folks like me in your community to give produce to.
    The most difficult thing is to see friends and their friends on facebook talk back and forth about how good their gardens are growing and how much milk their cow is producing, so much milk that they were able to make a plethora of cottage cheese. Then they say, oh we have so much we will bring you some. And knowing the person they are taking it to is a healthy working person that can go out and buy their own. It is difficult as these families raise pigs for bacon, cows for beef, and chickens for meat and lambs and so on, but they never look the way of the less fortunate, they barter amongst themselves. And make it glaringly apparent on facebook.
    To un-friend would be rude, so not showing in news feed any longer is the choice to make.

    When I was healthy I use to plant a large garden and shared it with others. I have not been able to take care of a garden since 2008.
    I have a small flock of chickens that I raise for eggs, and I sell a few and give a few away.

    Communities should help the less fortunate among them. But it is my experience that most do not.

    Psalm 70:5 But as for me, I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; LORD, do not delay.

    The Lord works through common people.

    • Forrest Pritchard May 1, 2013 at 10:04 am

      Thanks for the comment, Ellen! This is exactly where donating the food can create a win-win for farmer and food bank. As I’ve tried to point out to some commenters, farming doesn’t have to be JUST about money… making a difference counts too!

  89. Cody May 12, 2013 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    I worked at a farmers market for two years, These questions are spot on. I did work at a bakery though so people tried to get a discount and I was like “I would love to, but sorry my boss wouldn’t like that!” You know what we did with our leftover goods? We donated them to local churches who were more than glad to get free bread to help feed people who actually needed help.
    Other question we got was, “Did YOU ACTUALLY make this?” Nope bought it at Costco.

  90. Family Farms | Michael Ruhlman May 20, 2013 at 7:13 am - Reply

    […] also started a blog (because he has so much time on his hands)—read this excellent post on What NOT to Ask the Grower at Your Local Market, it’s hilarious. Thanks to our mutual friend, Carol Blymire, Forrest offered to write a […]

  91. Matt May 21, 2013 at 10:11 am - Reply

    Great blog- entertaining and informative. I live in Colombia, South America and go to their Verizon’s of these markets three times a week for something or other, where everyone is cheaper and fresher (povertyt here is about 100/month and minimum wage is about 300/month). I’m sorry if I missed it in the comments earlier, I only waded through half or so. Do you have a twitter handle? Tips, jokes, and updates for your local customers would be seem to be well received in twitter! Thanks!

    • Forrest Pritchard May 21, 2013 at 10:37 am

      Hi Matt, thanks for the comment! We’re @smithmeadows

  92. Sam May 22, 2013 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Love this, I probably would have eventually asked one of these questions, so thanks! Saves me the red-faced embarrassment I would have otherwise experienced! Eventually I hope to run a small, sustainably-run farm and sell at farmers markets. This blog seems to be a great resource to learn a bit about it! And your book, man that looks like a great read

    • Forrest Pritchard May 22, 2013 at 7:19 pm

      You got it Sam, and thanks for checking out my book!

  93. Victor May 23, 2013 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    I came upon your blog via Ruhlman, so I can already be labeled a cynic. 

    Your list of questions is similar to many “what not to ask” lists I’ve seen. Photographers are especially guilty, but almost all of the service professions eventually succumb to the lure of the list. That’s because being human, we forget the word “service”, and substitute the word “me”. 

    Of the four questions you pose, I have to admit three are simply the result of base human presumptuousness. The first is utterly legitimate. The answer is your produce is as fresh as it can be. Your customers are asking for a simple truth. You owe it to them to provide that truth without bitterness. They don’t need to care about when you had your coffee, or when you brushed your teeth. Thats your job. You are offering a product for a price. It’s a simple equation. 

    Don’t gt me wrong. I understand your frustrations. I go to my local markets in Western Massachusetts every weekend I can, and I’ve seen some pretty bad behahavior. But the bottom line is this: you’re no more special than any of your customers. They have jobs too. They work hard too. They are asked questions they don’t like. They’re grouchy sometimes too. So get over yourself, and answer the darn questions.

    Disclaimer: Love your book :-).

    • Forrest Pritchard May 23, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      Thanks Victor! In all honesty, this is written very much tongue-in-cheek… any grouchiness or edginess is purely for stylistic entertainment. I tried to go out of my way to say that all questions are great and should be expected, and simply picked these out as a way of expanding the dialogue in an op-ed fashion. But I can certainly understand how you took it. And thanks for the book love, genuinely appreciated!!!

  94. culturedsf May 25, 2013 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    I have my own business selling handmade goods. I think what we all react to is the implication that what we are selling is somehow not worth the price we are asking. Also I don’t mind answering any specific, thoughtful question. However, if you ask me blanket questions with impossible expectations- the one we hear a lot is: “Is everything in here locally made?” I will not like to talk to you much because the only answer I can give is no. We want to please you so we don’t like to say no, but how can we explain all that we know about how goods are made or grown if you ask broad general questions like that.

    There are a lot of nuances in business, (farming included) and so I would say to customers- ask away, but please be specific enough to take into account the nuances of business. Plus you’ll start a friendly dialog that will educate you far more than your limited understanding of the business practices/farming practices of the person you are questioning.

    Cheap has undermined everything of quality and we need to get over the idea that everything we want should be cheap.

  95. Heather W. May 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    LOL. The first one is especially hilarious. We have sold at farmers markets since 2001. We used to sell squash blossoms from time to time and we called it “Operation Firefly” because as my hubby was loading the truck I would go out with the dawn barley starting with a head mounted light and pick them just as they were starting to open. It was the only way we could get them to market in a condition we were happy with, but at 3/$1 it just was not worth it so we have not done it for years, but this article made me smile as I thought of “Operation Firefly.”

  96. Sheila May 29, 2013 at 1:41 am - Reply

    I just read your book, and your the reason my eyes are shot, because I could not put it down. I read it in one sitting, a LONG sitting, but I just LOVED IT.
    You hit on so many issues that I’m having in my own life, that it was amazing.
    You gave me the missing links to many things that have stumped me for years, that I can’t thank you enough for sharing your life with us.
    God Bless you,

    • Forrest Pritchard May 29, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      Wow, thank you Sheila! I’m so glad that you liked it, and I really appreciate the kind words :^)

  97. Tom June 1, 2013 at 10:20 am - Reply

    didn’t like the snooty way this article was written and didn’t care much for some of your answers. We have a very nice farmers market in our village and everyone working it is patient and kind, and answers your questions politely even tho they may have been asked that same question a hundred times that day alone.

  98. Lauren June 1, 2013 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Wow. I don’t think I could ever patronize a business whose owner thinks customers are idiots, and who is offended by people haggling over prices, especially when the markets MOST people attend are all about making deals on purchases. It never occurred to me that farmers could be elitist snobs. Many people have been raised so far from the farm they have zero clue how anything agriculture related works. Nice of you to be so kind to them. All the farm folk I know have a sly sense of humor and use it to better educate people. Not put them down. I can only assume you are a city boy who decided to farm to make money, not for a love of the career or because your family has done it for generations. Sad and disappointing.

    • Forrest Pritchard June 1, 2013 at 11:51 am

      I’m assuming my sly sense of humor didn’t work for you. For the record, I’m a seventh generation farmer. But no offense taken! :^)

    • Matt June 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm

      Dear God, has the whole world gone tone deaf? And did I really read somewhere that if someone didn’t like the how they were addressed, they might go to Wal-mart??? WAL-MART is somehow the lesser evil in this equation???

    • Forrest Pritchard June 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      Ha ha Matt, thanks for the assist :^)

    • Matt June 1, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      I’m a native new englander living in Bogota, Colombia. And while there s no shortage of wonderful markets and fresh, cheap produce, there is no such thing as sarcasm and it’s sorely missed. Keep up he good work and ill keep reading!!!

    • Forrest Pritchard June 1, 2013 at 4:34 pm

      Thanks Matt :^)

    • Sheila Menendez June 1, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      Every time I’ve ever been into a grocery store they don’t let me haggle. Are they, too, elitist snobs?

      I must say, Mr. Pritchard, that you’ve struck a nerve with some folks and that must be because the very thing they dislike about what you’ve had to say and discuss is that they want to do all of those things but don’t like them done to themselves….It’s usually our reflections that piss us off. Eventually, if we are open to becoming enlightened, it is indeed our reflection that sets us free!

      p.s. I don’t see you as city-boy-turned-farmer-for-profit only. No one does this to get rich. Ooops, unless you’re a commodity farmer receiving subsidies, that is. Try haggling with them, sometime, Ms. Lauren and see how snooty they can be.

    • Forrest Pritchard June 1, 2013 at 4:35 pm

      Much appreciated Shelia! (And I’ve never lived in a city a single day of my life, btw!!!)

  99. Sheila June 1, 2013 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    culturedsf said “Cheap has undermined everything of quality and we need to get over the idea that everything we want should be cheap.”

    First let me say that I’m 65 years old, and have lived a full life, good and very bad, so I do have experience in what I am about to say.

    I have lived in a 2500 sq ft home with all the trimmings, and I have lived in a one room motel room for over a year, and hardly had the money eat, so I know living well, and living on the edge. I know a bargan when I see one, but today I do ask myself if what I thought was a bargan, is really a bargan. You should too.

    Do you really know what a home grown, grass fed animal, or fresh garden vegetable taste like? Do you know what is in the ones you buy at the grocery store? Do you really know the difference between the two?

    Do you ever think about the water that always ends up in the pan, from trying to fry a piece of meat? Do you know how many chemicals are in your vegetables? Do you even notice?

    I have been poor, and I have had a lot, and today, I would rather pay more for a good fresh, well kept piece of beef, and HALF it, if I have to, than to touch that cr*p that’s in the stores.

    Between the hormones, antibiotics, and filth that’s in beef from the stores, and not even being able to have a piece of beef, that doesn’t turn into a boiled mass, (from the water in it) I think the prices in the stores are unbelieveable.

    So, the prices for farm grown are much better, and of the highest quality you can ever hope to get anywhere.

    A fresh vegetable is worth it’s weight in gold. Have you eaten a tomato lately. Hard as a rock, no taste, and cost a fortune in the stores. I’ll take the local, farm grown, any day.

    Considering GMO’s people need to find out about them. They can kill you. I have followed them for years, and I know what I’m talking about.

    So, what is your life worth to you? Is cheap better? What are you worth?

    I may have to downsize my portion to pay the price, but 1/2 the beef from a farm raised animal, is so much better for you than the so called beef in the stores, it’s no longer an issue with me.

    Sorry I changed this issue, but people need to really think about what buying and selling really means, and if I can’t afford it, I’ll do the best I can, but I will NEVER buy food that is dangerous again, and I thank God that there are those that still sell the best there is.

    Quality folks, it is important, to you, and to your family that counts on you.
    Otherwise, you will “Pay the Price” later anyway.

    Oh, and I live on a fixed income too.

    Farmers, I thank God for all of you, no matter where you are.

    • Forrest Pritchard June 1, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Go get ’em Shelia. Spot on!!!

    • hopefarms June 22, 2013 at 4:46 pm

      Mr. Pritchard, I’m about a hundred pages into your book, “Gaining Ground”, and I’m smitten. You’ve just delivered your first steer to the PA facility after dad got out of the ticket: Priceless. Having been bitten by the farming bug a few years ago, this last November it became intense. I knew I had to farm. By any standards, our small-timey farm is more like a tiny spot compared to your farm, but I couldn’t care less about our lack of acreage, it’s going to be the way I make a living! I’m so looking forward to reading the rest, but just popped in on this comment thread to let you know how very much I’m enjoying your writing. It was, indeed, this post that prompted me to splurge and buy the book instead of an equally valuable weight in seeds for this fall’s crops for the farmers’ market. Cheers!

    • Forrest Pritchard June 24, 2013 at 10:28 am

      Thank you, this mean so much to me! And if it turns out you don’t have enough money to buy your seeds this year, please let me know and I’ll gladly reimburse your purchase price :^)

      Be well, best of luck, and stay in touch!

  100. just someone June 1, 2013 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    So I sell GALLONS. Of iced tea at Farmers Markets…and yes, I DO get up at 2 am to brew 40 gallons of tea fresh for all. So why do you mock the CrazyTeaLady? Sigh…I get no respect.

  101. Rebecca June 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Forrest, I have no problem with anything you said and love your humor. I grew up on a farm and now live in the city and shop almost every weekend at my local farmer’s market. I have several vendors that are “favorites.” A little story about one: last weekend, my husband and I were almost done shopping. He was carrying the bag of stuff we had purchased and I had a bag of spinach that I had purchased but not put in our carry-bag yet. As we were standing in line at next vendor waiting for another customer to finish transaction, I turned and put the spinach in the bag. Then the other customer left so I picked up a couple things and then asked the farmer–from whom I have been buying now off and on for two years–the price. He added up what I had and said, “Oh, and $4 for the Swiss chard.” I told him I didn’t need any Swiss chard and he said, “Well, didn’t you already put some in your bag? I saw you put something in your bag.” I told him that I had put spinach that I had already bought. He said ok and I paid for my other stuff and left. But I left feeling as if he really believed that I was buying about $15 of other vegetables from him but wanted to steal a $4 bag of Swiss chard. I know it was an honest mistake on his part, but I felt as if he should have known better and assumed that what he thought he saw wasn’t what he thought he saw. I’m not some fly by night customer, I have bought from him for two years. But I have also bought from him for the last time. Sorry for the long vent, but I guess my point to all you farmers is to try and know and appreciate the regular customers you have and think before you say something that might cost you one.

  102. Stacy Martin June 8, 2013 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    As a farmer, I do get my dander up when someone asks me to discount my carefully grown food. That would be equal to me asking you to light part of your paycheck on fire or work extra hours st your job fair no pay each week. Would YOU do that??? I expect to get paid forthe good job that I do, just like you do. Do not ask me to donate part of my salary to you.

    • Forrest Pritchard June 8, 2013 at 5:53 pm

      Hey Stacy, yup… I feel you on this point!

  103. […] FARMERS MARKETS: With feet firmly planted in Farmers Market season, there’s some standard questions that will help you get the most out of your experience. However, there’s also some questions to avoid. […]

  104. […] are four questions one particular farmer hates to hear. They’re pretty funny […]

  105. EZ August 5, 2013 at 6:10 am - Reply

    After 25 years I gave up on my backyard vegetable garden. Driving 15 minutes to the local farmers market, held three times a week in season, is a lot better than competing with the groundhogs (the worst), deer (next worst), tomato blight, cucumber beetles ect. So I can really appreciate the expertise of the farmers who grow all that fresh, great produce.

    On discounting, I was waiting in line to buy my favorite swiss chard and the lady in front of me asked for a quantity discount for buying all the chard that was left – the answer was no. She was obviously someone who was used to bargaining where she came from and started to argue with the vendor and her husband had to pull her away. I had to appreciate the vendor wanting to supply all their customers even risking the cost of having leftovers.

    There seems to be less vendors this year, I don’t know why, perhaps the local Marcellus shale drilling industry and its high paying jobs is more attractive than the hard work of farming.

    I usually make it a point to buy something from a vendor who offers specialty items like herbs, arugula, squash blossoms etc, even though the item may not be the best looking or least costly compared to other vendors.

  106. RomanHans August 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    > It’s always better to donate it to a food bank than to discount things at the closing bell.

    I’m actually offended by this statement. I’m sorry, but I can’t afford $5 a pound for tomatoes when non-local ones are at my market for $1. Wish I could pay you $5. Can’t.

    First, if you can’t sell your $5 tomatoes, that means they’re overpriced. It’s a rule of capitalism. And what do retailers do when something is overpriced? They have a sale. Yes, maybe people who paid the original price will get pissed off, but that hasn’t stopped Macy’s et al yet.

    Second, I find it ridiculous that people who don’t work will get to eat better than I do. Pret A Manger sandwich shop does what you do: at closing time, all the overpriced goods are given to a food bank. That secretary who doesn’t make a lot of money and can’t afford a tiny $7 sandwich? Evidently she can go to hell.

    • Forrest Pritchard August 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm


      Thanks for your comments. I will disagree on a few items:

      1) Just because $5 tomatoes don’t sell (and that’s your number, not mine… I don’t personally know anyone who sells tomatoes for this much) doesn’t mean that’s a ‘rule of capitalism’. There are dozens of legitimate reasons outside of economics why they might not sell: a bumper crop, a rainy day at market, a day where another type of produce has just come into season and the customers are more focused on buying something else, 5 other vendors at market happen to have tomatoes that day, etc. This certainly doesn’t mean that the farmer should lower their price.

      2) No one says that people at a food bank are eating better than you. I guess that the occasional heirloom tomato or leftover market bread for a homeless person is a pretty nice altruistic gesture, and might be the best food they get for 6 months. But I’m only conjecturing.

      3) “Evidently she can go to hell.” Evidently to whom? I don’t want anyone to go to hell. Keeping my farm in business and placing curses on people can remain mutually exclusive, in my opinion.

  107. […] penning a blog titled “4 Questions You Should Never Ask at Farmers’ Market,” I’m a firm believer that markets are the place where customers should expect to have […]

  108. RomanHans August 7, 2013 at 11:29 am - Reply

    > And what about the loyal customers who paid the normal price? They’d
    > be insulted to learn they got charged more for showing up on time.

    Really? The “loyal customers” who paid the normal price got their pick of the produce. They didn’t have to scrounge around to see what’s left and still edible. They didn’t have to live off potatoes and zucchini for three days because the tomatoes sold out. If they can afford $5 tomatoes, they make a lot of money — and you’re telling me they get mad knowing that poor people who wait around until closing might get a discount on whatever’s left? I’ll bet they totally freak when you give a poor kid an apple. I’m glad you’re defending these “loyal customers” because I sure as hell won’t.

    Fixed-price commodities screw the poor person, and your inflexibility has made you a merchant to the wealthy. I don’t care if you totally ignore those of us who are less fortunate, but don’t make fun of us or criticize us for trying to make your rarefied products fit into our budgets.

    • Forrest Pritchard August 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm

      Oh hi again Hans,

      Thanks for your comments. I’ve noticed a bit of a trend, however: you seem to embellish my blog with supplemental information of your own conjuring.

      Who says that my customers are rich, or that the people who ask for discounts at the end are poor? Why couldn’t economically challenged people be shopping at the beginning, and then express indignation that rich people swoop in at the end? I don’t operate on assumptions when it comes to my customers. I offer them a sustainable price for my products, and they receive nutritious food in return.

      If that makes you angry, then so be it. But it’s specious logic to cite your own assumptions as reasons to be upset about what I’ve written.

    • Stacy Martin August 7, 2013 at 2:06 pm

      Our food system in this country is broken and our food is artificially cheap because of government subsidies. If you are going to make price comparisons about food, then bring into play nutrition, harmful ingredients (pesticides, added hormones, antibiotics, e coli, salmonella, etc) , environmental impact, water cleanliness and animal welfare and then make a balanced comparison.
      I am a farmer and I grow excellent, organic food and I live very frugally financially. I never borrow money to run my farm, choosing to put what I make back into it. I do what I do because I believe in sustainable food and I enjoy the animals and being my own boss. One day I hope to actually make more of a “normal” living.
      We all spend money on what is important to us and we all have places where we can trim back if we really want to. One of my best customers is on food stamps and has nine children. Her husband lost his job through down sizing. He is an intelligent and personable man and I have no doubt that he will be employed again soon, but with nine children, they still do not have extra money. However, food and nutrition is very important to them and second only to their housing, their next biggest expenditure is food. This family is one of the warmest and sweetest that you will ever meet. What we spend out money on just comes down to priorities.

    • Forrest Pritchard August 7, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks for the response Stacy, you said it very well!

  109. kathy cushman August 7, 2013 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    I too am a vendor at Farmers markets. I work my tail off to scrounge a living.

    I LOVE the vast majority of my customers. They make the hours of work worth it. However….there is always one customer/troll who will be unhappy at something I did or did not do.

    I’ve grown a thick skin and ignore their idiot business advice.

    Like the person who told me I need better signs so people know I am selling drinks. Did I mention they leaned across 8 three gallon beverage coolers to say thisv

    Or the person who tried to lecture me on calculating prices…cuz mine are too low. Apparently when I add one tablespoon of fresh strawberry puree to drinks…I should charge an extra buck. I then laughed and said I am not charging anyone a buck for one strawberry. Bu thanks for the business advice.

    Or the custyomer who wanted a small drink in a medium class and then fill it with ice. Yeah…that is a medium drink…yep…you pay for ice. And I pay for big bags of ice to cool your drink with.

    I want to start a reality show about life as a farmers market vendor. It would never sell as truth…it would have to be fiction.

    Love to all

    Kathy Cushman

    • hopefarms August 8, 2013 at 10:07 am

      HAHA! Kathy – I’d be with you on the reality show – it would never sell as truth, but it would be funny to highlight the idiosyncrasies!!

  110. elizabeth August 9, 2013 at 8:21 am - Reply

    “Since it’s the end of market, can I get a special deal on what you’ve got left?”

    Response: “Sure, if you take it all.”

    It takes an hour to load the truck back up, and then another half hour to get it into the cooler or dump it to the pigs. I’m willing to give a discount in order to get that time back.

    • Forrest Pritchard August 9, 2013 at 10:13 am

      Fair enough, Elizabeth! I can definitely understand your point of view :^)

  111. Saturday links | AgriTapestry August 9, 2013 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    […] Four questions you should never ask at a farmers’ market […]

  112. Susan Dye August 10, 2013 at 10:23 am - Reply

    Have enjoyed reading your blog and the varied replies. I must admit I have only recently become committed to buying local from farmers who raise their produce and livestock with care and attention to quality. I did not realize just how bad the industry (of our food supply) had gotten until I saw some documentaries on TV. And, having raised a few veggies in my own garden, I do believe it’s actually cheaper to buy them at my local farmers market than to grow my own. Must agree with Shelia on making the choice to buy what is good for me and the environment as opposed to just buying from the supermarket. Besides, how can anyone say the prices in the supermarkets are cheap? Whether it’s produce or meat, it is anything but cheap! The disgusting things mass production does to our food is really unconscionable. So, even if everyone doesn’t get your sense of humor, I hope they appreciate what you are doing and that you bother to do it all and, above all, that they continue to support their local farmers!

    • Forrest Pritchard August 10, 2013 at 10:29 am

      Thank you Susan! Humor can be a delicate balancing act, especially where the topic of money is concerned. I’m grateful for such a civil forum, where thoughtful dialogue seems to prevail :^)

  113. salixisme August 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    About the not asking for a discount at the end of the day….

    I have seen a lot of “how to shop at farmers market” posts that actually SUGGEST going at the end of the day to get a reduced price… they tell you that the farmers/producers will discount the produce at the end of the day. I have seen them on lots of blogs, on frugal websites and even in a Paleo magazine….
    That is probably why you get asked the question…. people are being told that you will reduce the price for them if they go at the end.

    Myself, I tend to go early so that I get my pick of the best produce.

    And the only times I have been given a discount is when buying in bulk, or the time when I was extolling the virtues of a particular vendors meat (it was Elk liver and Elk heart to be specific!), and he made several sales as a result. When we bought ours, he gave us a steep discount because of that…

    • Forrest Pritchard August 16, 2013 at 4:28 pm

      Haha, I bet most of those blogs weren’t written by farmers! But seriously, this subject is obviously subject to particular farmers and scenarios. So just use your best judgement :^)

  114. […] food at another time. What we enjoy at ours is getting to know the farmers, their helpers, and having a relationship with them. More of us appreciate that food maturing naturally in the same environment in which we, too, are […]

  115. Whoswho@yahoo.com October 29, 2013 at 8:43 pm - Reply

    Most farmers markets are a joke, produce is being bought from auctions. Save yourself some time and money and go get the same thing from the grocery store. Smug pseudo farmers really irk me.

  116. kobayasho March 19, 2014 at 7:52 am - Reply

    As someone who shops at a local farmer’s market in the summer, ours DOES often have booths that discount their produce during the last 20 minutes or so. I don’t shop during that time, though, precisely because of the point mentioned above–I may miss out on the good stuff. Often the blackberries are all sold out, for example. I guess I could make two trips (especially for the one right outside my office building during the day), but I don’t by enough quantity to make it worthwhile. So, I go early, within the first half an hour of opening, because I like to be able to be picky 🙂

  117. sucreaulait December 26, 2014 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    I know this is an old post but the comment of not discounting at the last minute is so on point! Not fair to you or to your those came on time.

  118. LeeAnne Carlson August 2, 2015 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Of course the people asking for discounts at the end of market wouldn’t mind if their emploers cut their wages for the last couple of hours of their workday…after all, being the end of the day you aren’t as fresh and sharp, right?

  119. Kristin Butts August 26, 2015 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    Hello, I was looking for produce pictures to put in a banner I am designing and was intrigued by the title “4-questions-you-should-never-ask-at-farmers-market”. Being that Lakehurst has a farmer’s market that I frequent in-town I thought I’d better click the link so I can avoid a faux pas! This article was so funny and informative. It reminded me of my 8th grade French class when my friend who had been absent for quite a few days inquired “Did I miss anything?” Our teacher calmly replied “Of course you missed SOMETHING, the question should be, WHAT did I miss?” I am now 35 and still remember the importance of phrasing a question. I look forward to sharing this article and laughing with our local farmer’s market.

  120. Joe Ruder April 25, 2016 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    I know this is an older post, but in my area as well (St. Louis) the markets prices seem inflated with the expectation of haggling. I have had vendors stop me if I am walking away and start lowering their prices without even asking. I guess it depends on where you are and who you are dealing with. A roadside corn stand I would never dream of haggling, a permanent market stall — sometimes yes, sometimes no. But that is just here. Just started reading “Gaining Ground” and really enjoying it and learning a lot — keep up the good work! Looking for a source around the St. Louis / Metroeast area for well raised meat if anybody knows of somewhere. Thanks all —- Joe

  121. Megan Montgomery November 12, 2016 at 10:49 pm - Reply

    Hi Forrest, I’m up at 12:30am right now working on a big project on Gaining Ground for my AP class. My teacher made us read your book and I’m so happy that he did! I love how you approached your problem with such enthusiasm and trust that it would work and eventually came out with an amazing farm. Your book has inspired me to start buying products from our local farms here in Georgia instead of from the grocery store. I’ve been spreading the word about how good Gaining Ground is to all my friends and teaching them about local family farming and organic foods. I asked my dad if we would be able to visit your farm sometime so I’m hoping to come get a tour on farm day this coming year! Hopefully soon I’ll be able to go out and get a copy of your new book Growing Tomorrow so I can read it.
    From, a sleep deprived high school student.

  122. Jonas Sewell November 1, 2018 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    So I just found your site and was looking things over and this article caught my eye. Oh man! I just had the best laugh. Now I’m sitting here trying to hammer down a cup of Heavens Nectar (coffee) to get me thru afternoon chores and doing some research. I just got back from a 7 hour round trip to the abattoir picking up my lambs. I’ve got to tell you just since you wrote this article I’ve answered these questions more times than I can count. To add to the list. How many Acres do you farm? How may Head of each species do you have? I try to nicely explain that to a farmer those questions are about the same as us asking what their 401K looks like and their most recent pay stub. Sounds like y’all have a great thing going up there in VA and I look forward to reading more about you in the future, God bless Jonas From Our Table Farms in SC

  123. Rickey Maynard July 6, 2019 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    I plan on selling at a market this year. Can I sell my stuff half the price of everyone else

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