Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry. The state of Virginia has nearly 45,000 farms, and they’re the most diverse in the country. You can purchase Virginia products in many grocery stores. You can also purchase produce at farmers markets throughout the state directly from the farmers themselves. Virginia farmers markets are great places to find local, seasonal produce.
Price is a big reason many people avoid shopping at the farmers market. But, you can often find comparable prices at the farmers market as you would at the grocery store. To make your trips to the farmers market more affordable, consider these tips.
- Find a local farmers market that accepts SNAP. Many farmers markets in Virginia accept SNAP. This means they can swipe your EBT card to redeem tokens. These tokens are used like cash at the vendors’ stands. The map below shows farmers markets in Virginia that accept SNAP.
- Find out if your local farmers market has a SNAP Match program. Some farmers markets “match” SNAP/EBT dollars. The match amount differs from market to market. If there is a double match then that means that if you have $10 in SNAP at farmers markets, you will actually receive $20 worth of tokens at no extra charge to you. Look for the Virginia Fresh Match logo at the farmers market, or ask at the market manager table.
- Know what produce is in season. Farmers markets usually only sell local produce. So you will only find what is grown and what is in season in your area. It won’t look like a grocery store. When produce is in season, the price is usually lower and the flavor higher! Produce has the best flavor when it is freshly-picked and in season. This seasonal produce calendar shows what to expect when.
- Look for the items you would usually buy. You’ll find many unique types of produce at the farmers market that you might not find at the grocery store. But they may cost more than your budget will allow. Popular produce like apples, potatoes, squash, leafy greens, tomatoes, and sweet corn tend to have lower prices, especially when they are in-season. Other items like eggs and meat are usually more expensive. However, if something interesting and different catches your eye and fits your budget, consider trying it. Just stick to your budget and check with the farmers market manager to make sure you can use SNAP for that purchase. If you need ideas for how to prepare the food, search our recipes.
- Ask if there are deals on larger quantities or imperfect produce. Farmers will sometimes sell imperfect fruits and vegetables at cheaper prices than their normally-shaped produce. Most of the time, there isn’t anything wrong with the items; they just look a little funny. You may also get a better deal for buying a large quantity rather than a few items. It doesn’t hurt to ask.