Farmers Mark-etiquette

This past weekend I went to the Farmer’s Market for what will probably be the last time this year, as Michigan tends to get cold and nasty in the blink of an eye.


It’s not as fancy as other Farmers Markets, but I love it.

Since I’m still in the “denial” stage of the temporary end of this relationship, I figured I would write a post about our courtship before I progress to the anger and mourning stages of this transition.

Actually, this post was sparked by a few things I observed and overheard the last time I went, so thank you to the douche canoes that neglected to use what I consider Farmer’s Mark-etiquette.

Let’s begin.

Most markets bring in an eclectic mix of people—everything from yuppies with their soy half-calf sugar-free oxygen enriched lattes and hippie types with their messy ponytails and fair trade sandals made of bamboo bark to  families and people like me—most often clad in yoga pants with my reusable tote, ready to knock over the elderly and small children for the perfect loaf of mini pumpkin bread.

In other words, it’s a bit of a market melting pot.

There are a couple of rules that are spelled out on signs, one of them being “no dogs” in the actual market area due to the close quarters.


This doesn’t stop people from stuffing the little ones in bags and sneaking them in, a sight that continues to amuse me on an almost publically unacceptable level.

There are also rules that aren’t spelled out, perhaps assumed as common sense. However, if you’ve ever talked to another human anywhere, you know there should be no assumptions when it comes to common sense.

So if I were deemed the Market Queen for a Day—a position I anoint myself with in my head every time that I go—here are the rules I would post:

  • They are samples people, this is not a buffet. Take one or two and move on.
  • Dogs might not be allowed, but children are. With that said, strollers that are three-wide and plow through like a semi need to be banned. Also, it is not cute when your child who is just learning to walk is staggering down the center of a busy aisle at the pace of a turtle, causing people to run into each other, possibly smashing delicate produce and toes.
  • Bring your own bags, if possible, as carrying around 12 plastic bags while touting your earth-friendly awesomeness paints a picture of confusion.


Now that, Alanis, is irony. Rain on your wedding day is just shitty luck.

May I suggest you do not say the following things:

  • These carrots/radishes/etc. have dirt on them!
  • Do you have change for $100 bill?
  • If I buy two pounds at $2/lb, can I get a discount?
  • Were these parsnips humanely killed?
  • It’s cheaper at Wal-Mart.
  • How come you never have fries or creamed corn?
  • Do you use the good pesticides?
  • How much for just one?

While breaking any of these Farmers Mark-etiquette rules is not a punishable crime, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that other market goers might harbor inclinations to beat you senseless with a preservative-free baguette or sharpen their aim with a fresh arsenal of golf ball-sized (dirty) radishes.

And as Market Queen for a day—at least in my own head—I can’t promise I won’t join them.

What crimes against carrots and common sense have you observed at the market ?

36 responses to “Farmers Mark-etiquette

  1. douche canoes? We’re about to lose our market too. And they have the most AMAZING mocha cappuccino muffins. I’m heartbroken. (and 3 lbs heavier)

  2. last time i saw douche canoes was some years ago when i was paddling down the huron river…

  3. Don’t ask “can I write you a check?”. And that goes for ANY market. Also, most people don’t know this but not everything is “organic” but don’t start yelling at vendors if its not. They might not even be the real farmers so its not like they picked those turnips themselves (I know this cause I worked at a stand while in college. I got paid in honey).

  4. I agree. It is a sad commentary that common sense is in no way common anymore. I love your rules and would be happy to help with the radish pelting, dirt and all!

  5. Abby, I wish you could come to my farmers market. It is LITERALLY local farmers. The honey lady is about a 5 minute drive from here, the egg gals have their 300 layers just wandering around the farmyard, and all the pickles and preserves are from, of course, pesticide free gardens in the backyard of said pickler’s home! And ettiquette? Not really needed. We all know each other so if someones kid is out of line, you are allowed to pick it up and hand it to it’s mother. Actually, make the flight. Be here next Saturday. We’ll go together. 🙂

  6. I’m bummed that farmer’s markets will be ending soon as well.

    For the most part I’m just happy the markets around me are as successful as they are. I don’t grimace too much at comments or etiquette, but the plastic bags thing does bother me a bit. I’ll be honest and say that it bother me just as much at the grocery store, since most stores have started selling their own bags anyway. There’s a lot less of an excuse than there used to be!

    I just really like talking to the farmers. I’ve learned so much about sustainable practices, the true political meaning of organic, and how important this way of life is to some people.

    • I really don’t grimace either. Remember that everything I say is tongue in cheek 😉 I’m get more disappointed about the fact that I can’t experience the market “atmosphere” all year long (it’s cold in the winter) more than the real lack of produce. Our local grocery store does a pretty good job of trying to source locally as much as possible, but it can’t foster the people watching and conversations that take place with the farmers and shoppers!

  7. Wow- thanks for the shout out to Portland farmers markets! And you know how to get here so no more excuses. The Hillsdale one stays open all year and all of our markets are local producers only. They have to be from the state of Oregon.
    I’m with you on the kids thing. Those strollers are a menace as are people that bring carts and wagons for their purchases. No one needs more produce than they can carry in their arms.
    Things I’m going to miss: Zest breakfast crepes, tomatoes, and peaches.

  8. My local market has it’s final day last weekend…though for the last few weeks, most of my favorite vendors weren’t present…so sad. They have a year-round farmer’s market in Nashville that I sometimes go to, but it’s almost an hour drive and while they have an area with eateries inside, all the stands are outside. After about 20 minutes perusing in December, it’s impossible to feel your fingers!

    I hate it when people get up to the register to pay and decide to strike up a conversation with the vendor when the line behind them is at least 5 deep…seriously, take a business card and email the man with your stupid questions, I have turnips to pay for!

  9. Bahahaha…you are hilarious. The photo of the bag lady is so amusing…you’re right, that is REAL irony.
    Relieved to say I don’t do any of the silliness you listed, but I often DO ask if the stand’s produce is organic. Is this obnoxious? It’s just that I know not all produce at the farmers market is organic, and certain foods I am pretty picky about. #whitegirlproblem, huh?

    • Oh good lord, of course that’s not obnoxious 😉 I’m just kidding with most of these (at least one or one-and-a-half, anyway) and do ask questions all the time. When it comes to my food, I’m picky about where it comes from, so it never hurts to ask.

  10. Can we just apply your etiquette rules to all people every where all the time? Because evidently people are dumb dumb dumb and don’t understand that the world is NOT their stage and even if it were? I’m standing here with a giant hook, ready to pull your sorry ass right off.

    Nice post!

  11. In short, don’t let your precious angels molest the produce (or anything for sale, but the produce is what really makes me heave) with their grubby, sticky, snot-encrusted little pincers. Can’t spell it (or at least get close enough for a squiggly red line to do it for you)? Don’t touch it.

    I totally get that the farmers’ market is a great place to expose your kids to new foods, and where food comes from, and is generally just a good thing to have as part of their “normal”. But for pete’s sake – I’ll wash it before I cook it, but not before I pick it up and buy it, and then touch other things I plan to pick up and buy, but might inspect and put back – thus perpetuating the nasty.

    Theoretically, anyway, because there is now no way I will be buying that particular nightshade.

  12. Also, total sidebar, but why is it such a terrible thing to have a rainy wedding day, *in general*? An outdoor wedding, sure, but otherwise, why does it matter?

  13. Oh man, I have so heard the Wal-Mart comment. SRSLY?!!

    PS I love magnetic yoga people.

    and YOU.

  14. Really enjoy visiting the Fulton Street market when we are in GR. Last time we were there I was commenting on all the massive strollers and how chaotic it made things. Your rules rock. I’d let you be my farmer market queen for the day.

  15. I am so bummed that there are no Farmer’s Markets in my hood. I have to trek to Union Square and by the time I get there I am too annoyed with crowds to go so I end up at Whole Paycheck.

    Excellent rules. Though, maybe ban the kids too….


  16. I absolutely love that picture, it’s so true. I try to keep one of two reusable bags in my car at all times in the freak chance I actually do remember to use them, I have them. The one good thing about being in FL is that the markets tend to stay open later than cold climate locations so we will have ours for another month or two. Personally, I love the idea of pups there since I am Team Pooch but would never bring Linx since he doesn’t do well with crowds. I can’t stand when people complain about the quality or the selection of produce (like you said, things being out of season and all) I have never heard someone complain about the price though and think I would slap them if so since it’s usually cheaper than the stores and you’re supporting local business.

  17. An indoor/shop Farmers Market opened up in my neighbourhood last year. It promptly closed, mainly because people thought it was too expensive. I would often hear people, as they sorted through the FRESH, ORGANIC vegetables saying things like ‘well, this is £1 cheaper per bag at Tesco’s/ew why do the carrots have green stuff on them?/blah blah blah’.

    People just DON’T GET IT.

    It makes me angry.

    Great post, Abby!

  18. We have a farmer’s market on the weekends in Minneapolis. I usually go at least once a summer but didn’t make it this year. I wrote a post about it too a couple of years back. The stench of patchouli was ubiquitous. I think all of the markets are pretty much the same.
    Tripping over small children are a killer.

  19. Well, did you get the answer? I’m dying to know if those parsnips had to suffer.

  20. Farmer’s markets = awesome. I am totally guilty of treating it like a buffet, although most of it is part of “market research” to find the perfect pod of sugar snap peas before I actually fork over $2.50 for the little basket. One thing I hate seeing is when there aren’t garbage bags/cans anywhere and everyone just ends up throwing their strawberry stems and peach pits on the ground/pile them up on the light post. Way to care for the earth, assholes.

  21. Melanie The Spork Lover

    First of all, that bag she had while carrying a plastic bag, made me laugh so hard I snorted. I take two reusable bags every week but I get fish and such so I come home with at least three plastic bags, which I use for litter clean up. Dirty ass cats!

    I have a problem with the lingerers, or overly lonely talkers. The people who have bought their wares, then just hover in your way so you can’t grab what you need. I am lucky enough to live in Northern California where we have a year round market under the freeway. They have a beef, chicken, egg, and fish vendor along with tons of produce vendors. Last month I was on a tighter budget and had to shop mainly at Target, so yesterday when I went to the market I almost cried I was so overjoyed. It’s my happy place, and the lingerers and overly lonely talkers will not ruin it for me! I try to be empathetic but sometimes I find myself actually saying in a not so kind voice something like, “Are you guarding the eggplant for the secret service, or have they been released and are available to the public?”

  22. Oh, lady, I SO hear you. I live local, so I totally feel you on this. the farmers I know would wholeheartedly appreciate your Rules.

    PS I would add “How fresh is this stuff anyway?” and something along the lines of “when was this baked? Not, like, last week right?”

  23. In a moment I’m not proud of, I yelled at a women who asked a vendor “where her pesticides come from.” But, I think everyone around me was happy when I said “she bought them at the same Walmart you bought those pants.”

  24. I had a friend trying to haggle at the farmers market, asking for discounts. It was embarrassing, and the vendor kind of gave her the evil eye.

  25. Ha – too funny. I haven’t seen too many crimes against carrots, but perhaps that means I need to hit up my local market a bit more often.

  26. That is so funny! My favorite is definitely that lady with the earth-friendly bag and her plastic bag. Ha! I am going to forward this to my sister. She is in love with farmer’s markets and will really appreciate this, too!

  27. Hmmm. How about leaving your kids/wife/husband/whoever a few feet back, so the rest of us can get access to the produce? And the no dogs thing: I don’t care if you bring your dog, though it’s illegal, that doesn’t stop people from bringing them into cafes, restaurants, stores. But don’t let them lick the fruit, FFS! (For F’s sake- my fave expression). Don’t elbow me in the boob, or step on my feet, or shove your way in front of me. And here’s one for me; if I don’t know what it is, and the vendor doesn’t know an English word for it, buy it or don’t, take a chance, or don’t. Even if there is an English word, it won’t mean anything to you, so take a risk, or don’t.

    Oh, and there’s no stop sign there. Drive or pull over, dammit!

    (You can tell my market makes me cranky. Good thing the food is so good and so cheap. And there’s no Walmart within 50 miles)

  28. I know I’m a little late to this particular party, but I just found this gem of a post lost in my email archives. We have people here who butt in front of me when I am shopping. No excuse me or nothin’! And there was the lady a few weeks ago who let a line form while she had them pick the melons for her with a long discussion about the days she’d like to eat them. Makes me crazy. but at least ours is year round!!

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