Farmers’ Market Etiquette

Farmers’ Market Etiquette

By Tina Hayes and Indigo Silva

The taste of fresh and juicy fruit is a favorite for most people. One of the best places to choose your own fresh fruit and vegetables is straight from an orchard, a private farm or a farmers’ market. Depending on which one you choose, there are different procedures and rules to follow.

Farmers’ markets can be found in various cities across the country. They are normally held in an open area with multiple booths where local farmers bring produce to be sold. The Jack London Square and Grand Lake Farmers’ Markets are popular in the Bay Area and similar ones can be found in cities across the country. Some general rules for farmers’ markets include:

  • Before you start handling produce, make sure your hands are clean and carry hand sanitizer to help eliminate the spread of germs.
  • Bring bags to carry fruit and vegetables. Some markets and vendors do not offer plastic bags. By bringing your own bags, you are helping preserve the environment.
  • Stroll around the market a while before purchasing popular produce offered by vendors. This helps you find the best price and quality.
  • Do not engage in long conversations with vendors who are busy. You can unknowingly hold up the customer line this way. The best time to engage with vendors is in the morning before the masses arrive.
  • Use caution when examining the produce. Hold fruit and vegetables gently and do not squeeze or poke. Squeezing and poking can cause bruising and make the produce hard to sell.
  • Farmers’ markets are different from flea markets in terms of negotiations. It never hurts to try to bargain, however, do not be surprised or become upset if you are asked to pay the listed price. The best time to get good deals is at closing time. Vendors are preparing to leave for the day and are more likely to offer a bargain.
  • Make sure your money is easily accessible and close to you at all times. The markets can be crowded and you don’t want to become a victim of theft. Bring small bills to make your transactions easier and faster.
  • Do not cut in front of other customers in line.
  • Since you are likely to see a friend at your local market and engage in a conversation, make sure you mingle in an area where you are not blocking the flow of traffic.
  • If you bring your kids with you, keep a close watch on them and teach them how to properly sample the produce.

Whenever you are at a farmer’s market, it is also important to remember your common courtesies, like “Please,” “Thank you” and “Excuse me.” Do not taste anything without asking for permission first, unless there is a “samples” sign posted. Always use utensils if they are provided.

Picking your produce from an orchard or farm is much different than at a farmer’s market setting. There is more space, sometimes a larger crowd and orchards can potentially be dangerous if you attempt to climb the trees. When picking straight from the vine, tree or root, always remember these etiquette guidelines:

  • Wash your hands first! There are normally sinks or tubs on site and again carry hand sanitizer just to be safe.
  • Check the prices and hours of operation before beginning to pick. Be courteous of closing time and plan accordingly.
  • Know where you can and cannot pick before you start, so you don’t wander into the wrong area.
  • Make sure you have buckets or boxes to put your produce in. Most locations provide containers for customers.
  • Don’t climb the trees or break the branches; this can be very dangerous. Use the designated ladders and be extremely careful. Some farms have you sign waivers releasing them from injury claims.
  • Do not throw the produce or waste it on the ground.
  • Only pick what you can pay for.

Most orchards and family farms do not allow cutting tools on the grounds, so leave them at home. Also, some locations have signs asking that you do not sample the fruit before you purchase; this is one rule that is most often broken.

No matter where you decide to get your fresh fruit and vegetables, you will be in for an interesting day. By followingthese simple rules of etiquette, you will a have generous and polite day of produce picking.

To locate a farmer’s market in your city, visit the National Farmers Market Association website at

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Tina Hayes is the founder and owner of The School of Etiquette and Decorum in Antioch, CA. As a passionate instructor dedicated to providing quality and professional etiquette training to her clients, Mrs. Tina Hayes promotes the awareness that social presentation and behaviors are important to be successful in today's society for all ages.