Last year, I decided to swing by my local farmers market on the weekend before Thanksgiving. I arrived to find hurried customers darting every which way through the jammed parking lot, arms filled with pies, loaves of bread and bundles of carrots and green beans.
Their Thanksgiving dining tables were destined to be filled with fresh local produce and artisan baked goods. Mine was not.
Put off by the crowds and chaos, I circled the parking lot one last time before giving up and heading for the grocery store.
I hadn’t planned ahead. And it was a mistake.
This year, I resolved to be ready. I called on Farmers Market managers from Uptown Phoenix Farmers Market and Peoria’s Park West Market for tips on how to make the most of the farmers market during one of the busiest weekends of the year.
Here’s their advice for how to survive the farmers market during the holidays.
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Tip 1: Arrive early or late
Peyton Ruggles runs the Park West Market in Peoria, just off State Route 101 and Northern Avenue.
For customers looking to beat the crowds and enjoy the best selection of products, she recommends people arrive 10 minutes before the market actually starts.
By that time, almost all of the vendors will already be set up, she says. “And no vendor is going to turn anybody away.”
Later in the day, the crowds also start to subside, she says. So, shopping after noon can be less busy, but by then, you risk certain vendors being sold out.
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Tip 2: Plan your shopping route
For customers with a set shopping list, Ruggles recommends looking up the market map. Before each market, Ruggles posts a map on social media of exactly where every vendor will be set up.
“It’s very beneficial when you just want to get in and get out,” she says.
Not every market publishes a map, but many vendors set up in the same spot every week, so thinking ahead to exactly which farmers and bakers you need to visit will help streamline the process.
Bo Mostow, who runs the twice-weekly Uptown Phoenix Farmers Market, publishes a vendor list every Tuesday and Friday, one day before each market.
“Our market’s big, we have about 200 vendors,” she says, recommending customers check out the map. “That way you don’t feel like you are walking through 200 booths thinking, where are these people?”
Tip 3: Preorder your favorites
During the pandemic, many farmers’ market vendors got web-savvy in order to continue selling their goods while in-person markets were on hold. Now, the online ordering systems will be particularly helpful for holiday weekends.
At Uptown, customers have two choices for preordering. They can either order through the market’s website and select items from multiple vendors at once, or they can order through the individual vendors’ websites.
One benefit of the market’s ordering system is the option for home delivery for a $5 charge. If customers order directly through vendors, they can pick up their pre-selected groceries in person a the market.
Mostow encourages customers to look online and order ahead. Preordering also helps market vendors know how much to make or bring, she says.
“Makers make triple or quadruple what they normally make, but they always run out,” she added. Ordering online can help them gauge demand.
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Tip 4: Bring a wagon
Maybe you remembered your reusable bags and think you’re ready to go. But for the pre-Thanksgiving market, Mostow recommends dialing it up a notch.
“Bring a wagon,” she says.
After buying a gallon of milk or a heavy pumpkin, wandering through the rest of the market can become a chore. A wagon will help take the weight off and allow you to collect all the groceries you need.
Tip 5: Shop all month long
One way to take the stress out of the last-minute market run is to shop throughout the month of November, Mostow says.
She sees people starting to stock up for Thanksgiving as soon as Halloween passes. For those planning on using this method, Mostow recommends thinking in terms of what’s the least perishable.
First, customers can buy table linens, host gifts and decorations. The following week, buy cocktail mixers, herbs, jams, honey and pickles. A week before the holiday, customers can start buying bread to dry for stuffing, Mostow says. Produce such as potatoes and squashes will also happily last a week or more and some items, such as broth, can be frozen until they’re needed.
When it comes to the final market before the big day, customers can relax knowing all they need to pick up are fresh veggies, soft bread rolls and pre-ordered pies.
Most of all Mostow wants customers to know that even though buying everything for Thanksgiving at the local farmers market might require a little planning, it is possible.
“I do a 100% local Thanksgiving every year,” she says. “You can get everything you need at the market, which is so much fun.”
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Where to shop in metro Phoenix
Park West Market: 9744 W. Northern Avenue, Peoria. Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. theparkwestmarket.com.
Uptown Farmers Market: 5757 N. Central Ave.,
Phoenix. Every Wednesday 9 a.m.-12 p.m, and Saturday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. uptownmarketaz.com.
Downtown Phoenix Farmers Market: 721 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. Every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. downtownphoenixfarmersmarket.org.
Downtown Chandler Farmers Market: 3 S. Arizona Ave., Chandler. Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. arizonacommunityfarmersmarkets.com/downtown-chandler-market.
Farmers Market on High Street: 5415 E. High St., Phoenix. Every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. arizonacommunityfarmersmarkets.com/farmers-mkt-high-street.
Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market: 3806 N. Brown Ave., Scottsdale. Every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. arizonacommunityfarmersmarkets.com/old-town-scottsdale
NOTE: The Gilbert Farmers Market, located at 222 N. Ash St., Gilbert will be closed the weekend before Thanksgiving.
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