Sage Advice (and Other Tips)

By Jeremy Savlen | Boston Magazine |

Will Gilson knows a thing or two about farmers’ markets. As a kid, the Garden at the Cellar chef spent warmer months selling sprigs from his family’s Groton-based Herb Lyceum. After observing years of customer behavior (effective and otherwise), he shares some words of wisdom.

LOOK BEYOND LABELS

Many small farmers can’t afford organic certification who still follow conscientious methods. Ask if their produce is organic, or risk spending more on similar goods.

GO AHEAD—ASK

Vendors likely have cooking ideas you’ve never even thought of. They’re also generally happy to reveal which of their offerings are the freshest. But "it’s usually best not to ask a farmer why their product doesn’t look like another farmer’s—or like the stuff at the supermarket," Gilson says.

DON’T BULK UP

This isn’t BJ’s. Unless you’re buying root vegetables, Gilson says, skip the items you won’t use within a few days. Otherwise, you’ll end up investing in next week’s rotting throwaways.

DON’T HAGGLE

Just pay the listed prices. Gilson also advises against searching for that one damaged apple: If farmers want to sell damaged items for less, they’ll tell you.

BECOME A REGULAR

Farmers remember good customers—and bad ones, too. Striking up conversations will increase both your savvy and your chances for the occasional freebie.