Farmers’ Market Etiquette for Shoppers

Farmers’ Markets are such a great way to get your shopping done for the week, discover local artists selling handmade goods and support local.


They have a relaxed feel with friendly vendors, but as shoppers, we need to be sure we don’t take this relaxed feel too literally and are following common practices when it comes to etiquette.


They’re a business just like any other and are working extremely hard to make a living out of the products they’re selling.


Many of the same rules from Shopper Etiquette at Craft Shows applies so have a read over those and keep these ones in mind too. And if you’re a vendor, be sure to check out Farmers’ Market Etiquette for Vendors.

Farmers' Market Etiquette

Be mindful of start times

Set up can be a hectic time for vendors as they need to have everything in place and boxes cleaned up by the time the market officially opens. So an early shopper asking about products and standing in the way while they’re trying to finish setting up can add to their stress levels. They may not be ready for a sale yet and having to dig through boxes to find different options or to gather change for your purchase may make them tardy for the market party….and nobody wants that!


Check on animal rules

There are several outdoor markets that do not allow animals so although you’re outside in a public space, it doesn’t mean that your dog will be able to roam the market with you. There will usually be a sign at the street entrance of the market letting people know whether pets are welcome or not.


Mind the kids and dogs

The outdoor vibe makes it feel like you’re shopping in a park….which is amazing! But remember this is a place of business for vendors and just as you don’t allow your kids to run around grocery stores knocking things over and helping themselves to the bulk candy, the same applies to the markets. If the market allows dogs, keep an eye on them to be sure they’re not lifting a leg to someone’s table or sampling the cookies.


Show up even when the weather isn’t prime

The markets run rain or shine and vendors have put the same amount of prep in regardless of the weather. When you show up and support them even on the days the sun isn’t shining, it means the world to them and their business. Plus, you get a great selection and more time with the vendors on these days.


Bonus points for tweeting

Farmers’ Markets and vendors don’t have big bucks to spend on advertising; a lot of marketing is through word of mouth. Organizers and vendors will be forever grateful for something as simple as a tweet or Facebook post about the market you’re checking out today or an Instagram pic of the sweet items you found…..and even more bonus points if you can find and tag the business.


Be courteous of other shoppers

Vendors have worked hard for this day and have limited time to make sales so although these are great events to get out and socialize at, be sure you’re not doing so at the expense of the vendors. Try not to block any booth entrances or tables as you chat with friends or stop with your stroller.


Get to know your vendors

They enjoy the social aspect of the market just as much as you do. Take the time to find out more about them and what makes their products different but remember to be mindful of other shoppers. If it’s slow or the beginning of the market, they may have more time to chat but if it’s busy, they’ll want to be sure they’re helping as many customers as possible.



Don’t ask for company secrets

It’s one thing to inquire about ingredients or methods of manufacturing for consumer purposes but if you’re in the business of selling the same products as them or planning to go home and make your own, don’t ask them to spill their secrets. If it’s a slow day, the vendor may love to chat about common practices but remember that they are there to sell their products.


Bring Cash

As mentioned in our Shopper Etiquette for Craft Shows article, although many small businesses are accepting credit cards on the go, there are always transaction fees that come with those. Cash ensures that more money ends up in the vendor’s pockets, where it belongs 🙂 As well, when it comes to bills, the smaller the better. Vendors have to bring small bills so they can give change back; if you only have $100 bill to pay for a $5 item, you could be taking most of the change they brought for the day.


Bring your own shopping bags too

The farmers’ market may be an unplanned highlight of your day but if you’re leaving the house with the intention of hitting up a market, grab a reusable shopping bag. Not only does this reduce waste of paper and plastic bags, it reduces the vendor’s bottom line. Something as small as the cost of one plastic bag adds up over the course of a market day and year.


Don’t over-handle produce

This isn’t the same produce you find in supermarkets, which can be coated in wax and picked under ripe to reduce damage during transport and hundreds of hands. It’s generally a little more ripe and delicate so be gentle when moving fruits and veggies around to find your perfect match.


Don’t make a meal out of samples

Produce is generally prepackaged based on weight so don’t take it upon yourself to sample anything that’s sitting out; look for displays that are clearly marked “samples”. These samples are of course there for you to sample (and we strongly encourage it; the difference in taste when it comes to freshly made/grown/baked, can’t be beat) but the money for that food comes out of the vendor’s pocket. They’re providing this free food with the intention of turning a passerby into a customer. That doesn’t mean you are obligated to purchase from every vendor you sample from but don’t go to the market hungry with the intention of filling up on samples.


Don’t assume you’ll get a discount just because it’s the end of the market..or at any time

It’s best to let the vendor take the lead when it comes to offering discounts; most will have discounts marked if they want to offer them or let you know if there are benefits to buying multiples. You wouldn’t ask Safeway to discount your purchases because it’s 5 minutes from closing. Many vendors have other outlets to sell their goods through so don’t assume that because the market is over, their perishables are going in the trash. Keep this in mind throughout the entire market and for all vendors. They work hard to produce what they’re selling and have set their prices for a reason. Again, you wouldn’t ask a Starbucks barista for a discount on your coffee so why ask a vendor for one?


Be mindful of end times

They’ve just completed a long and hectic day. Although vendors always love a sale and go above and beyond for their customers, if you’re late to the market and are asking what else they have when they’ve already packed up the majority of their stock and all their cash, it can be an inconvenience for them. They’re ready to head home and put their feet up so if you didn’t make it on time, ask where you can find them another day or if they’ll be at next week’s market. Not to mention, some market organizers do not allow sales to be conducted before or after start times.


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  1. Lorinda Sparling says:

    I really enjoyed this article but I would add something very important to| “being mindful of start times” – most Alberta approved Farmer’s Markets do not allow vendors to sell any product before or after the posted times. Typically a bell is rung or a horn is honked to signal the start of the market and buyers and sellers may then go ahead – so please ask the vendor before trying to be the early bird – we all sign vendor agreements and are bound to uphold them and to maintain the integrity of the market:)

  2. Deanna Russell says:

    Thank you for this article! As a vendor I really appreciate your comments, they are absolutely on point!

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