Next week is National Farmers' Market Week, which makes it the perfect time to support your local vendors and shop at a market near you. Whether you live in the city or the suburbs, you’re never too far from a farmers' market in the summertime, and there’s no better place to get fresh produce, homemade pantry or household staples, and unique gifts — all while supporting the people in your very own community.

What to bring to a farmers’ market

The first step to getting the most out of your farmers' market trip is simple: bring a bag. I talked to Celestina Hendrickson, manager of the Kirkland Wednesday Market in Kirkland Washington, to get her expert tips and tricks for market days. Celestina swears by her tote bag when she’s looking for produce. “Bags incentivize shopping, and we want to support businesses.” Plus, it’s a great excuse to show off your favorite new tote.

Photo by Mark Dalton from Pexels

Outside of that, all you really have to bring is yourself. Be prepared to chat with vendors, try samples of homemade honeys or sweet dark cherries, and admire beautiful locally-grown flowers. If you can, try to start conversations with people and learn something new about their craft — vendors are happy to share about what they love with visitors.

How to build your market shopping list

I enjoy wandering through my local farmers’ markets at least once per week (in my town, there are four to choose from in the summer), and I usually don’t have a list in mind. For me, part of the fun is in learning what seasonal fruits or vegetables are at their best any given week, but if you’re looking to plan ahead for a particular meal, here’s a cheat sheet of what’s in season in your area. Right now, in early August, you’ll find lots of fresh tomatoes, perfectly ripe watermelons, and delicious peaches. Depending on the size of your local market, there’ll most likely be at least one vendor selling meat and dairy products as well, so hold off on the bag of frozen chicken nuggets until after your market trip.

Photo by Eva Bronzini from Pexels

What to expect at a farmers’ market

Speaking of vendors, what kinds of stands should you expect? Celestina says that vendors cater to their communities, so you’ll definitely find some location-specific items. “Our community is really big on pets, so we have some great pet themed vendors,” she shares.

Some of my favorite finds include:

- Bakeries

- Food trucks

- Honey stands

- Handmade jewelry

- Fresh pasta vendors

- Candle and soap craftspeople

-Local breweries and fresh kombucha

- Berry farms and produce stands

If you’re planning to stop by a farmers’ market this week, snag some fresh berries or sweet cherries while they’re at the peak of their season. Berries are “a quintessential summer treat,” Celestina says. “They’re so versatile and always delicious.”

Some markets run year-round, but the majority are open until late September or early October, depending on your area, so don’t be shy about picking up a few holiday gifts even in the summer if something catches your eye.

If you love the farmers’ market life, there are lots of ways to get even more involved. You can volunteer as set-up or tear-down crew, play as a local musician for tips, or apply in late winter to be a vendor during the season, to name a few. National Farmers’ Market Week is a great time to celebrate and support the people (and produce) in your community — food and friends included.