A Savvy Shopper’s Guide to Southeast Farmers Markets

Customer holding carrots at farmers market
The Southeast is home to sweet tea, SEC football, and some of the most vibrant farmers markets in the United States. From the quaint cobblestone streets of Charleston to the bustling urban landscapes of Atlanta, these open-air markets are chock-full of fresh produce, homemade goodies, and handmade crafts. In addition to supporting local farmers and artisans, these community hubs offer a plethora of benefits – but if you come unprepared, they can be overwhelming.

Whether you’re a connoisseur on the hunt for the best farmers market in the Southeast or you’re a total newbie, we’ve put together a guide for a successful, savvy day at the farmers market.

The Benefits of Shopping at a Farmers Market

Freshness Guaranteed

Unlike supermarket produce that may have traveled hundreds of miles, fruits and vegetables at farmers markets are often harvested just hours before being sold, ensuring unparalleled freshness and flavor. If you’ve ever indulged in tomatoes straight off the vine or picked your own strawberries, you know there’s no comparison to the fruit you buy at the big box grocery stores.

Contribute to a Better Planet

Farmers Markets are hubs for sustainability practices. When you choose to shop from local farmers, you’re supporting eco-friendly practices that prioritize soil health, biodiversity, and environmental stewardship. Industrial farming traditionally relies heavily on pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and long-distance transportation, whereas local farmers employ a variety of sustainable methods to minimize their carbon footprint. Fresher produce with fewer miles traveled is a win-win.

Support Local Agriculture

By purchasing directly from local farmers, you're investing in the success of small-scale agriculture. Small farms provide job opportunities, help stimulate your local economy, and play an important role in giving back to the community. According to Feeding America, many food banks have relationships with local farmers who donate a portion of their crops to the food bank. These donations help food banks provide healthy foods to neighbors who may not otherwise have fresh produce1.

Immerse Yourself in the Seasonality of Your Local Food System

Farmers markets offer an ever-changing array of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers that reflect the natural rhythm of the region. Since regional farms are the source of available produce, you can’t expect to find the same variety of options available at the grocery store – but this is your opportunity to be creative and fully immerse yourself in the seasonality of your local food system. In the Southeast, you can find okra and collard greens almost any time of year. However, blackberries, peaches, and corn may only be available in the mid-to-late summer months. If you buy in bulk, you can explore preservation methods like canning, pickling, or making jam to enjoy those seasonal flavors year-round.

Best Things to Buy at Farmers Markets – Other Than Veggies

When you think of the farmers market, you probably think about the abundance of farm-fresh produce. While the ripe fruits and vegetables are certainly worth the trip by themselves, here are a few other items we recommend grabbing while you’re there.

Local Honey

Arguably, the best thing to buy at a farmers market is local honey made by bees in your area. The sweet, sticky nectar is delicious and healthy – and can even help ward off seasonal allergies. Whether you prefer a classic flavor or something with a little more pizzazz, like hot honey or lavender honey, you’re sure to find fabulous options at your local market.

Artisanal Delights

Handcrafted cheeses, freshly baked bread, and small-batch jams are amongst some of the best things to buy locally. These foods are often heavily processed when you buy them in the grocery store.
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Purchasing your favorite goodies from a local artisan means you’re getting fresh, real ingredients, and let’s be honest – they just taste better.

Some of our favorite goodies include homemade sourdough bread, berry preserves, and locally renowned sweet treats.

Farm-Fresh Flowers

Support local flower farmers buy bringing home a freshly cut bouquet to brighten up your home. The lush blooms are sure to bring a smile to your face and you can typically get significantly more ‘bang for your buck.’

Farmers Market Tips

From seasoned shoppers to first-time visitors, everyone can benefit from a few insider tips when it comes to conquering the farmers market. Here are five savvy tricks to keep up your sleeve for your next market outing.

Bring Your Own Reusable Bags

If you’re heading out to the market, don’t forget your reusable bags. The paper and plastic grocery store totes are not up for grabs, and you don’t want to be stuck trying to carry all your goodies. Additionally, it’s important to bring the right type of bag. For example, if you plan on purchasing meat, cheeses, and milk, you might consider bringing an insulated bag. Or if you’re expecting to buy juices, a plastic bag to wrap your liquids in or a bag with pockets might come in handy.

Set Up Your Digital Wallet 

With digital wallet, paying for your market haul is a breeze. Most venders accept digital payments, and mobile payments save you from the hassle of fishing around for your debit card or fooling with cash. Simply link your SouthState debit or credit card to your smartphone's digital wallet and enjoy secure, contactless transactions.

Don’t Go In Without a Budget 

If it’s your first time at the farmers market, it’s easy to get excited by the nature’s bounty around you. If you’re not careful, you can end up spending way more than you’d anticipated. Sticking to a budget can help you realize it’s possible to maximize value while also supporting local businesses and making mindful choices that benefit both your wallet and the community.

Always Carry Cash

While most venders accept mobile payments, it’s important to be prepared in the off-chance they don’t. We recommend always carrying an adequate amount of cash in case you’d like to purchase items from a cash-only vender.

Send Money with Zelle® 

Splitting the bill with friends or reimbursing your neighbor for that extra basket of strawberries has never been easier thanks to Zelle®. Seamlessly send and receive money directly from your SouthState account, no cash required.

Farmers Markets We Love in the Southeast

On the prowl for some of the best farmers markets in the Southeast? Try out these three tried-and-true markets beloved by locals and tourists alike.

Charleston Farmers Market

(Charleston, SC): Nestled in historic Marion Square, this beloved market features a diverse array of local vendors and live entertainment against the backdrop of charming cobblestone streets. Bring your dog, indulge in low country cuisine, and pick up a lush bouquet of cut flowers while you’re there.

West Palm Beach Green Market

(West Palm Beach, FL): From farm-fresh produce to homemade Florida treats, this bustling market in the heart of West Palm Beach offers something for everyone, including views of the intercoastal waterway.

Grant Park Farmers Market

(Atlanta, GA): Spanning over 150 acres, this massive market is one of the largest of its kind in the Southeast, boasting an impressive selection of fruits, vegetables, and specialty foods sourced from across the region. To top it off, you can expect to see some of the South’s top celebrity chefs host cooking demonstrations.

At SouthState, we're committed to empowering our customers to make informed financial decisions. Whether you're preparing for your first farmers market experience or planning for retirement, our bankers are here to help you meet your goals. Find a location today.

About the Author, Tiffany Metelsky: Tiffany joined SouthState in March 2020. She has 9 years of banking experience with a heavy passion and focus on customer experience, feedback gathering, education, and innovation.

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