My market is my church! An Insider’s tips on how to navigate a French Farmers’ Market

french-farmers-market-tips My market is my church! It’s where I go every Sunday and where I feel welcomed, safe, uplifted and inspired.

I always thought that traditional Farmers’ markets represented the heart and the soul of any community. Whether you are in France, in India, Italy or Vietnam, you’ll find that:

  • The market is at the center of the village or town. It is at the heart of the community.
  • The market is often held on Saturday or Sunday (in France at least). You can take your time and feel like you are part of a special tradition.french-farmers-market-tips
  • This is a place where people of all walks of life meet, talk, joke, share… It is upbeat and convivial!french-farmers-market-tips french-farmers-market-tips
  • “Authentic” vendors, the ones who actually have a farm and/or actually produce, raise or catch what they sell, are really passionate about their products and are always very eager and excited to talk about them. Passion, advice and service that can never be found under the neon lights of a supermarket.french-farmers-market-tips french-farmers-market-tips french-farmers-market-tips
  • The people who go to the market are mostly knowledgeable and passionate about food and are happy to share recipes. All you have to do is dare to ask! Some will also give you advice on which vendors you should (or shouldn’t) go to. Don’t be afraid to ask the older folks. They always know who has the best of anything.french-farmers-market-tips
  • The products are grown/produced/raised/caught locally (I am still referring to the “authentic crowd”). They are also in season, fresh and mostly organic.french-farmers-market-tips
  • A real Farmers’ Market is timeless. What I mean in that if you are in France or Italy, it makes you feel like you could very well be back in 1955. Like Brigitte Bardot or Claudia Cardinale could pass you by on a Vespa and you wouldn’t be surprised. It’s good to be in a place were you can forget about your Iphone for a second or two…french-farmers-market-tips french-farmers-market-tips french-farmers-market-tips

NOW PLEASE BEWARE:

Most markets (even in France or in Italy), are now the target of con artists. These are people who just buy their products in bulk at the supermarket or in large food factories etc. and try to sell them back to you for two, three or even four times the price. The worst ones in France are those who sell olives, “Herbes de Provence” which actually come from Bulgaria, and cheese. To avoid being taken advantage of, my advice is this:

  • Try to buy from older people and avoid the person who looks, feels and sounds like a car salesman (or woman)french-farmers-market-tips french-farmers-market-tips
  • Look at the vendor’s hands and skin in general. People who work hard on a farm or on a fishing boat have callous hands! OK, the cheesemonger may be an exception…french-farmers-market-tips
  • Don’t buy from a person who is clearly not a local (I would avoid a French guy selling dim sum at a market in China myself).
  • Buy from the smaller stalls.french-farmers-market-tips
  • Buy from people who have a limited variety of products. I buy my poultry from a lady who has maybe 5 chickens and a few eggs for sale at any given time.french-farmers-market-tips
  • Eggs, by the way, should not all be spotlessly clean. They shouldn’t have any writings on them either!!!
  • When it comes to fruits and vegetables, they should not all be the same size (calibrated). A real farmer or producer should have fruits and vegetables of all sizes. Also, they should be ripe but not all of them should be the exact same color (tomatoes especially)french-farmers-market-tips french-farmers-market-tips
  • The crates vegetables are in, should be plain with no logo or brand name on them (see picture above)
  • “Dirty” vegetables are ALWAYS a good sign!french-farmers-market-tips
  • In France at least (different countries obviously have different customs), do not trust a vendor who openly promotes the quality of their product or yells (like “buy my tomatoes! They are beautiful, they are delicious, they are cheap”). Great vendors are never desperate to sell their stuff. This rule may not always apply in Provence where people tend to be more outspoken…french-farmers-market-tips
  • Never trust someone who is trying to convince you to buy their stuff in general!
  • Buy from places where you see locals waiting in line. Especially older folks. Once again, they know best!

Please do visit and promote your local Farmers’ market! Support your farmers, fishermen, cheesemongers… They work quite hard and often make a pittance!french-farmers-market-tips

70 Comments Add yours

  1. You always make me laugh. Even though it is serious stuff and I agree completely. I use most of these points over here as well. Older people are just fantastic, they can teach us so many things. Hope you’re doing fine: healthy, happy and ‘dirty’ (always a good sign 😉 ) Take care. Bises.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I hope you are well too dear Rosa and that you had a nice creative Summer! 😉

      1. It was terribly hot over here, really impossible. A two months heat wave which completely affected my creativity. Hope to catch up from now (also with your blog). 🙂

        1. My French Heaven says:

          I know you will! It’s been unbearably hot here as well

  2. Great tips and gorgeous photos. And I am embarrassed to admit, after spending so much time in markets where everyone’s hollering and car-saleman-ing, I had spaced on the obvious point that people doing that in soft-spoken France are probably not quite authentic. Merci beaucoup!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Sorry for the late answer! Yes, French people aren’t natural born hustlers (most of them). 🙂

  3. Best post!! made me want to run to the kitchen and cook something. We’ve made many trips to China (our son lived there for 10 years) and my favorite photos are of the markets there– so many beautiful unidentifiable (to me) vegetables and fish. Best kind of museum of a culture.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I never thought of it this way Rhonda, but you are so right! Markets really depict each culture so perfectly… Thanks for visiting My French Heaven! Have a lovely day!

      1. It was a marvelous post– beautiful at each turn — and the faces your captured. perfect. thanks.

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Thanks Rhonda! 😊

  4. Francesca says:

    What a superb post. the photos took me back to all the great French markets I have visited. Markets are my main reason for wishing to return to France. My church also. Great tips too. I always wonder how things will be when all the old farmers pass away- will thee be enough younger folk to carry on these traditions or will they all flee to big centres?

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It is indeed a worry. There is a new wave of young and very passionate farmers and producers in Europe. The green movement is quite strong here and in germany compared to other countries. They are like the new hippies and as soo. As they found out that they need to make their products on a larger scale in order to survive, they’ll buy proper farms and help with the revival of quality markets. I am very hopeful and I also trust that there will always be passionate producers. We just have to help and support them be successful…

      1. Francesca says:

        Yes, and this would probably involve subsidies. As an ‘old’ hippy, I am pleased to hear that this green movement or ‘back to the earth’ movement is alive and well in France.

  5. Wonderful! nice pictures!

  6. Conor Bofin says:

    One point you missed was the advice you gave me when we were with you in the Libourne Sunday market. You advised strongly against buying from the cheese vendor actively promoting the cheese with tastings. The giveaway was the lack of any pricing and the eventual eye watering price. A lesson learned.
    Best,
    Conor

    1. My French Heaven says:

      So true! I need more chocolate for my memory. Thanks for reminding me 😜

  7. anjlm says:

    Beautiful photos. You capture the atmosphere of the market perfectly. I’m not sure where in France you are but any recommendations for markets in Paris? I’ll be there in September!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thank you! I don’t know Paris very well. Haven’t been there in years. I’m sure you’ll find something, especially on Sundays… Enjoy Paris!

      1. anjlm says:

        Thank you! I love all your photography on your blog- hope to get to your level some day!

        1. My French Heaven says:

          I truly hope you will Andrea! Paris is nice, but the rest of the country isn’t bad either 😉

  8. juliabarrett says:

    I plan to follow your advice. Here, when I want Mexican food, I eat where the Mexicans eat. They never steer me wrong.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      They never do, do they? I can’t wait to take you to the market!!

  9. gypsygurl64 says:

    Great information for when I visit France. I love farmers markets and agree with you that they are the heart of a community. Oh, and I believe that you can find God in any place! 😉

    1. My French Heaven says:

      😉

  10. ladyredspecs says:

    Your markets tips are excellent Stephane! Shonky dealers were becoming a problem here in Melbourne too so they introduced a system of accreditation for not only the stall holders, but also the market! A kid in a lolly shop is exactly how I feel when at a genuine local Farmer’s Mkt.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I wish we were as smart as you guys… These people aren’t doing anything legal, but they are taking away everything that’s good and charming about this traditional gathering away… I guess everyone has got to make a living… I hope you had a nice weekend!

  11. Aurélie Quellien says:

    Putain ! Tu publies grave , j’ai même plus le temps de les lire … Lol Tu vas bien toi ? C’était vraiment sympa notre dej l’autre jour… Vivement bientot !!!

    Entre temps je retrouve “mes hommes” nous sommes en Corse, on retrouve pas mal de collègues dans le village vacances mais comme chacun veut profiter de sa famille je pense et espère que ça va être cool ! En tout cas entre temps Vic et Max ont découvert le masque et tubas avec plein de poissons trop beaux, et nous, on a trouvé du rosé bon et pas cher, le pied !!!!

    Plein bises et a bientot 😉

    Tylie

    >

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Amusez-vous bien! Ici ça va, il fait beau, les oiseaux chantent 😉 Il me tarde trop de voir votre maison!!

  12. rettzs says:

    I look forward to your blog and read it everyday! We will be traveling next May to France we will be going on a river cruise with Uniworld. We will arrive in Avignon and end in Lyon. We will be spending 3 extra days in Lyon and we are looking for recommendations of where to stay and restaurants that we must go to and what not to miss seeing. I hope that you might be able to help us with our trip.
    Thank you,
    Loretta Turner

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’m so glad you enjoy the blog Loretta! I’m afraid I haven’t been to that part of France in a long time. So I won’t be able to recommend places to eat or stay. But you will love Lyon, which is one of the very best cities in France when it comes to food…

  13. Jodi says:

    I want to go to YOUR church! 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Come on over. It’s open to everybody. No judgement, no hate, no sermons 😉

  14. Your post reminds me that I need to get to our local farmer’s market. We have one on Saturdays in the summer that I’m not too impressed with (it feels more like a flea market), but we have a Wednesday afternoon one that is filled with all locally grown food! (While I was typing this I decided to look at the website. They’ve added a Friday one only one mile from my house, yay!) As usual, your photography is stunning. And thank you for all the great tips!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Oh you should go and write a post about it! I’d love to read that!!

      1. I’ll see if I can get to the Wednesday one this week!

  15. Here in East Tennessee, we live mainly via supermarket monopolies. I wish we had much more of a farmer’s market than we do. It looks to me that a lot of the stuff being sold at a Farmer’s Marker was purchased wholesale.
    But I really enjoyed this post. I loved to hear about the true Farmer’s Market.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks James! I hope I get to share it with you someday 🙂

  16. Fabulous post — beautiful photos and valuable tips. Well done!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thank you Rona! I worked quite a bit on this one, so your comment makes me feel extra good 😉 Have a lovely Sunday!

  17. colormusing says:

    I love going to markets. Here in Portland, Oregon, there are markets in almost every neighborhood during this time of the year. At my favorite one, yesterday I found fresh albacore tuna, nectarines, and ears of corn (it’s early for corn, but this has been an unusually hot and dry summer). I rubbed the tuna with olive oil, then marinated it in hard cider with a sprig of rosemary. I roasted the nectarines, took off their skins, and cut them up. Then, after I seared the tuna, I made a sauce with the pan juices, more hard cider, fresh ginger, and the nectarines– this turned into something like chutney after reducing. I topped all this with a sprinkling of scallions. Guess I didn’t mean to go into all this detail– it’s obvious I get inspired at my market too!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      This is fantastic Lindy! It’s dinner time here and you make me regret I didn’t buy fish at the market this morning 😉

  18. billgncs says:

    my memories of the markets in France is that presentation is often akin to art – I recall asking to buy a melon – and the vendor in broken English ( for I have no French ) replied – “for today, this one is ready, or for tomorrow – then this one – and later then you should have one of these” – he truly cared about his food.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Oh I know bill! I love that they are able to tell. I think some of it is for show though 🙂

      1. billgncs says:

        When I was in Melisey France with my wife visiting my sister near me ( the market had a truck with roast chickens ) – my sister and wife wouldn’t let me near the truck – citing that it would be irresistible and we had dinner plans already !

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Ha ha! The smell alone! I would have told you to avoid the roasted chicken truck for other reasons. All of them use really bad quality birds. The only good ones can be found in butcher shops. I hope that dinner was worth it 😉

          1. billgncs says:

            Yes – the place had a Michelin star 🙂

          2. My French Heaven says:

            :D) That’s always a good sign! 😉

          3. billgncs says:

            true – but my favorite places are the small places you find where everyone comes on Sunday, Grandmothers, parents and children, and there is one or two choices. That is the magic of France.

  19. scolgin says:

    And what noble work they do.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You are right! They keep both tradition and food standards up…

  20. Somehow it is very uplifting to find out there are crooks everywhere, even in France- a country we tend to romanticize. This has been a problem in our local farmer’s markets for ages, especially in the desert where we live. There are few local farms so most produce seems to be trucked in from California. And how can you trust those people? 🙂 I like your suggestions at what to watch out for, calloused hands, dirty vegetables, etc. Thanks! We’re going shopping as soon as I get off this darn laptop and take a shower!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Ha Ha! Have a lovely Sunday Emilio!

  21. joanfrankham says:

    Such wonderful photos, and great tips, thank you. I enjoy strolling around the local farmers markets, but will definitely be on the look out for the ‘salesmen’!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Glad these few tips will be of help to you Joan. Yes, these parasites are everywhere these days… 😦

  22. Andrea says:

    My mother and I try to go to our local farmer’s market every Saturday. It is a combination of visiting and getting good food for the week. Love the suggestions – especially the dirty vegetables. They are the best!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I am so glad you do Andrea! It truly is a special thing for me as well (as I’m sure you can tell) 😉

  23. Carl Johnson says:

    My feelings exactly!!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      😉 Can’t wait to go to church with you again sometime!

  24. Markets are so much fun!!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      They really are. Aren’t they? I try to never miss a market day. It’s also a lot of fun for me to show them to my friends and guests. They are always impressed, especially the foodies. Like kids in a candy store 😉

  25. If only all the religions were like your church, the world would be so much better! 🙂

    It never occurred to me that even in farmers market there are the schemers… Great tips on how to avoid them.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      If only indeed 😉 Thanks for dropping by my friend!

  26. Nadia says:

    Gorgeous photographs!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Nadia!

  27. lostsoul2015 says:

    Beautiful, I can even smell all the amazing fruit, vegetables and other food. I wish there were a market like this somewhere near my place

    1. My French Heaven says:

      One more good reason to come visit France 😉 🙂

  28. Good tips. I’m lucky to have an excellent local farmers’ market and more good ones nearby. It’s always nice to talk to the person who had grown/made whatever you are buying.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      So right Kay. It’s just that one has to identify them first 😉

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