A Fork in the Road Guide to Greenmarket Etiquette


Farmers’ markets are a bit like inebriation: They have a way of amplifying the best and worst parts of one’s personality, of shaving away pleasantries to reveal a certain hard nut of truth about human nature. And they’re also like an open-air subway car, particularly on Saturdays around noon. As such, there are many, many opportunities for bad and/or clueless behavior among shoppers crowded together in the common pursuit of produce. And so we at Fork in the Road have compiled a guide to Greenmarket etiquette, one that we hope will go some ways toward preventing certain lapses in common sense and courtesy, not to mention physical altercations.

Please refrain from paying for your $3.85 worth of onions with a $50 or $100 bill.

Or anything over a $20, really. We were in line behind someone who did this last week, and watched the poor farmer dig through two different cash boxes for the necessary change while his customer stood by impassively, oblivious to both the distress she was causing and the utter hatred of everyone standing in line behind her. Go to Starbucks, or Barnes & Noble, or any of the big corporate stores bordering Union Square, and ask the cashier to break that $100 bill that’s just been burning a hole in your wallet. You’re buying onions that are priced at 75 cents per pound, not an embossed dog collar at the Vuitton flagship store.

Corn is meant to be shucked in the privacy of your own home, not in full view of everyone else trying to buy corn.

We get it. You’re a corn connoisseur who just will not settle for those three or four missing kernels. But your habit of tossing your rejects back into the pile, naked and exposed, for everyone else to pick over, sucks. You wouldn’t, we hope, go to a clothing store and throw all of the clothes you didn’t like on the ground. You probably wouldn’t even behave in this fashion with grocery-store corn. So why are you doing it here? Just feel the goddamn ear of corn, and if something seems to be missing, then move right along.

Peaches are not your lover’s buttocks. Stop squeezing them.

Plenty of farmers have posted signs to this effect, and plenty of shoppers have ignored them. We get that the stakes are raised considerably if you’re searching for a peach ripe enough to eat right this very minute, but you don’t need to manhandle them for this purpose. Take a page from Otis Redding and try a little tenderness.

Stop cutting the goddamn line.

No, you’re not fooling anybody when you go to the front of the line “just to ask a question.” Because while your “question” is being answered, you’re busy sliding your purchase onto the scale and digging through your wallet, probably for a $100 bill.

Many line-jumpers, of course, don’t even bother with the pretense of a question. They just barge right ahead, secure in their sense of entitlement and general assholeness. Sometimes, of course, they’re just clueless. Either way, it’s OK to hate them.

Don’t hog the samples.

It’s nice when farmers put out blueberries, or those little Tristar strawberries, or pieces of freshly sautéed fairy-tale eggplant. It’s not as nice when people hover over them, drooling slightly and doing their best to deprive everyone else of their God-given right to edible swag. Even more offensive are the double-dippers — not content to eat just one strawberry, they’ll lick their fingers and dive back in for more. This isn’t the all-you-can-eat buffet at Sizzler, you jerks, and we don’t want your scabies.

For the love of God, lock up your bike somewhere.

Some would argue that shoving a stroller through a crowded farmers’ market is a worse offense than doing the same with a bicycle. We disagree: Parents can’t very well chain their kids to a signpost (a point some might admittedly find debatable). Cyclists, on the other hand, are not morally or legally prohibited from locking up their bikes. And given how much of a pain in the ass it is to have to negotiate someone’s rear tire while also navigating small children, dachshunds, tourists, and those people asking for money to save the children, the planet, and our souls, we wish they would.

Attention, camera crews: We are not extras in whatever it is you are filming.

As the farmers’ market movement has blossomed, so has the desire to document it. This means that it is not uncommon to find people with large cameras and boom mikes loitering among the eggplants and zucchini. While we’re happy that the Greenmarket is getting so much attention from so many corners of the world, we’d be even happier if these people would just respect the fact that we’re at the market to buy groceries, not stand around patiently while they wait for the right light or Jesus to appear or whatever it is they take such a long time doing.

Compost bins are not trash bins.

The Lower East Side Ecology Center encourages people to dump their compost in several large bins they set up next to their booth at Union Square. Yes, these bins are identical to trash bins. But as a cursory glance at their slowly decomposing contents will tell you, they are not for trash, and they sure as hell aren’t for the plastic bags you use to carry your compost to the market. Every time you dispose of one in this manner, someone has to dig it out. And this someone should be you.

No one cares how much you know about animal husbandry, or biodynamic farming, or foraging for chanterelles.

Most of us have found ourselves either alongside or waiting behind this person, the one who just can’t refrain from sharing their superior knowledge of the farming industry and the wonders of the natural world. It’s just great that you’re growing organic heirloom tomatoes at your country home in Columbia County and got Michael Pollan to autograph your boob, but we can’t grow shit in our apartment and would rather not be reminded that you can, and do.

Parents, the farmers market is not your child’s potty.

It pains us to even have to write this, because, well, come on. Do you really need to be reminded that there’s something deeply wrong with allowing, nay, encouraging, your offspring to urinate in the middle of a public market? And yes, we have witnessed such a thing, in broad daylight. For the love of all that is good and holy, at least have the decency to find a tree, or a shrub, or a Starbucks — in case you haven’t heard, Manhattan alone now has eight per every square mile. Use them.