Despite how quickly the weeks have flown, it's still summer, still berry season, thank goodness. Not strawberry season anymore, sure, but there are currents and blackberries and raspberries and, my favorite, black raspberries. After this post on buying berries without plastic, a reader sent me an email asking for a little more detail on how to buy berries without packaging at the farmers' market. What do you say? Will they be okay with you bringing your own container? Will you get turned away? In the spirit of encouragement and community, I thought maybe you might want to hear the answer, too.
Here's what to know:
-Most farm stands want to keep their containers to reuse. Those pretty blue baskets of berries don't buy themselves, you know. Often when I ask to buy a box of berries, the person behind the table immediately reaches for a plastic bag to dump the berries into to save the box for a future market, anyway. By bringing your own container, you're saving them money on a box or a bag.
-Most stands will accepts boxes back for reuse immediately. So, come prepared. While I've found that some stands will take a stack back at a later date, it's easiest just to ask then and there rather than cart everything home and back again and risk getting turned down later. Before I decant berries into my own container, I ask, "Do you mind if I take these home in my own container?," brandishing said clean, empty container as I speak. I usually end up pouring the berries into my container myself and handing over the box with a smile, so that they don't have to touch my container brought from home and risk potentially contaminating anything else at the stand.
-Carry berries home in a box of your own, not a bag. If you've never seen the mess that a cotton produce bag full of squashed black raspberries makes, well. Let me save you the trouble. As careful as I think I can be, it's never careful enough. "Oh, it's fine, I'll just carry this bag or rest it at the top of my basket," I think breezily. Nope. Come prepared with a stainless steel container, glass jar, or old plastic container. Anything solid - just not a bag - will do.
-You probably won't get turned down. Your request is eminently reasonable, they've likely heard it before, and the people I've met tend to be either curious or appreciative or both. But if you get turned down, you can try again at the next stand, the next week, the next market, or the next year.
More simple scripts for asking zero waste questions in this post, if you're interested.
(Photos by Anna Zajac for Litterless).