what good unique crops to sell at farmers markets?

CTmktgdnrJanuary 2, 2004

This will be my first year selling at a farmers market. I was wondering what besides the basics IE squash,beans,tomatoes,corn, cukes have sold well for you or at least generated some interest in your stall? Im looking for some things to grow to make my stall stand out this summer. THe market im entering is in an busy urban area with many Spanish and Italian customers and a mix of other peoples too. Id appreciate any ideas you might have.

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garliclady(z7 NC)

Basil, Garlic, cilantro, Parsley and shallots. It shouldn't be too late for a spring planting in zone 5 for shallots and garlic, For more on garlic and shallots go to the allium forum.
The Garlic Lady

    Bookmark   January 2, 2004 at 8:50PM
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Tom1953(5)

Hi Lady:
I saw some huge peppers last year. Now I found where to get them Super Heavywieght Hybrid, from Totally Tomatoe's
Jung Quality Seeds also has them.
Visit my webpage and you can see who your getting this message from.
Tom

Here is a link that might be useful: my home page

    Bookmark   January 5, 2004 at 7:31PM
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Tom1953(5)

I didn't mean to use Lady, not sure who you are as far as Lady or Gent???

    Bookmark   January 5, 2004 at 7:32PM
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CTmktgdnr

Tom
Gent actually. Read the super heavyweight description in the Totally Tomatoes catalog, they sure sound nice. When would I need to start them, earlier than tomato seed?
Drew

    Bookmark   January 6, 2004 at 1:16PM
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garliclady(z7 NC)

Drew
What ever i am growing I come up with recipes that have as many ingredients in it that i sell as posible and give them out with the purchase ( that might get a tomato buyer to buy basil, garlic, parsley etc for the recipe) It works great and makes them come back next week to see what new recipe you have. Some times I might bag all the ingeredients in a bag together (except one or 2 ingredients like pasta )and staple the recipe to the bag Its a little extra work but might help you get people to try some new veg/ variety.
Alot of the folks in our area were not use to using fresh garlic or shallots but with recipes and a little talk I now sell alot of garlic and shallots!
The Garlic Lady

    Bookmark   January 6, 2004 at 2:29PM
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Tom1953(5)

I start 6 weeks before our last frost date. If you can use hot tops or tunnels then you might get in a week or more earlier. On peppers, bottom heat will help get them going. I always have a problem with peppers so this year I will use a heat mat.
I agree with Garlic Lady's ideas on recipes.
Tom

    Bookmark   January 6, 2004 at 6:10PM
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berrypatch(z4ny)

Try radishes. Do all types; round, french breakfast; White Icicle, etc. Easy to grow, don't take up alot of space and can be succession planted. They are very colorful and attract people to your stand. We sold over $1000 worth last year.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2004 at 8:11PM
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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

Garlic Lady, you gave me a good laugh. I'm in zone 5 too, but we have 2 feet of snow outside, more falling, and thoroughly frozen ground underneath. Not exactly garlic-planting weather! It's way too late here - our garlic goes in in the fall so it can get established before the ground freezes. By the time it thaws out again, it's way too late.
Jeanne

    Bookmark   January 7, 2004 at 5:11PM
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garliclady(z7 NC)

Not according to the knowlegable posters and garlic growers on the Alium forum One grower Martin is in zone 4 WI and plants some of his garlic in spring (after the thaw and harvest in late summer. It is to warm here for good spring planting put up north some of the growers swear that they get good crops . Check the allium forum and say you CAN'T plant spring garlic in the north and you will get an earful from those who contine to do it sucessfully
The Garlic Lady

Here is a link that might be useful: About Martins Spring Planted Garlc

    Bookmark   January 7, 2004 at 8:47PM
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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

GarlicLady, I didn't mean that garlic can't be grown from a spring planting anywhere in the north, just that it's not practical here! It's amusing to me to think about planting anything, with the snow we have outside right now.

All norths are not alike. Western zone 5 is not at all like midwestern or eastern zone 5. Here in the Rockies, we have very cold nights all year long, which really slows the allium crops down. They are slow to establish and slow to grow. The ground is very cold right through May. The fall-planted garlic shoots become visible around mid-May, but then they have the continuing cold nights to contend with. Midsummer light frosts aren't unusual. Even 90-degree days normally have 40 or 50-degree nights. Just because it's 80 degrees during the day in July, that doesn't mean we're not going to have a mild frost that night. We also don't normally get a lot of really hot weather. Our last frost date is June 15th, first frost around Labor Day. There are a lot of things that do well in warm-night areas (Midwest, South, East Coast) that struggle here. Direct-seeded sunflowers, for example, often don't bloom before they get frosted out. Yes, you can spring-plant garlic here, but it's going to be quite small at harvest time. Little garlics are more work for the cook, and hard to sell when the booth next door or across the aisle has nice big fat ones, fall-planted, no doubt!

Jeanne

    Bookmark   January 8, 2004 at 12:35PM
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annebert(6b/7a MD)

Speaking of alliums, I recommend onions, especially sweet white ones. If you get about 8 oz size, can sell by the bulb. Radishes are good, too. I grew a large fall radish called misato red, also called watermelon or beauty heart - green skin, red flesh. I got them up to baseball size, aiming for softball size next year.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2004 at 7:48PM
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lushoasis(z8B/Coastal GA)

I've had surprising luck selling Jerusalem Artichokes at the market. I set out a sample at the market and people who bought it kept coming back for more. Easy crop that thrives despite neglect, good yields after 2nd year in the ground, and once you plant it you never have to plant it again. I sold 1/2 lb bags for $2. a piece. However, I don't know how well it will do in your climate...just an idea.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2004 at 9:12AM
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ddunbar(z5 IN)

Have you considered different colors of bell peppers? There are varieties that start out and stay other than green... ivory, lilac, etc. I sell them by the bushels every year. Also, have you considered heirloom tomatoes... specifically the purple, black, white and other unusual varieties? How about unusual colors/varieties of eggplant? While all of these are "common" vegetables, the sheer fact that we have unusual colors, varieties and flavors to offer brings people in for a closer look and to ask questions.

Like GarlicLady, we offer recipes for each category of vegetables we have each week. I try to find ones that utilize two or more of our on-hand products. Plus, if I know another vendor (like a garlic vendor) has another ingredient I do not provide, I point that customer in their direction.

I don't know if this can work for everyone, but within two years this made us the most popular veggie vendor (by common opinion and feedback to the market commmittee) in a 40 stall market.

Other examples, we offer only Chioggia or Golden beets instead of plain red; we only offer Hakurei white turnips, etc.

DD

    Bookmark   January 27, 2004 at 12:19PM
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grateful(zone 5 Idaho)

leeks are not grown usually and not seen in stores a lot either, try to include some recipes, I love leek tortellini soup and any extra can store in garage all winter. ( leeks that is-hee hee)also sweet salad mix-not the bitter mixes like many folks sell.sweet onions do great here, red ones too.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2004 at 8:31PM
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CTmktgdnr

Thanks for all the input and ideas on different crops. Also, thanks to garliclady for the recipe cards tip. I'll post back in the growing season on how things work out.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2004 at 4:36PM
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birdz_n_beez(z5-6 NY)

I have sold tons of zucchini (black beauty and 8 ball), carrots, gourds, and pumpkins (buckskin pumpkins, they are tan and great for pies). I also have the "standard" tomato, cucumber, peas, radish, acorn squash, and string beans. I have found that the more eye catching, the better they sell. Also, if they are not on everyones table, then they look 10x better on yours. =)

    Bookmark   February 5, 2004 at 10:46PM
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SolaFide(z7 GA)

If you can get beans to the market early, as in 3 weeks, they sell like hotcakes. When the other growers catch on, spend your waiting time snapping them. To really catch customers, put some Royalty purple beans and say that when they turn green, the beans are done cooking!

The traditional aproach to non-traditional crops(?!) is to find the crops indigenous to the ethnic group's place of origin. Since I have none of those, it is not an issue for me. Check Pinetree's Italian/Spanish listings. Checking for crops from a ethnic group is about all the catalogs' division is good for. Also try Nero Tondo/Black Spanish radish, as berrypatch said.

A failed value-added real-life scenario is salad mix. If you grow it, which you should try to do if you can-see later, then by all means sell it. The caveat is customers are RESISTANT to change, and red-green-speckled lettuce is as adventuresome as they like to be. However, one of my friends at the market sells lettuce mix, braising mix( see Johnny's for details), and a mild arugula/lettuce blend.

For salad mix as well as everything else, quality is king. If you don't wash well enough, ESPECIALLY salad mix, it may sell well for a while, but then as all the customers have tasted, no one buys it. I learned by sad experience.

I have to go now. I hope I have been of help.

Billy Dorminy

    Bookmark   February 6, 2004 at 8:09PM
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nettle(z8 Vancouver BC)

maybe also, learn a few words of spanish and italian...put this on your signs, along with the english. i find people really appreciate when you make an effort to relate to them in their native tongue.
a chinese vendor in our neighbourhood (italian area) speaks fluent italian with his customers. he gets a lot of customer loyalty!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2004 at 3:27PM
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nanelle_gw(9/Sunset 14)

Around here, Fava beans have become "new" and popular. They will be especially appreciated my your Italian customers.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2004 at 2:09AM
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elrem2002(z5NY)

You'll have to search all the seed catalogs and try new things, and things that other people aren't doing. You will find out what people want, what you can grow well and what you enjoy growing.

One item that was easy to sell 60 years ago and still is: pickling cukes. There never seems to be enough. Everybody sells out and the price is 15.00 to 25.00 for 8 quart baskets. Sort them and sell baskets of one size, 2", 3" 4" and so on.

I've been going to market for a long long time. Used to grow acres of vegetables and cut flowers(more profitable than any vegetable). Now in my old age I just grow peppers. Rather than tell the story again I'll try to link the post I made last summer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Growing peppers

    Bookmark   February 28, 2004 at 7:38PM
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jayreynolds(zone 6/7)

Yeah, Italian customers should be easy to please, if you pick the right varieties. Ethic niches are wonderful for market gardeners. Try the link below

Here is a link that might be useful: search for italian vegetable seeds

    Bookmark   February 28, 2004 at 9:21PM
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Kathy547(z8 AR)

I am wanting to grow & sell small watermelon but can't find a source for seeds. I think these would go over well in my area. People living alone don't want those large watermelons because they end up throwing most of it out. I was shocked at how much the grocery store sells their little bowls of watermelon - the same price as a whole one! Does anyone have ideas on where I can get small seeds? I want to find some that are really small, like less than 10 lbs. Small enough that little old ladies don't have to strain themselves when they're putting it in the refrigerator.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2004 at 10:25PM
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kevinw1

Native Seeds/search (link below) have watermelon seeds suitable for arizona desert growing, including some small ones.

Here is a link that might be useful: Native Seeds/SEARCH

    Bookmark   May 28, 2004 at 11:24PM
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Kathy547(z8 AR)

Kevinw1, I'm in the humid nethers of Arkansas, not the hot desert of Arizona (AZ). But thanks for the link! LOL!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2004 at 6:26PM
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friendly_mama(z7b SC)

Kathy,

Try doing a Google search on some small watermelons. I don't know of many, but two I am trying this year are New Queen and Yellow Doll. There's also Sugar Baby, about 10 lbs., and Pony Yellow, which is about 8 lbs., excellent flavor but fairly seedy.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2004 at 9:45PM
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kevinw1

LOL! As an ex-Brit living in Canada, my US State abbreviations knowledge is a bit sketchy! I should look 'em up rather than guessing.

But where you are does affect which varieties would be best for you :-)

Kevin

    Bookmark   May 30, 2004 at 11:33AM
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tialisa(z5a IL)

Dandelion leaves! Please!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2004 at 1:02PM
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jeanmelissaNJ(z7 Central NJ)

I love garlic... I would love to grow it and possibly sell it too at our local farmer's market! I live in Zone 7, in a ground-floor condo, so I can only do container gardening. Any advice would be great!

Jeannie

    Bookmark   August 15, 2004 at 10:25AM
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becca1066

Bob, what basils are you using?
Becca

    Bookmark   August 17, 2004 at 1:07PM
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kevinw1

Unusual shaped summer squash are going well at our market, specifically Bennings Green Tint (a very pale green, almost white, pattypan) and Tromboncino (italian heirloom, loooong green fruits, often curved in odd shapes even if you trellis them, with a bulb at one end where the seeds are - the rest of the fruit is seedless). Both are open pollinated, not hybrids.

Many customers ask what they are and are willing to try one, then come back for more!

Day-neutral strawberries are still setting fruit and sell immediately when I have enough to make a basket (I only planted a small patch, to try them). They need plnty of water to make decent size fruit - the variety we have are Tristar.

Kevin

    Bookmark   August 17, 2004 at 1:20PM
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shelly_09(N/E.Tasmania.)

we are new at the farmers market idea, & would appreciate any ideas on new & interesting ideas, to draw people to our stall.
regards,
HAPPY Gardener.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2004 at 2:48AM
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hmeadq

We have had great luck with Rat Tailed Rasishes. We sold them for $4 a quart and never brought any home! As to Rasishes I'ld recommend bundling them in colorful bunches, pink, red, white, and purple. We sold 8 (2 of each color) in a bunch for 2.50-3.00 each. But resist the temptation to buy "Easter Egg" mixes. The radishes in those do not seem to mature at anywhere near the same rate. We plant a row of each variety every week in the spring and start again in the fall. If you can bring 50 bunches each weeek for 4 weeks in the spring and 4 weeks in fall and get 2.50 a bunch (our sold better then other peoples becasue they were colorful)you can make the 1000 number easily...

    Bookmark   December 6, 2004 at 12:57PM
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digit(ID/WA)

I remember looking through this thread last winter and now that the season is good and over - I'm happy to see the discussion continue.

There's a lot of cleaning work involved but carrots always attract attention and sell. Try for good tasting and good looking varieties and a number of sizes.

We grow quite a few Asian veggies and would like to grow and sell more but there is a limit as to what will sell.

I'm a little surprised that no one has suggested Broccoli Raab. It isn't really an Asian vegetable but people from different nationalities seem inclined to buy it - perhaps, partly because of its name. It also is a good way for folks to get some introduction to greens other than spinach. They may well come back to try Bok Choy and others.

Digit

    Bookmark   December 12, 2004 at 5:58PM
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tbronson(4)

Nothing NEW, but from the last couple of years experience at a small-town market, 30+ vendors, that gets a customer mix of local farmers/ex-farmers, "townies" and cottagers from the city, here are some of basic twists that have worked well for me:

* fresh carrots w/ tops right through the season: not baby but picked quite young 5"-6". These go at way higher prices for a 1lb bunch, competing with quarter-bushel baskets of regular big mature topped carrots all around me, and they sell out.

* fresh basil: sells well at a good price, and is great for the smell, which everyone notices walking by

* heirloom tomatoes: Ours is not a trendy high-end market, there's a good mix of people as noted above, and heirlooms (as in big, "oddly" colored and shaped, sometimes "ugly", always tasty) still attract attention, and definitely get repeat customers from taste (and I guess the novelty helps). A basic like Brandywine is fine, and I had a several varieties last year with different looks and tastes (Green Zebra was a distinctive favorite), which helped even more. Curious people try one or two and keep coming back for more(!), and they were going for $1.50-2.00 a pop (12-16oz) - I just made up the price, since no one else had 'em at the market.

*snap peas (edible pod): I was amazed by how many people didn't know these even existed! I'd go, "You can eat the pod" and hand 'em one and they'd automatically start shelling it. "No, you can eat the whole thing!" Wow! Child-like amazement :) They're also great to maximize the pea growing and picking effort because you can use 'em young as a snow pea, or mature, which gives more overall useful harvest time. You can maybe premium price 'em, but they're also good just for the word-of-mouth.

*mesclun: I'm not sure what my various customers each think they're buying, the idea of mesclun has kinda trickled down to a real mainstream thing from a trendy idea. I sell a couple of mixes, one that's only lettuce (around nine lettuces), which I'll explain to anyone who wants to know, and of the various regular customers who buy a bag (1lb) a week, I don't think any of them really cared about the exact ingredients, they just like colorful, baby leaf salad mix, for their own individual reasons. At $5 a bag, a heavy seller.

*spinach: This is probably more specific to our market, where there are several quite big local family farm growers that all concentrate on the basic carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, peas, etc, (easier handling/storage), but not on the fresh greens. So this depends a lot on the other vendors, but here, mounds of spinach is a good thing to have (and other greens, like lettuces, chard, etc, are quick and easy and add to the selection).

*radish that's out of the typical early season is quick and easy to grow, and attracts a surprising number of people when no-one else has 'em.

*miscellaneous specialty stuff: I plant small quantities of tons of things and bring some in. They're all good for novelty and attracting attention, but (for me in this specific situation...), none most alone don't do much for the bottom line. Stuff like: Eight Ball zucchini (lots of comments), Lemon cukes (comments and some regulars), white icicle type radish, rainbow chard (like, Bright Lights), purple snap beans (comments, but people mainly like the green and the yellow...), and so on, I even sold a few daikon radishes... All fun to grow and present but no magic. Half the fun seems to be trying new things without getting buried in a lot of odd and unusual ;) stuff...

The general strategy of growing out of season really does work. This is practical if you're small. Having the earliest stuff is great, and just having it when no-one else does to me is just as much of an advantage.

Superfreshness is also great, and probably most easily done when you're small. I mean, extreme freshness: stuff cut/picked the afternoon/evening before, salad greens the morning of... People really notice that: "hey, I forgot your mesclun in the fridge for TEN DAYS and it was still fine..."

Also, if you grow natural, even if not certified organic, all kinds of people you mightn't expect to respond to that...

Hope that's useful stuff in their! (I've got lots to learn, but passing on the little I have noticed already is always FUN!!)

    Bookmark   January 4, 2005 at 11:45AM
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Patsyptrsn(z4 minnesota)

I have been a vendor for 5 years now, 'BIG LEARNING EXPERANCE' at a 40 stall market. Pickling cukes are great sellers.For small melons Yellow Doll is a good seller I give samples and they are hooked. I have a lot of poeple ask for seedless melon so will try those this year. There is never enough squash in the fall all vedors sell out before season is over. Display is everything. Again DISPLAY IS EVERYTHING you and your table. You want to stand out from other vendors so customers remember where you are located you need repeat customers. I recently purchased a book the 'New Farmers` Market'from New world Publishing in Auburn CA. Great book I strongly recommend it. Patty

Here is a link that might be useful: New World Publishing

    Bookmark   January 5, 2005 at 4:51PM
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flowersandthings(MidAtlantic 6/7)

With hispanic people as customers I'd offer purple tomatillos (they can get green ones at the grocery) and maybe some ethnic hard to find herbs like epazote..... For Italians I'd grow cardoon..... very hard to find and nostalgic for Italian Americans.... and squash blossoms (butterblossom is supposed to be a hybrid that produces mostly blossoms.... little zucchini) For everybody period ..... I'd grow multicolored tomatos, unusually colored (i.e. white lime green) summer squashes) physalis peruviana (groundcherry).... the chiogga and golden beets sound good as suggested..... also herbs that are hard to find like sorrel.... gourmet melons like chanterais.... and multicolored watermelons (white, yellow etc.) ..... My advice is to go with the unusual that's what will set you apart.... Asparagus pea ? ..... Try cress water or if you can't grow that upland..... You could also grow agretti (Salsola soda) an unusual Italian and rest of Europe (sometimes also used by Japanese) green with crunch juicy texture and described as slightly bitter, slightly sour and slightly salty..... a gourmet, hard to find green..... Also to take your "stand" into fall perhaps some unsual squash (winter) varieties as well and cardoon would probably (long maturity) be a fall crop too......

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 1:36PM
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herbalistic

I tried yellow pony watermelon last year because I too, wanted to grow some smaller personal-sized melons. They were delicious - even my husband loved them and he is more of a muskmelon eater [which I can't stand]. The biggest drawback was that they have an extremely thin rind and if you look at them cross-eyed they will split, so they did not seem to me to be very suitable for transporting to market. I managed to take a few but did not plant them again because of their tendency to crack and split.
When trying something new, I just give it a test planting rather than devote a lot of space to it.
As far as watermelons go - I plant a few heirloom moon and stars every year. The rinds are unique and the flavor is good + you can save seed for next season. At least one person asked if I would have them again this year.
More vendors have melons this year - bringing them up from the southern half of the state, so I don't know how I'll do with mine. I got them in a little late this year and hope they ripen in time for people to still want watermelons. Last year they averaged a little over 25 lbs each and I sold them for 50 cents a lb. I think I got about$8 for the largest one. Supermarket round melons sell around $4 each so I may have to come down a little on mine.
And I say - "Yes they have seeds - but this is an heirloom watermelon which means you can save the seed to plant your own."

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 2:17PM
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Lexy_Organic

Patsyptrsn - I totally agree with your comment. Although I do not participate as a vendor at a local market, I shop at them. I will say that the vendor's who's tables are bright and well-thought out, in turn, stand out. And it's funny. The tables that do stand out, always seem to have the happiest and friendliest vendors. It's like the table says: "Hey! I'm here, I take pride in my items and I'd love to chat you up!". Also, some of my favorite vendors always have little decorations for the season or holiday. When it's summer they use flowers and in fall, pumpkins. They change the color of their table-clothes too. It's just a really nice touch and again, well thought-out. I've just recently become a farmers-market enthusiast! I love them.

[I wanted to find a farmers market that sold fresh cut flowers in my area and had a lot of trouble. I live in Charleston, SC and I went to a few looking for some. -Just so everyone knows, not spamming or anything, I promise-, I found another really great site, which helped me find my flower vendor and many others. For those of you who participate in farmers markets as a vendor (of any kind), you'll love it! It's literally a social network completely dedicated to farmers markets alone. www.thefarmersmarketclique.com As I said before, although I don't sell at markets, the site helped me find vendors in my area that sold fresh flowers and lots of other things I was looking for too!] :)

Also to get back on topic- I'm a huge fan of heirloom tomatoes, fresh spinach and spaghetti squash! (sometimes hard to find) I think when it comes to markets that have more than one farmer, if you have something unique, it will at least serve as a conversation starter. I develop relationships with specific farmers and vendors based on their ability to communicate with me and make my shopping time fun. It's an experience and I always appreciate learning something new. :)

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 5:28PM
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obrionusa(5)

Its too late this year, but I would think Garlic and asperagus would sell well.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 9:20PM
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teauteau(KC5/6)

If by Spanish, you mean hispanic (as in Mexican, Central American or South American), there are a number of things you can sell. Any kind of tomatillo, yellow, green or purple, whether the store has them or not, when I was selling green ones, people walking by would walk up and buy a bag of them just because they were locally grown. Jalapenos, serranos, chiltepin, ancho, Anaheim are all good peppers that sell well to the hispanic community. Epazote as someone mentioned above. Another thing that has become very popular but still rare in the markets around here is purslane (verdolaga en espanol). It has a lemony taste, succulent and high in Omega oils. It is used in salads and you can use it in empanadas, burritos and quesadillas. Easy to grow and grows wild around here like a noxious weed but the deer LOVE it too! Oh and be sure and grow cilantro. I've never had a problem running out of cilantro. It is Mexico's answer to basil in my opinion!

    Bookmark   January 13, 2011 at 3:39PM
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2fennelshirts(4)

I've been selling at farmers markets for the past 10 years on and off. (active the past 4 years) My best sellers are cauliflower (purple,white,orange,green,and veronica-spiraled heads). Carrots (white satin,atomic red,purple haze,yellow sun,orange-mokum,deep purple) mixed bunches. Leeks,fennel bulbs,all colors of beets (sell the greens also),mixed colors of radishes,chinese cabbage,4 sizes and colors of eggplant, 10 kinds of onions,green and purple brussel sprouts.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 8:20PM
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