Packaging, bags, containers etc?

prairiemaid(z3 MB Canada)February 1, 2005

I'm new to the Farmers Market scene and am in the planning stages for this year. I have some questions pertaining to packaging.

How do you package your vegetables for selling? The ones that need packages, I mean. Like salad mixes, cherry tomatoes or berries? What vegetables do you package? Also, what do you use to bundle items? Elastic bands, twist ties, string, or other? One more question about bagging your sold items for the customer to carry away. Do you purchase new bags, if so what type, or do you reuse plastic grocery store bags? Thanks!

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We use produce bags (the clear ones on a roll) for greens, basil, and carrots. strawberry pints for cherry tomatoes (also could go for berries, but people usually use the clamshells) We also have roll bags for customers to use, and handle bags (like grocery store) when they need a bigger one. Our market manager sells them to us.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2005 at 12:23AM
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garliclady(z7 NC)

I get my "thank you " plastic handle bags at Sam's club . I use small plastic bread bags from the grocery store for greens and clamshell for berries . I use some paper pint containers for other items I sell (small tomatoes Peas etc) and the customers usually give them right back. I use small paper bags for garlic and small items and mesh bags for pre weighed garlic and shallots. I buy it on a roll.
I usually bundle items with rubber bands

    Bookmark   February 2, 2005 at 1:05AM
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Watch your salad. I might be considered a prepared food. You might be required to have an inspected kitchen and license to sell salad.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2005 at 5:34AM
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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

I package in clear plastic "5 a-day" bags slad mix, lettuce, chard, pac choi, carrots (tops cut off), parsnips, fresh herbs, dried herbs.
On all bags i have labels with farm name/logo and contents of the bag as well as address and web URL

string bags
potatoes, onions

I bunch
green onions, leeks, radishes

In pulp 1/2 pint tills I pack
raspberries, cherry tomatoes

In pint pulp tills
strawberries with a plastic wrap covering, and large tomatoes

Quart pulp tills
large tomatoes

I sometimes buy plastic "thank you" bags but generally I ask my customers to bring me in their *Clean* plastic grocery bags. I also use paper grocery bags, especially for frozen items like the chicken we sell

    Bookmark   February 2, 2005 at 7:09AM
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Colorado_west(z5 W Co)

I sold first time last summer at a farmer's market. I still have lot to learn. I did use used grocery bags to sack it up. Green beans were in gallon zip locks. Cheapest ones I could get. I don't have a legal scale to use at Market so pre-wt at home but sell by the bag, saves time at market any way not wt. I was useing ziplock sandwich bags for cherry, pear and grape tomatoes. I will not bag this year inless a mix I think. Last days of market I put out the little ones and so many for so much and gave them a bag to put them in. They seemed to like that. Not sure best way but will try it again. Saves me so much time. Tomatoes and peppers so many for $l. I need to get a roll of those bags some spoke of. I used one lot of used bags and this year have box of new one to use. No one complained on used bags. I used plastic dish pans for displaying tomatoes and peppers and stuff. My main sales are tomatoes. People do it all different ways. Few peope bring their own bags and had one use a basket. It takes a lot of grocery bags I found. Tomatoes will squish if too many in a bag or heavy stuff on it. I was just figuring how many bags to a customer and how long a box will last. I doubt last a month. I will use all the used ones up first. I have smaller plastic pans for small tomatoes and such. I just bought 6 storage bin basket deals for displaying some things. Those 3 items should do my displays. I have not did any lettuce or salad mixes. One thing to think about where are you doing up the stuff. I have way too much to do in the house. I do mine in the field under cover where can get pickup in to load. This year must have larger, better cover and more tables. That was one thing I had not planned where to do the stuff up to take.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2005 at 10:40AM
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jayreynolds(zone 6/7)

Wal-mart has bins at the doorway to the store for customers to return their used bags. I asked and they told me to take as many as I want. I use nothing else except for berries, which I put in new clean paper bags. I sell everything in qt baskets which are loaded up the night before.
Walmart has nice attarctive white plastic qt. baskets 4/$1.00 that should last for years. The fibreboard boxes quickly deteriorate, stain, and can't get wet.

Most towns have restaurant supply shops which offer an array of more attractive bags, but the recycled bags are just fine for my customers, and it's great to save money. Be sure to check the soundness of recycled bags when filling them in case their integrity is compromised by previous use!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2005 at 2:17PM
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A time saver for those who do have legal scales - I leave my scale and bags out for customers to use. Most will weigh out what they want and tell me how much they have. It doesn't take long to learn what a pound or two pounds of different things look like bagged up so that you know fairly well by sight how much someone has. Legal For Trade scales are expensive but they're very sturdy. Think of how long they hold up in grocery stores.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2005 at 2:55PM
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I've been selling at a huge and very busy market for 29 years. There are over 350 vendors; farmers, including organic growers, all sorts of hucksters selling shipped in produce, and others selling cheese, baked goods, meat, fish, spices, and non food items. The only people using scales are the sellers of meat, fish, cheese, bananas and one guy selling garlic. All the rest sell their stuff in baskets, bags, in a bunch or per each. The only plastic wrapped produce, including clam shells, is some of the shipped in produce. Most of those guys take the stuff out of that kind of package and put it up in baskets so it looks more like the farmer's, and they hope that the customers will think it is fresher.

Years ago we all used paper bags for people to haul home their purchases but now it's 99+% plastic handle bags. Some good customers bring tote bags, backpacks, wagons, baby carriages, shopping carts to carry their stuff home.

Here's a photo of my pepper display. I use pint and quart baskets and dump whatever they want into a plastic handle bag. It's got to have a handle. They don't want anything else now. If I use the bags on the roll I still have to put that into a handle bag so they can carry it off. Some of my little pint baskets are over 100 years old and patched up with duck tape. My great grandfather used them when he went to market when farmers went there with horse and wagon!

If you look to the far end of my picture you can see my neighbors apples in 4 quart baskets with the handle bags already in the baskets. All they have to do is lift out the bag full of apples. Lots of farmers are doing that. It made my stall look too messy with my little baskets.

Here's another photo where I'm using some fiber packs made for growing plants. These are about the same as pints and work very well. I've had them for over 25 years. Got them new.

Whatever works for you is good. I wish I had time to go through the market and take pictures of all ways people display their produce. Over 30,000 people come to this market on Saturday during the busy season, May to November. The market is open all year.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2005 at 9:08PM
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prairiemaid(z3 MB Canada)

Thank you all for the replies! You've been very helpful. Lots to think about!

elrem, awesome photos! I can only imagine what your garden looks like. I know peppers would not sell as well up here but they sure make a beautiful table. Our Farmers Market is no where near as big or impressive as yours. You've given me some good ideas.

ohiorganic, I would like to see your website if you don't mind emailing me the url. Do you put the labels on the bags yourself? That would be a lot. I like that idea.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2005 at 6:40PM
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Can anyone recommend an online source to purchase produce bags and small cartons or baskets?

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 12:50PM
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prairiemaid(z3 MB Canada)

ChileHead, here's a link for you:

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 1:20PM
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