when do open your farmers' market

Tom1953(5)June 3, 2006

Hi Folks: We opened our market Sat the day before Mather's Day. Now we don't have veggies yet but we sell plants for flower beds and gardens also vegetable plants and herbs.

Within a few weeks we will be starting a new market in another town, part of our group insist we should wait till the peak of the season, whille others feel we can get things rolling with a soft opening. I have found that our first market has gotten used to the fact that we sell plants and only maybe green onions and other really early veggies. Our markets are in Northern ohio.

Tom

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digit(ID/WA)

Tom, this may not be what you'd like to hear but I tend to agree with the "peak of season" as best for the new market.

I don't know what your fruit growing area is like but the market we attend starts the same date as yours and will go for weeks and weeks with nothing much more than salad greens. Tough to get those customers back each marketday with nothing but salad greens. Oh, there are a couple of honey people in this producers-only market. One sells candles and the other sells soap, but how many people buy candles, soap, or honey each week. I can say the same about the guys who sell sides of beef.

The customers want fruit and only the loyal ones will be very patient and come back again and again for lettuce and spinach. And, how can you have loyal customers if it's a new market?

Plant starts can't keep people coming through June in this city. Most everyone who puts in a garden has done so by Memorial Day. Even starting on Mothers' Day weekend, we emphasize warm-weather plants so as to stretch out our season a little longer.

Of course, it's difficult to say when peak of season might be. Got lots of strawberry growers, apricot orchards, peaches??? We've got quite a few people who sell cherries but by the time they show up, most of the public has developed the habit of just driving by.

If vendors aren't coming too far, a "soft opening" might be okay but you don't want to drop down to 3 or 4 booths on a closed city block - looks bad. On the other hand, a lot of market vendors don't like others doing anything they can't. They have control issues. You are just going to need to poll the group.

It's difficult starting a new market but from my experience, it's more difficult sustaining one for the second and third year. First, the neighbors are excited by something new. But, it takes time for them to develop the loyalty and habits. After year 3, the customers realize that you've got some loyalty too.

Steve

    Bookmark   June 3, 2006 at 11:54PM
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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

Tom we open our markets the first week of May and have not just plants but lots of spring fresh veggies (lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, chives, radishes, rhubarb, asparagus, etc) plus meat/eggs, baked goods, soaps, gourd crafts, cider, honey, popcorn, storage onions.

This past winter our market did a once a month Winter market from Nov through April which was very successful. We grew a lot of storage items such as butternut squash, onions, carrots, rutabagas, garlic, potatoes for that market and did okay. if we hadn't moved last fall we would have done better as we would have had a lot of fresh greens out of our hoophouses for most of those markets.

I say the earlier you open a market the better as it takes several weeks for customers to get back into the swing of going to the Farmers' Market after a several months break. Plus if you start in June or July the flower people miss the important Mother's Day crowd, the folks selling bedding plants and vegetable seedling miss their market and you will have no aspargus, rhubarb or june Bearing strawberries.

You can encourage your growers to do season extension to increase early variety. We do early zukes, cukes, basil, tomatoes and melons in unheated hoophouses and already have zukes, basil and cukes and will have maters in a few weeks (the melons failed this year due to voles eating all but 4).

    Bookmark   June 5, 2006 at 7:05AM
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pvvineyards(5)

Early is good!
Usually if you are in a big enough area, someone will start finding a niche in order to start some new products. This is when you get hot house tomatoes, greenhouse grown cukes and other such items. The best thing you can do is advertise to, and inform the public. Generally you will get lots more vendors, when the public starts thinking, "hey I could do that". The more this happens, the more spaces you fill during early season. I especially love the bread bakers, and trust me, people will buy bread and lots of it week after week, after week.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 11:58AM
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