Intact Tomato 2nds as Samples

cole_robbie(6)July 29, 2014

I have been having great luck with this simple idea. Twenty-five years ago, I used to watch my grandpa do the same thing with overripe peaches.

A lot of my tomatoes have stink bug damage and I have been selling them on the side by the half-bushel as canners. When anyone asks if my tomatoes taste good, I just reach into the big sack of canners and give them a ripe tomato. By unit of weight by the half-bushel, the tomato I give them probably costs a little over 25 cents. But I am yet to not sell a $4 box to anyone who takes a sample, as well as gain repeat customers.

There's a lot of discussion on here about the difficulty of giving samples and complying with health codes. But those rules don't apply to intact produce. Using seconds gives a market vendor the benefits of free samples without any of the regulatory hassle.

This post was edited by Cole_Robbie on Tue, Jul 29, 14 at 15:24

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I don't know, still seems like you could run into trouble if the produce isn't washed, if you don't wash your hands after handling money, etc. (though I use hand sanitizer each time after handling money, and always put my hand inside a plastic bag to grab beans, etc. for weighing, then pull the bag over the produce).

Of course who knows where your customers' hands have been and some like to pick put their own produce.

But I'd say as long as you don't have a plate or basket that says "samples" on your table, only give an intact fruit/veggie to someone who asks, you probably won't be noticed.

BTW, I did try a cherry tom today at another market (mine is tomorrow and I don't have enough to bring). I asked if it was Sungold, vendor said "or Sunsugar". I ended up buying a yellow beefsteak (still needs some time on the counter but it was riper than his other large tomatoes that were barely blushing). I asked if it was Lemon Boy or... and he didn't know. "Whatever the nursery sells" - he said he did start some things from seed (maybe only direct seed?) so maybe he just buys some plants to get an early start. But if any of you do that, don't you keep track of the varieties you planted, just as when starting seed? I admit that I may bring stuff to market and when I get there not know if it's SS100 or Gardener's Delight cherry b/c I just throw them all in the baskets together, but I was surprised that he couldn't even give me a name (or 2, if he planted different kinds).

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 7:38PM
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Obviously that vendor is not exactly a connoisseur of tomatoes.

My argument with the intact tomato is that I did not intend for the customer to eat it there, but gee whiz those wacky customers, I just can't control the choices they make :)

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 10:49PM
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Sounds like the laws are more strict down there. In Canada (at least in my province - it could be different in other provinces), there are no restrictions on fruit and vegetable samples, even those that are sliced open. The theory is that because there is no financial transaction involved in sampling, you can't be liable. At least that's how I understand it.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 11:37PM
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Yeah, Cole, that will work.

Slimy - here a lot of the local health depts have regulations about slicing (at least moist fruits/veggies), handwashing, etc. In my state you have to pay $100 per year to have a permit to give samples at market - and that's new, it used to be $100 per market b/c they only had food service permits for restaurants and temporary food service permits for short events like carnivals where you'd bring a food truck or something. They finally came up with a season-long (up to calendar year) permit good at any certified farmer's market in the state (though each region or county has its own health dept, so that took some coordination) when the farmers protested.

But I know a local orchard stopped giving samples of sliced apples, now has you buy small (2nds) apples (50 cents) from a particular box for each variety to sample. Health dept must have come down on them, though this was in their store and they have handwashing facilities, the cut samples weren't on ice or anything, I don't know what the problem was but maybe an inspector found some going brown and made a stink?

That's a thought too Cole - you could always charge 25 cents for your "samples" but call them 2nds, if someone wants to buy a bunch of them for canning you can still charge the bulk rate (discount) and if someone wants 1 to take home that night for salad, fine, if someone eats it right there, well, they bought it, they can do whatever they want even eat unwashed produce. That way there's no question of your liability, no one arguing that you're giving illegal samples.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:04AM
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Oh, and even if someone isn't a connoisseur, doesn't it make good business sense to know your product? Like I said, I may not separate out the cherries (and this year I'm hoping to sell mixed pints, have 3 different yellows), but I try to keep others separate during picking and packing. That way if someone loves a particular cultivar they can come back and ask for the same, not end up with German Johnson for example when they liked Sudduth Brandywine. Though I really try not to grow things that are so similar - except for Cherokee Purple and Black Krim (just b/c I'm still trying to decide which I like better).

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:12AM
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I was taught in sales that the first person you have to sell is yourself. You're much more effective when you believe in your product - emotion is contagious. That's part of why it's so important to me to only sell tomatoes that I think taste good. All of that ties into samples - the reason behind it is that I know the stuff tastes so good that they'll buy it after tasting it.

Also, engaging as many senses as possible in the customer is another effective sales tactic.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 1:05PM
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I also believe in selling only what I think tastes good, not necessarily what is the most prolific or disease-resistant (though that's nice too). I want to have the best produce (esp. tomatoes and peppers!) not the cheapest. And it definitely needs to be ripe (or almost-ripe, I will sell tomatoes that can last a few days on the counter), not over-ripe, and not hard as a rock (green tomatoes without a hint of a blush, white-tipped strawberries).

I have made an exception (last year) to sell radishes, which I don't care for personally. But even then I made sure they were a milder variety (French Breakfast) that are hard to find in stores, and picked when young, not woody. I'm going to try some Sparkler, Cherry Belle, and Icicle radishes next month. DH is my taste-tester for radishes and hot peppers.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 9:24PM
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My jury is still out on the sampling. If people ask if they can sample a cherry tomato , blueberry, etc I say "Sure", but I just don't have the space, time or sanitary resources to be in the sampling business.

Just read that Michigan will have a new law for markets next year requiring all greens (lettuce, etc) to be kept at a cooler temperature, just as eggs or meat. If that happens in our state I'll skip the greens.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 10:41PM
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Thank goodness for government! Because we all know customers are dropping dead left and right from unrefrigerated farmer's market lettuce!

I could see a day when farmer's markets are eliminated altogether in the name of food safety.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 11:41AM
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Oh, the FDA is already trying to get us all to grow in tunnels and greenhouses (fences aren't good enough to keep small mammals and birds out) with city water (tested for e.coli) for irrigation.

I was selling lettuce when market opened in June, telling people it wasn't washed, just cooled in well water to get the field heat off (and I did have it in a cooler), and the heads (Tom Thumb) could have dirt and/or insects in them. One woman joked - "Oh, you mean these were grown in actual dirt?!"

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 4:56PM
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Michigan has adopted the 2009 Food Code. It looks like how vendors store cut greens at market will change. Cut heads of lettuce and baby greens will be exempt.

Here is a link that might be useful: Food Code may bring changes to farmer√Ęs markets

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 6:42PM
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Whole heads are exempt (only cut at the roots). Not "cut" (as in wedges of iceberg?). And baby greens cut to harvest are exempt, but not if they're mixed?! What is it about mixing them that makes them "potentially hazardous?"

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 11:22AM
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