Getting ready for winter market this weekend

jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)November 28, 2012

We have been busy picking, washing and bagging produce since last weekend for this weekends market. We are going to have our largest offering ever.

Here are some of the items.

Kale: Winterbor, Toscano and Red Russian

Swiss Chard: Fordhook Giant and Bright Lights

Head of Looseleaf lettuce: Magenta, Cherokee, Mottistone, Tiede, Concept, and Romaine (Not pictured Buttercrunch)

Garlic

Carrots: Orange and Yellow

Not pictured, Salad Mix, Red and Green Bok Choy, Haikuri Turnips, Tomatoes, Tokyo Bekana, Napa Cabbage, Green Onions, Radishes, Daikon Radishes, and Jams and Jellies

Here is my problem, I like to grow several varieties of the same crop, example Kale: Red Russian, Winterbor and Toscano. It offers more variety but does it increase sales? I think it does, but some consumers seem overwhelmed. Also, how much do you pick of each. If I have three kinds, do I bring 10 pounds of each? What if I only had one, would I bring 30 pounds of 1? It is a strange question I know.

The same comes up with the head lettuce, would I be better off to just grow 1 or 2 varieties or have 7 varieties? They all have different colors or characteristics. Which way is better?

Any thoughts?

Jay

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veggievicki(7b)

Looks terrific. Many of the markets around here have pretty much shut down. I noticed in my wanderings a few selling Christmas trees and pecans are in season now here, so the pecan farmers are about.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 6:10PM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

You could do what I do with my tomatoes in the greenhouse, make a "menu" of the different kinds and something outstanding characteristic of each. Save it on the computer and print up several for market in case you have lots of customers at once. It also keeps pele waiting better at your booth if they are looking at something while you wait on someone else...

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 6:34PM
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myfamilysfarm

Sandy's right, but I would cut back to 3-4 varieties instead of the 7. Too many choices confuses people. they just know they want lettuce, not what varieties. Only truly dedicated lettuce eater care. Ask some of your regular buyers which ones that like the best, and cut the least liked ones.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 8:23PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

Marla,

That is the exact problem, however I never sell more of one or another. I take 25 heads for example, 5 of each and I sell all but 1 or 2 of each one. Which one is the best seller? The one picture above has 6 of the 7 varieties pictured. The only one that isn't pictured is buttercrunch. The only reason I planted it was I ran out of seed of the the other green type I had.

Sandy,
I agree on the tomatoes. I have cut it back to red, some yellow and Cherokee Purple. Cherry tomatoes are different we grow 12 varieties (red, orange, yellow, pink, black and red pear, yellow pear) sell mostly one color a basket, but also offer a mix of all the varieties. I can't say one really sells better than the others.

I did the same with watermelon this year too. Red, yellow, orange, swirl, and different shapes oval and oblong (only in red). The orange sold the poorest, probably tasted the best and was the most productive. That may be the reason it seemed to sell the least because I had the most of them!

Even after 8 years at this business, I am still trying to figure it out!

Jay

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 10:06PM
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myfamilysfarm

Don't expect to figure things out, no matter how long you're in business. Just as you think you've got it figured out, people change. Plus what doesn't sell well in year 1, but is sampled, may and has for me, sold well in year 2 or 3.

One friend formerly in this business, stated it quite well. "Farming is a crap shoot, you never know what's going to happen." After 13 years, I totally agree, either Mother Nature is going to mess up or customers that have been loyal since day 1 change their minds and find someone else.

Since you're selling the same amount of each, I would cut back with the one that I have the least amount of seed. Or if you have to buy all new seeds, either by price or YOUR personal preference. If you can't do that, then put all names in a hat and draw out 3-4. Not logical, but it is 1 way.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 9:20AM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Dang it. My response yesterday was never posted.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 9:34AM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

That's funny, my daughter and I say
"farmers market is like fishing, you never know which bait they're biting on today"...LOL...

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 10:19AM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I know what you mean. One week I sold out of Haikuri Turnips(10 bunches), it was the second week I had them this fall. I was all excited, so I harvested 50% more (15 bunches) than I did the previous week. Then I proceeded to bring home 150% more than I did the week before. Didn't sell a one.

It was a great market day, sold out of most stuff but not Turnips.

I have learned what I can grow and what I can sell and I try to bring that amount each week to market. Then I get excited and bring more then it backfires!

The only thing that is constant is change.

Jay

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 11:26AM
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myfamilysfarm

Personally, I think that if you have a good week, EXPECT the next week to be lower. This was my experience in the past. Of course, as soon as I think that works, the 2nd week I sell out.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 3:08PM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

Jay,
If you like to grow it, and customers like to buy it from you, then don't worry too much.

Growing 7 varieties of lettuce is great. Why cut down to 2?
If you find it a pain to deal with all those varieties then by all means, grow less. But if you are excited about a large display of diverse colored lettuce, then your customers will notice it and get excited also.
There is no better advertising than a farmer talking about something they love to grow.

No one here is really able to offer this type of advice unless they're familiar with your market, your customers and overall, you, the grower.

By the way, those carrots look amazing!

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 1:48AM
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myfamilysfarm

I would cut down to just 2, but maybe 4.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 8:59AM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

Thanks for the comments, I have 100 more bunches of carrots just like them ready to go for tomorrow, they don't have tops though. The tops take up too much room. I will take some with tops to show they are indeed fresh.

I do like to offer a variety, and I think it really offers more for the consumer to look at. A big striking display is important to me, it separates me from the other vendors. It gives the idea of plentiful.

I think cutting it down to 2 would be hard. So maybe I could go down to 4 and see what starts selling better.

Tonight is the last night to prep. We have 3 fridges full of produce (wishing I had that walk in cooler now!) I even had to clean out by brother in law work fridge and use it too. I will harvest all the head lettuce, bok choy and Napa Cabbage tonight, wash, bag and pack into coolers and sit them it in the enclosed trailer tonight. Thankfully the lows are only suppose to get to the mid 40's.

Jay

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 10:40AM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

LOL I have a state size fridge right now. We are having company tomorrow and can put all the drinks outside.

Anyway, 2 things I had typed before but never posted were: grow whatever lettuce you like and grows well. I find customers do not choose lettuce on type or color but how fresh it looks. It pretty much all tastes the same. I wouldn't market it as different or bother having them choose a variety.
but with kale it is different. I recommend growing only Red Russian or white and red. A lot of my customers buy kale to put in smoothies and they say the curly kale will not blend. They like the Russian- even Siberian is too curly.

It is a great idea to get feedback from regular customers. I have done this with my CSAs too. Any that wanted to I had fill out a survey of veggies. The answers were really surprising! One of them honestly said they love green beans but don't want yellow. They love snap peas but don't want snow peas. They want russet or gold potatoes but no other colors. They want Thai green or normal purple eggplant but not long purple.
So these were the answers and I asked for them so I should expect particular honesty!
Forums and market chat are other good places to hear about varieties and selling ideas. I listen to how many people will buy the gold beets and yellow watermelon next to me for instance.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 9:42PM
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myfamilysfarm

My customers like green versus yellow beans, mainly due to texture.

Definitely it something doesn't grow well, don't fight with it, just replace or cancel it.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 5:37PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

We had our market yesterday and it was awesome! I sold out of most things and what I didn't sell out of I had 1 or 2 left. It was great weather outside and the market stepped up some advertising efforts and with the added facebook marketing, the customers came out in bunches. It was actually my second best sales day of the year. The best day was back at the end of June. It was the first day we had a huge supply of tomatoes. It was alot easier that day.

I arrived at the location at 6. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to set up. The person with the key didn't get there until 7:20. I was extremely rushed. Everything had to be carried or carted across the building, tables set up and display set out.

Finally got it all set up, took a picture and never had time to take any more.

About the lettuce. I sold out of all but the speckled variety. Several people made comments about it, but each one said they chose a different one because it was bigger. They were correct, the speckled one isn't as big. Even with that, I did sell half of them. The disappointment was with the Romaine. It didn't sell well. It has always been a great seller, but I didn't have the other varieties last year.

They were even talking about having a winter market every 2 weeks next year. Since I am the largest local only grower, the wanted to know if I would be interested. I said yes, but probably only in November and December. I do need some time off, but If each market was like today, I could figure out a way to make it work.

Jay

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 10:29AM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

Thats really exciting, i'm glad you had a great day. Bummer about having to wait to get let in.

Winter markets are always iffy for me. One of my markets is a year round Wed. 2-7 which i've been going to for 4 years straight. I've only taken a few days off when the weather was so bad that it's just silly to go. If market day coincides with a nice clear day we usually have a great turn out (like last week, one of my best of the year). Other times, not so good.

By keeping an eye on the weather predictions you can usually harvest accordingly. Even if your market is inside (lucky!) the turn out will still vary by weather, holidays, etc.

All in all, I love the winter market. People are cooking more than they do in summer and seem willing to try things they usually wouldn't (celeriac or parsnips for instance). There is much less competition amongst growers and many of the things I bring are less perishable.

If you have enough produce to go through the new years i'd think you should try it. Next year you can plant more for winter harvest.

As far as the lettuce goes,,,,people sure are funny sometimes, huh?

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 1:51PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

We harvest all winter long. In fact, I am going out to transplant out another 600 row feet of greens into the high tunnels today.

With any luck, they will be ready by late January/Mid February.

Jay

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 2:03PM
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myfamilysfarm

Just heard that our major market is considering being open year around, except January. They will probably raise the rates for everyone and give those winter vendors free days during the winter. That's what they did they last time. Actual that was time before last. Last time, was same $$s but they cancelled 1 weekday, so instead of 78 days of market for $300, it became 52 days for same $300.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 3:12PM
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randy41_1

congrats on a good market jay. we had a good market saturday outside with the weather being so nice. i went with salad mix, braising mix, head lettuce, spinach and turnips. just came home with a couple of bunches of turnips.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 4:09PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

Marla,

For $300, that is only $5.75 a market for 52 markets. I pay $6 a market. Is this an annual fee or do you have a daily market fee too? We have an annual membership fee of $25 too.

Jay

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 5:07PM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

Wow, thats so cheap. Rarely do our market fees go less that $30, and thats the discounted rate by paying in full for a 10x10 space.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 5:56PM
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randy41_1

we pay $20/month plus 3% of sales. this allows us to set up any time the market is open, which is wednesdays and saturdays for april thru december and saturdays only january thru march. i think we have an option of paying $5/market instead of the $20 during the jan-mar period. so if you do 20k/year at the market you pay $840/year for about 91 market days, or 9.23 per market. there's talk of the 3% going to 4%.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 6:18PM
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myfamilysfarm

That's the annual fee, daily rates are $15 for Thursdays and $30 for Saturday. If you don't commit to being at market a minimum of 75% of markets, you must pay the daily rate. When I started in 2000, the rate was $100, and has went up continuously since then.

Spaces are 10' wide and about 20' in length, the 10' side is the customer side.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 6:18PM
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cole_robbie(6)

Randy, how do they collect on a percentage of sales without people cheating?

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 10:28PM
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randy41_1

the same way the feds collect income tax and the state collects sales tax....the honor system.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 5:52AM
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