Selling at the farmers market. Um, help?

owiebrain(5 MO)May 9, 2012

Those of you who follow my blog already know but, for the rest of you, I've been invited to sell at the new local farmers market and I've now committed to it. Yikes.

I'll start off by selling my excess seedlings, eggs, breads and chicks and maybe some lettuce and herbs just to have some starter produce. Once the garden starts coming in, produce will be my main product. Maybe I'll finally make some of that famous habanero gold jelly and sell it. (I don't have any habs planted. Do other types work as well or should I buy some storebought hab starts?)

I've got a bunch of tomato plants in and I'll be planting pole beans for a steady supply, along with succession plantings of bush beans. (I'll take recommendations for good bush bean varieties as most of my experience is with pole types.) I'll also have sweet & hot peppers, cukes, and maybe some green onions here and there. Later on, I'll have some muskmelons & watermelons but I worry about not picking them ripe. I'm getting better but I'd want to be perfect for customers.

What other things should I focus on? I don't like growing sweet corn and there are already several other folks who grow fields & fields of the stuff. Things like radishes & beets are easy to grow but not big sellers so I'll just keep succession planting small batches of those. I don't know that the kids will leave enough sugar snap peas for me to sell. LOL

I just found out about this a couple of weeks ago so I'm scrambling for last-minute things to adjust. Next year will be planned much better!

And don't even get me started on pricing. Sheesh. I'm so clueless on that, I'll just have to make it up as I go. My other problem is that I tend to give everything away. That kind of makes it difficult to make any money. Heh.

Diane

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soonergrandmom

I suggest a careful reading of the Market forum. They have a lot of ideas, and also share a lot of problems.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 11:31AM
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scottokla(7)

What I have found at my two small local markets is that 50% of what people wanted was tomatoes. People want ripe, yummy tomatoes that they cannot get anywhere else, and usually each buyer wants only one or two other things bad enough to stop. We also sold blueberries well since it similarly is something you cannot find with good quality here.

Until July 4th I sold tomatoes for about $1.50 per lb, and $1.00 per lb after. Peppers never really made much money for us since they are available for low prices at stores, but I loved to grow and sell them. When tomato production tailed off in mid-July, we could not make enough to justify spending the day at the market despite have an incredible variety, quantity, and quality of peppers.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 12:26PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I agree with Carol's suggestion that you spend time perusing the back pages of the Market forum. I imagine you'll find some variety recommendations there.

I also agree with Scott's recommendation that tomatoes sell and peppers generally don't. Grocery stores sell peppers at ridiculously low prices in the summer and fall months and their flavor isn't bad (though I still prefer homegrown).

For muskmelons (aka cantaloupes in the USA), they form the abscission layer and separate from the plant on their own, so you wouldn't have much problem picking them too early if you watch for that abscission layer to begin forming. You normally can give them a sharp tug and separate them from the vine a couple of days before the abscission layer is ready to separate on its own. That would make them more of a sure thing, in terms of ripeness, than watermelons.

Is okra popular there? It grows relatively easily, produces well even in the summer heat, and has relatively few pests.

If your farmer's market stays open somewhat into fall, you could grow ornamental gourds, pumpkins and Indian corn for fall decorative type sales.

At some farmer's markets, flowers sell really, really well. They don't have to be the fanciest of flowers either, I often see bouquets composed mostly or completely of zinnias or sunflowers.

Each Farmer's Market seems to sort of have its own personality and I'd treat this first year as a learning experience. Watch and see what sells well and what the prices are like. At one market near Fort Worth, it seemed like women of a certain age always were looking for pickling cucumbers (I'm assuming they liked to make pickles but no longer gardened, or maybe had a crop failure) but at the Dallas Farmer's Market (which is huge), people seemed partial to blackberries and blueberries from East Texas, especially the first week or two after the berries arrived at the market.

For future years, do whatever you can to get your tomatoes to market as early as possible. The first few weeks when there's only a few vendors with tomatoes, you can charge a lot more per pound than you can later on when everyone has a lot of tomatoes to sell.

With the Habanero Gold, I believe it is the habs that make it so special. I've made Jalapeno Gold with jalapenos, and it is okay, and people seem to like it fine, but I prefer the Habanero Gold to the Jalapeno Gold.

With bush beans, I'd see what the folks on the Market forum suggest because they probably know exactly which ones produce the heaviest and the earliest. I mostly grow old heirloom varieties which produce well-enough, but some commercial varieties produce much heavier crops. I've always been happy with the harvest from Contender, Provider and Top Crop, but I am not a market grower. Remember that beans can take quite a while to pick, and unless you're growing greasy beans, they can take a while to wash clean off dirt, dust, mulch, etc. I mulch with grass clippings and old spoiled hay and always have bits of it clinging to every bean I harvest some days.

If southern peas are popular there, they would be a good thing to grow. They're not as commonly found in stores as green beans are, and they produce very well in the summer months. They always sold really well at the Farmer's Market in Weatherford when we lived in Fort Worth, but they sold best for the guy who had a shelling machine right there and would shell them for you for a fairly small fee. A lot of people nowadays don't have the patience to sit and hull peas. Remember that if you raise Pink Eye Purple Hull peas and shell them, you can make and sell Purple Hull Pea Jelly.

If you are growing organically, be sure to state that on your signs, price markers. etc. "Organic" or "Raised Naturally Without Chemicals" is a big selling point.

Dawn

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 1:22PM
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owiebrain(5 MO)

I have been reading the market forum and will continue to do so. Gobs of info there!

Good to have my guesses confirmed as far as tomatoes being the main draw. There will be others with tomatoes there but I bet I'll have the widest variety with a rainbow of colors. Those and my sourdoughs will likely be my "signature" items. At the vendors meeting the other night, they said that sweet corn, tomatoes, and green beans are the biggest sellers so I'll put up with the pain of picking beans. Besides, I have free slave labor at my disposal. ;-) All of the other stuff will be to flesh out the table during the slow part of the season and likely won't be huge sellers so I won't plant huge amounts of them. I do expect my honey to be a big seller but I won't have that for a while yet.

Okra and southern peas are not popular here at all. I'm thinking, though, that I'll plant a few okra just as a curiosity on the table and maybe I'll get a few converts. It seems like a "foodie" sort of thing.

One thing about this market is that it's in a touristy historic downtown area with hundreds of tourists each summer day. So I'll have to think of some things to gear towards that.

Dawn, good to know about the hab gold jelly. I'll pick up some starts next time I'm in town.

Thanks, everyone! Sorry I haven't been around but I've been running in circles trying to get everything lined up for this and other things. I'm hoping I'll hit a rhythm soon and not be so frantic!

Diane

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 2:38PM
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mulberryknob

maybe the Burgundy Okra will pique people's interest. Chinese Red Meat Radishes are delicious in the fall. If you offer slices to sample maybe you will generate some sales. They are twice to three times as big as spring radishes so you can set your price accordingly.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 10:46PM
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biradarcm(7b)

I am second to Dorothy. I am sure Chinese Red Meat Radishes would be eye catching produce, it tastes so good and very crispy and sweet. You can grow them in spring as well as fall. They seems to quite bold resistant. Our regular radishes has bolted and gone long ago, but these are still growing thicker and thicker and without any sign of the bolting and no sign of the pests and damages.

Dorothy, color of the radishes has been changing now, today's harvest showing very dark pinkish. I think one i had shown in previous post seems to be harvest much earlier

I guess something unique (color, flavor) will make you stand unique and attractive in the market. Initial offering free slices of the those unique produce will make your spot sure to be revisit point.

-Chandra

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 11:31PM
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owiebrain(5 MO)

Thanks to you both! I've never grown the Chinese Red Meat radishes so will get my hands on some seed. And great idea on the burgandy okra. Not being an okra lover myself, that didn't even occur to me. Duh.

And, yep, I'm going to be giving out all sorts of samples to get folks to try the "weird" things, along with some normal veggies as well. The veggies should sell themselves that way. *crossing fingers*

Thanks!

Diane

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 12:21AM
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soonergrandmom

Most people that I have known from that area think black-eyed peas are for feeding cattle. In the south we know they are "cowpeas", but most southerners love them. How about long beans, you can build them up for stir fry. You might try a 'stir fry combo pack' with small amounts of several things.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 12:06PM
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owiebrain(5 MO)

Exactly, Carol. I just don't think cowpeas will sell here at all. But I think okra might have a chance... maybe.

Great idea on the stir fry combo. I was actually just thinking & reading up on various combos, like greens & stirfry veggies and then clicked over here to read your post. :-D

Man, this is going to be a lot of work.

Diane

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 7:18AM
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soonergrandmom

It will be a lot of work, especially those green leafy things that you can't pick early.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 11:16AM
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Julie717

Strawberries might sell well, too. The ones at the stores are always so bland.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 3:38PM
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tracydr(9b)

How about plants? Herbs, seedlings?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 11:05PM
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owiebrain(5 MO)

Found seeds for both burgandy okra and red meat radishes. Yay! Thanks for those suggestions!

Strawberries (and the rest of my berries) will have to wait until next year when I have enough to sell. And even that's a crapshoot since my kids are on ripe strawberries like stink on my dog.

Plants -- got 'em covered! 800-ish seedlings potted up the past couple of days and ready to go. Have reservations on around 100 of them already.

Herbs, yep, what I have growing. Chives, garlic chives, oregano, basils, and that sort of thing, along with salad greens and mints. I'm getting creative filling in until the tomatoes and other stars start producing.

And sourdoughs. I'm covered in flour. My kitchen is covered in flour. Soon, my entire county will be covered in flour.

Diane

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 12:59AM
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