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picking and packaging

Posted by imtoobusy z6bMD (My Page) on
Sat, May 7, 05 at 22:45

What containers do you use in the field for picking various crops? How long do you leave them in these containers before washing, storage, etc. What type of containers do you use to bring your product to market or to deliver to restaurant customers? What containers do you use at market and do you sell these containers or do you bag your produce and then recycle the containers for next weeks display?

Any information would be helpful!

I have only sold by subscription and pack into food storage bags with the twist ties. I make all of the bags full of air to cushion them for the ride to the customers and the orders are packed into recycled grocery bags. I harvest from the field into a couple of quart containers and big stuff like cucs and squash get carried to the house in my untucked shirt. Really big stuff like melons and pumpkins go into my 4 year olds radio flyer wagon. This years garden is much larger and last years harvest methods are a little too small....;o)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: picking and packaging

I have been using 4 to 5 gallon buckets for picking and carry to bottom of garden. And pickup to haul to packing shed. There sort and box to haul to market. Green beans I wt and have in gallon bags then boxed. The small tomatoes I pick in to 2 gallon pans. Then sort and I quit bagging them and just take them in pans and customers can mix or match what kind they want. They bag them up in small zips. They like picking out ones they want and saved me a lot of work and time. I don't have scale at market and sell by bags or unit. I am new at this and last year was my first try at market so probably better ways.


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RE: picking and packaging

Sooner is better out of the field no matter what the crop!

When you say "larger", it depends on how much larger and what is the harvest at any one time. Container size and type depends a little on crop and what you can handle. I have some stackable crates (both plastic and wood) so rarely have many layers thick for cukes and squash. That helps avoid scratching skins and heat build up. For smaller quantities you could use scrub buckets or plastic paint buckets with handles.

Get things that fit your transport "wagon" or a wagon to fit the containers to save trips. Also, things you can clean.

Personally,I don't sell my market containers. Most smaller things sold in quart or pint boxes; many other things such as eggplant and squash are by the piece or 3 for$$, etc.


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RE: picking and packaging

I use lily crates for picking as they are stackable, then move them by a cart behind my riding mower to the house. Once sorted I repack into more crates and stack so I can fit many more into my pickup when I go to market. Some veggies I sell by the piece (tomatoes) or by the quart. When at market, I usually put them into a plastic "T-shirt" bag for the customer to take home, thereby saving the quart container and giving the customer something easier to carry.
Ann


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RE: picking and packaging

I pick tomatoes into plastic "under-bed" storage bins, and only stack them 2-3 deep because they're so fragile when ripe. The bins come with lids and are then stackable, from walmart. Greens and beans I pick into some 20 gallon size blue plastic buckets with rope handles from walmart. Cukes and squash go into cardboard boxes, but agree that scratching them up is a problem to be avoided. Removing field heat is a must during the heat of summer months, usually I pick sensitive stuff after sunset or in the AM with a flashlight, some picked when hot I spread out in a cool place after picking, then rebox when loading up the truck.

Lettuce, basil and greens are cut in the field, spritzed with water, then packed into bags, then into coolers during summer.

Root crops(beets, carrots, turnip, radish, scallions are bunched and rubber banded in the field, then hosed and boxed.
Berries pick directly into qt bins.

At market I am selling this year into some new 6x5" plastic bins that hold approx 1qt(walmart). I previously used fiberboard qt baskets but they don't last and can't be washed. Everything that can fit in those bins are sold by qts., but put into recycled bags from walmart(check the front door, they said "take all you want").

Low-budget picking- been there-done that.
If you are seeking heavy-duty cardboard boxes, check the produce man at a grocery and ask for old corn crates or banana boxes, they used to use sytrofoam boxes for grapes which are prety cool, but last I checked they were using cardboard. Haunt yard sales for used ice chests or other containers.


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RE: picking and packaging

I use the plastic "T shirt bags" at market and they only get a box if like buy a box of tomatoes or peppers (1/2 bushel) I use plastic dish pans on table at market and some smaller plastic dishpan like pans. They pick out and bag what they want. Like Ann said they need something easy to carry. Dish pans are washed and easy to clean. But this year I have those stackable plastic storage bins to try as needed bigger display containers. I will not stack them. I know for tomatoes I will have to put something in the bottom for tomatoes to rest on. Things can only be piled so much as ripe tomatoes squash. They use bags for different veggies so tomatoes don't squash. Or on top. As I only have so many buckets to pick in I take and empty in to boxes either at end of the row or take to packing shed and empty till get get done picking. I started the first weeks at house and found no way could I do that, So I had to fix a place to sort and pack the stuff. I use these half bushel heavy cardboard boxes and reuse as long as okay, This year I plan to cut a square of scrap plastic and lay in the bottom to help. That can be wiped clean if a tomatoes does squash. I use plastic on my packing tables and that can be wiped up easy too. At market I put old white sheets over my old tables and that catches anything too and washable and makes those old tables look better and all alike. I am not fancy that is for sure and not doing like the others I guess. It is what ever you have that works for you. I try to not have to buy stuff if I have something that will work. This year I hope to have better packing shed. Last year a 12 x12 canopy was it and hard to keep rain off boxes. This year I plan an enclosed place to work packing. I can not get anything in to the garden by picking time really. Lugging out buckets are heavy for me. I have learned you start at the top and pick to the bottom so not carrying a heavy bucket up the row, and carry down to where loading. I load from packing shed right into the pickup. I used car for few weeks and then started using a pickup. I do stack the boxes in it. Shell on it but 3' foot one. I can not quite stand in it. I have not sold any to stores or resturants or but I would use these boxes for that. I have not had the nerve to ask anywhere, just sold at market. I was afraid I could not raise enough to supply. I had way too much for this little market. I have to try and do something this year. I pack soon as possible as need fresh stuff and do this before market days. Here you get asked when picked and I do tell them. I trying to have the shortest time possible between picking and selling. Some stuff can go in ice chests to keep cool in hot weather. You want to pick as close to selling time as you can. BUT.. it does take time to pick it. Give your self enough time to pick. You do it awhile and you will figue out how long it takes. I can never really figure out how much to take as it is up and down but better to have extra I guess than not enough. I am still learning.


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RE: picking and packaging

Jay you said it better. I sure plan to ask at Wal-Mart as it does take so many bags. Thankyou. I never notice any cukes scratching. But most of mine were Armainian (sp) type. I like the way you do things. Good ideas and ways. Not that l would pick by flashlight. I guess I would if I had too.


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RE: picking and packaging

For tomatoes I go to the produce department at the local grocery and bum their cardboard tomato and grape flats. I also use them to transport my loaf cakes and other bakery items. They're stackable and sturdy. Beans go into bushel and half bushel baskets. Boxes that cherries are shipped in are also good to take beans and squash in to market. Again, they are stackable and you don't bruise the fruit. I have the wooden strawberry type baskets that I sell small potatoes, okra and other small items in. I do not send the box with the customer. The produce, depending upon what it is is put into zip lock bags or directly into plastic shopping bags that are recycled from the local mart stores. At our market buyers seem to appreciate that we are recycling containers where we can and often if they do buy something with a basket they will return the basket the next week. Lots of folks also bring us all types of pots and cell packs too.

Janet


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RE: picking and packaging

GREAT information everyone, thank you very much! "larger" means that I am now 5000 sq ft instead of 2000. Still small but too big for carrying my harvest in my shirttails!!!


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RE: picking and packaging

I find that the flat cartons that canned beer is delivered to the stores in, make fine display boxes for tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions and many other veggies. The stores will give them to you. Frank


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RE: picking and packaging

Great info shared here, thanks!
Frank, can you give the rough dimensions of the cartons? I don't believe our beer is delivered that way but I buy canned goods by the dozen case and they are on flat cartons about 8" x 11" x 2" deep. It's my first time a the Farmers Market this year and thought I'd save these and use them.


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RE: picking and packaging

Prairiemaid, most 16 ounce cans come in boxes that are about 15 1/2 inches by 10 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches high.
12 ounce cans are a little shallower. Budweiser, Miller and others. fg


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RE: picking and packaging

Does anyone have a resource for getting good plastic bags for greens (other than walmart)?


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RE: picking and packaging

My favorite thing to use for salad mix is the generic storage bags from the grocery store. The gallon size that closes with twist ties. They are very cheap and are clear so everyone can see what they are buying. I actually use these for everything that I bag up.


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RE: picking and packaging

I agree I use the generic storage bags from the grocery store. The gallon size that closes with twist ties. Sometimes sold as "bread bags" .
For packaging smaller amounts like basil, arrugala and other herbs I use the fold over sandwich bags cheap and letting enough air in to keep condensation from forming.


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RE: picking and packaging

For lettuce greens, I use a cellulose type bag from a company in Portland Oregon, Pak-Sel. This product is fabulous. It is totally compostable. I pack the greens loosely then hermetically seal the bag. It keeps the greens air tight and the shelf life is greatly increased. I sell for a very environmentally concerned population so the fact that the bags are compostable is a real plus. Good Luck, Glenda

Here is a link that might be useful: Pak-Sel


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RE: picking and packaging

"Does anyone have a resource for getting good plastic bags for greens (other than walmart)?"

Most towns have a restaurant supply store, and they usually have some packaging, clamshells, etc.


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RE: picking and packaging

Glenda - which size bag do you use? My parents sell lettuce at our farmer's market and I'd like them to try these. They generally have used 1 gal. ziplock bags! These have to be much cheaper...and better all around!
Thanks,
Wendy


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RE: picking and packaging

does anyone know where you can get some of those paper mache pint and quart containers ? Or even a good source of the pint and quart containers in plastic?


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RE: picking and packaging

Here's a link to information that should be helpful to anyone gonig to market.

Here is a link that might be useful: Getting Ready For Market


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RE: picking and packaging

Wendy:
I am currently using the light cellophane "195MST" size 5 x 3.25 x 13 gusset.
They are about the right size for 1/3lb or a bit more of greens. I'm thinking of trying a larger size. These folks will also custom size the bags if you need larger amounts. On the web site they only give prices for quantaties of 1000. I purchased both the 4 " and 5" sizes in the 250 pkg which they also offer. I find the smaller 4" size great for herbs, basil, cilantro, etc. They really do keep the product fresh and they're environmentally friendly.
Good Luck,
Glenda


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RE: picking and packaging

Glenda - thanks! We had another vendor last year who packaged her greens with these products and they lasted all day...out of a cooler and looked great. I'll pass this along to my parents!

Wendy


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