Middle of the day at the market

Early at the farmers' market

Here’s another slice of the action at the Saturday farmers’ market: recent market posts covered the beginning and the end, this is…the middle. In the first two pics, it’s about 9am—the market’s been open for two hours, but in colder weather like today, most people start showing up about now. This is the first time we’ve extended the stand by adding a new section with four more bins, quite an occasion, since I’ve been using the same 7-tray set-up for five seasons, almost since the beginning. It’s also the last day of tender crops, with a final harvest of eggplant and peppers. Lynn, vested against the chill, in the first pic looks like she’s making up more signs: red market on light brown card stock…

Early at the farmers' market 2

The shallow trays are easy to fill, it doesn’t take much to create a nice display. As things are sold, the display is refreshed from bins kept in the shade. The trays aren’t ideal for all veggies. Winter squash are harder to sort through, but there’s also a full assortment in bushel baskets that people can look through, with the trays more for display…

Mid-morning at the farmers' market

Jump ahead to about 11:30. It’s warmed up considerably, into a beautiful, summer-like day. This is Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, and the traffic has been pretty good. Traffic has died down in the last half hour, some crops are sold out, but people come by till the end…

Late morning at the farmers' market

It’s now about 12:40. The market ends at 1, and we have until 1:30 before the street is opened up again. Most vendors start packing up early, around 12:30, but we always wait till the official end. Today, we’re pretty well sold out: the only veggies left in a bit of quantity compared to what we started with are some mostly very tiny eggplant, curly and flat-leaf parsley, Red Russian flat-leaf kale, and some winter squash. With things like kale, not exactly a universally popular green, sales are inexplicably random: usually low, but on some days, you can’t have enough. So, you always bring as much as you can (within reason!). Anyhow, a really satisfying and fun market day is almost done…

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11 Responses to “Middle of the day at the market”

  1. Gorgeous pictures, thank you for sharing them!

  2. Paul says:

    Great display, and healthy looking produce…unlike some organic produce you appear to have the nitrogen and phos ratio right…i.e. not too much leafy tops!
    I would buy..looks excellent quality!

  3. Beautiful produce…love those beets!  Makes me want some beet greens for dinner!

  4. Daphne Gould says:

    So I’m curious. What do you do with your leftover veggies after the market is over?

  5. Mike (tfb) says:

    Daphne: Well, there’s usually not much left. Some veggies keep, to see another market, like potatoes, garlic, onions, winter squash. Some go to the house, but we can eat only so much… Greens go to the chickens first, then goats get anything they can chew. I’d happily donate to a food bank or anywhere else it would get eaten, but no-one handles fresh produce, I’ve asked, it requires proper storage, and the leftover quantities we have are too small for separate pick-up and handling. So anything left after the animals goes on the compost pile.

  6. Kyle McVay says:

    We are rookies and we are planning to go to Farmer’s Market next year with our eggs, chickens, herbs & produce. So we are still planning and  I am wondering in a ball park figures…how big is your garden? How much do you make on a good day at the farmers market and a bad day. Finally, the most pressing question did you make the boxes your veggies were in? I’m pretty sure my hubby could put something like that together for us. Thank you I have learned a lot from your blog and I visit it often.

  7. Mike (tfb) says:

    Kyle: The garden is about 2.5 acres now, with around 2 acres planted out at any one point (you can read more in the About). I don’t have a problem discussing sales figures, but absolute numbers aren’t at all useful out of context. To make any sort of reasonable estimate, you have to really observe at your market (and any other markets you can visit) and then crunch some numbers.

    Some of the really basic, directly relevant sales considerations are the size and make-up of your market (number and type of customers), your direct competition (who’s selling the same things as you), your selection and quality, your quantity and consistency week to week (can regulars rely on you for weekly staples, like salad mix?), at what point in the season you’re at (what crops are available), how you relate to customers, and your pricing. I’d say that any one of those factors could make a 25-50% difference in your sales at the extreme, that is, handled extremely well or quite poorly, with all other things being equal.

    Of course, the simple, golden rule is QUALITY, nothing else works without that.

    All that said, if you tried to average across all of these considerations, with a small, 1-2 person operation in the field, at peak harvest, you could maybe range from $200-$1,000 on a market day, and quite a bit more with harvest/post-harvest and market sales help. But even there, if you’re in a trendy, big-city market selling heirloom tomatoes and specialty salad mixes, you could conceivably make thousands a day, while selling the same produce at a small town market, you’d likely make only a tiny fraction of that, due to way lower retail price and sales volume.

    Yes, I built the veggie bins. They’re rough cut cedar, screwed together with deck screws. The original ones have lasted six seasons and counting, with only a bit of tightening up here and there. Dead simple rough carpentry!

  8. nadia says:

    wow! i have just read many of your post, very informative. we have just moved in to our new farm last week. although i have dreamed of being a farmer forever, i now realize how little i know. i would like to raise a few chickens(for eggs only) and a goat for milk and cheese do you have any advise, i guess you would call it a hobby farm, although i would like to have enough produce for our home and a stand. i am torn on how big to make my beds? and if i house a few chickens and a goat under the same structure but allowing the hens to roam freely..
    anyways i  so impressed on how much you have done and all the hard work very inspiring- i am also a fellow canadian but living in the us!

  9. Angela says:

    Great! Can you give out the dimensions of the display crates you built?
    Thanks!

  10. George says:

    OMG. Where in Canada is this place ? I would love to live there for the rest of my life. Eating healthy food, breathing tonnes of fresh air and staying in touch with Nature and the elements everyday. You are very lucky indeed to live there.

  11. Craney says:

    Great choice of China thimbles and ceramic thimbles. All types of thimbles and thimble accessories.

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