Tiny farming: sales

Farmers’ market tool

Last One sign: farmers' market stand

Blogged about before, still in service (no dirt streaks or coffee spills so far), it’s the original, the very first Last One sign (I’m pretty sure it is), brilliant sales tool (nearly 100% successful!), now part of the Almost Gone collection, Last 1-2-3-4-5 and Not Many Left. This one is on some near-perfect unheated greenhouse spinach. Fun with signage at the winter farmers’ market.

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Empty shelves

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[From 26-May-2012] OK, so it’s only the result of a really good price on rice cakes, and emptied shelves aren’t unusual during sales. Still, this time, standing in from of them, I suddenly imagined how fast ALL the shelves could empty, and wonder what we’d do right after that happened. Not an everyday cheery thought (I hope; it’s not for me)…and it quickly passed! Anyhow, I do have lettuce.

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A carrot day at the market

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Carrots at the farmers’ market: One or two crops always seem to do particularly well, but different ones every week. Explanation: unknown. Today is a carrot day.

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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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Restaurant run

Beans, potatoes, carrots

A phone call on the weekend lead to this, our first real restaurant sale. It was cool! A chef called looking for local, organic veggies for a special menu this week. They’d joined at the last minute a regional food festival, featuring local food in restaurants in several towns. I ran down what we had available and followed up with an emailed price and available quantity list. Today, we harvested and delivered: green beans (Jade), potatoes (Kennebec), beets (Golden Detroit, Scarlet Supreme), carrots (Nelson, Purple Haze, White Satin), and onions (Stuttgarter-type yellow cooking, yellow Spanish), in the 25lb (11kg) range for each. Pricing was the normal market unit price, no “wholesale” discount. It was great pulling up to the back of the building, delivering into the kitchen, checking out and describing each veg with the chef. The dinner plans: a “hearty fall soup” and a “steamed vegetable pasta with olive oil and herbs.” Market gardens and progressive local restaurants are a natural and quite common direct fit…as seen on TV (I’ve been known to watch the Food Channel)! I’ve had some minor dealings with restaurants in seasons past, but we’d never got round to a classic chef’s order and kitchen delivery. so it was interesting to go through the whole routine. We had lunch there afterwards, and the food was refreshingly good: bruchetta, flatbread pizza, sweet potato fries, salt and pepper rib tips, an asparagus sandwich (yeah, the asparagus aren’t exactly in season around here, but their special local food menu is a step in a cool direction…). Fun! Oh, and no frost last night.

Beets, onions

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After the market

Packed up after the farmers' market

Somehow, I always forget to take enough pictures at the market, of things like setting up the stand. It’s really great, how a plain old small town street, in about an hour, turns into a…farmers’ market. For our stand, basic set-up and teardown—canopy, table, sales gear—is only a matter of maybe 20 minutes at each end. Because I don’t drive, our stand is different from most, where a truck or trailer is the usual veggie stand backdrop. Bob drops us off in the morning in a pick-up: a self-contained veggie sales outpost. When it’s all over, with empty containers nested and packing volume much reduced, we get picked up by truck or smaller mini-van. Here, Lynn and I wait for our ride. There are garlic and potatoes left in a basket and a trug, and the four bins contain mostly crop residue, a bit of miscellaneous garbage, and odds and ends of unsold produce. Neat!

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