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Best Sellers?

 
gardener
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What tends to sell the best at farmers markets?
 
steward
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I think that it varies regionally, and depends a lot on the clientele. The ethnic backgrounds of the buyers will have a lot to do with their diets, and the foods they buy. From what I have observed, exotics seem to do well, and I seldom see vendors selling bulk type foods, ie potatoes and onions.

Universally, I believe that tomatoes are one of the best sellers.

I know a couple that sell at various farmer's markets. Seasonally, they sell a lot of tomatoes and peppers plus salad makings. A few years ago, the wife began taking cut flowers and flower transplants to see if they would sell. They now claim that the flowers are their #1 money maker! I have heard others say that their flowers do very well. Who'd of thought.

 
Steve Flanagan
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interesting...
 
John Polk
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Think "competition". If you go to a farmer's market with 50 booths, chances are that 45 of them are selling tomatoes.
How many are selling flowers?

If you are trying to sell tomatoes, you need to keep your price near theirs. Too high; you don't sell any.
Too low; a) you make little money, and b) you piss off the other vendors.
If you are the only one selling flowers, you can price them where you want.

(P.S. Flowers are a huge seller around Mother's Day...if your climate/greenhouse allows it)
 
pollinator
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I too have seen a surge of fresh flower selling at local farmers markets. I suppose it is a type of impulse buy and I'm guessing that before long everyone will be doing it and someone will have to come up with a new novelty item.

Currently I'm only seeing one or two booths selling fresh flowers.
 
Posts: 244
Location: Wales, UK
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Added value might be the way to go. A bloke called Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall (of River Cottage fame) made soups and sauces from tomatoes and made 3 times as much as a competitor selling just tomatoes (if I remember correctly) at a local market. If you can spot a added value niche that ain't being exploited it might be worth investigating.

Worth bearing in mind that adding value to food carries various bureaucratic and possibly financial implications depending on what state/country you're in.
 
steward
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I don't sell much but I've found that people like the odd things that most other people don't sell. Salad mixes with micro greens and edible flowers like pansies, nasturtium and pea shoots seem to be a hit. Baby beets with the smallest leaves still on. Very young, whole swiss chard and asian greens like pak choy and mizuna are cute. Popcorn still on the cob, especially the multicolored ears. yellow beets, white radishes, purple carrots, striped eggplant... basically anything that is a different color than what people expect. How about round carrots (paramex) round yellow cucumbers, purple or yellow cauliflowers, cone-shped cabbage (caraflex).

At a market people notice the ODD stuff and gravitate towards it because it sticks out in the crown of "the same old stuff".

I like to encourage people to try new things.
 
Posts: 104
Location: Rutledge, MO
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Greetings Permies,

I have a question for people who have experience with selling the produce of their farm:

Concerning the concept of adding value to a product: how does the need to accomodate USDA inspection standards factor in?

For the sake of argument, let's say I'm growing tomatoes and turning them into canned salsa, along the lines of what someone suggested earlier.

If I understand things correctly, I can legally sell raw, unadulterated tomatoes to a customer directly at a farmer's market, or to a restaurant supplier, etc., without much state inforced rigmarole.

However, if I process those tomatoes, some conditions now apply:
- My kitchen/production facilities have to meet certain standards and be inspected, as restaurants/factories are
- I have to provide samples of my product to be tested by USDA certified inspectors
- I have to accept a higher workload consisting of mountains of paperwork
- I have to submit to processing requirements that may destroy the quality of my product, (as in the case of pasteurizing raw milk, for instance)
- I have scores of established brands to compete with, some of which may actively seek to undermine my business in order to protect their own market share

In either case, you are accepting certain expenses in the areas of harvesting, distribution, etc.

Might it prove more profitable to deal with unaltered products and cut out the army of bean-counters and other middlemen?

If not more profitable, might it prove less risky?

Another argument in favor of growing flowers is that, since they are not meant to be consumed, I can freely turn them into potpourri, for example, without having to deal with the number of hassles involved in converting tomatoes into salsa.
 
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Location: Sunshine Coast BC
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John Polk wrote:I think that it varies regionally, and depends a lot on the clientele. The ethnic backgrounds of the buyers will have a lot to do with their diets, and the foods they buy. From what I have observed, exotics seem to do well, and I seldom see vendors selling bulk type foods, ie potatoes and onions.

Universally, I believe that tomatoes are one of the best sellers.

I know a couple that sell at various farmer's markets. Seasonally, they sell a lot of tomatoes and peppers plus salad makings. A few years ago, the wife began taking cut flowers and flower transplants to see if they would sell. They now claim that the flowers are their #1 money maker! I have heard others say that their flowers do very well. Who'd of thought.



A good friend of mine told me a story about his grandfather during the 'great' (vide: we aint seen nuttin yet!) Depression. He converted his families 1 acre city lot (Stony Creek ON) from veggies to flowers and survived quite nicely. Why? When things get bad, people will still pay to have a splash of beauty displayed to remind them of better times before and hope for better times tomorrow.
 
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Collin Vickers wrote:Greetings Permies,

I have a question for people who have experience with selling the produce of their farm:

Concerning the concept of adding value to a product: how does the need to accomodate USDA inspection standards factor in?

For the sake of argument, let's say I'm growing tomatoes and turning them into canned salsa, along the lines of what someone suggested earlier.

If I understand things correctly, I can legally sell raw, unadulterated tomatoes to a customer directly at a farmer's market, or to a restaurant supplier, etc., without much state inforced rigmarole.

However, if I process those tomatoes, some conditions now apply:
- My kitchen/production facilities have to meet certain standards and be inspected, as restaurants/factories are
- I have to provide samples of my product to be tested by USDA certified inspectors
- I have to accept a higher workload consisting of mountains of paperwork
- I have to submit to processing requirements that may destroy the quality of my product, (as in the case of pasteurizing raw milk, for instance)
- I have scores of established brands to compete with, some of which may actively seek to undermine my business in order to protect their own market share

In either case, you are accepting certain expenses in the areas of harvesting, distribution, etc.

Might it prove more profitable to deal with unaltered products and cut out the army of bean-counters and other middlemen?

If not more profitable, might it prove less risky?

Another argument in favor of growing flowers is that, since they are not meant to be consumed, I can freely turn them into potpourri, for example, without having to deal with the number of hassles involved in converting tomatoes into salsa.



I was googling commercial kitchens to answer some of your concerns about the regulations and discovered there is a very good looking one not 5 miles from my home.

http://www.rockinghamkitchen.org/

$15 / hour is a great rate for the freedom to produce and sell your products. Maybe I'll have to come up with some ideas.....

Look for something like this near you. As always your location will determine the gory details.
 
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I know this is an old thread but other concerns are insurance and permits. If you give out samples of your processed food, then you may be required to have a license to serve food. Regulations vary depending on the state and county.
 
John Polk
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Yeah. I know a lady who would slice some tomatoes, and cut some melons for people to sample.
She was told to stop that, as these were now processed foods. Her permit did not allow processed foods.

Ridiculous, yes. But she had to comply.
The good news is that her cherry tomato sales sky rocketed. She could give samples without processing.

 
Craig Dobbson
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John Polk wrote:Yeah. I know a lady who would slice some tomatoes, and cut some melons for people to sample.
She was told to stop that, as these were now processed foods. Her permit did not allow processed foods.

Ridiculous, yes. But she had to comply.
The good news is that her cherry tomato sales sky rocketed. She could give samples without processing.



I wonder if she could get around that by placing a knife at her stand and allow customers to cut off pieces of a "donated" melon?

or

Could she buy a melon from herself and share it with others? Certainly nobody could be expected to eat a whole melon at once... it seems only proper to share some. Right?

Sometimes people come up with clever "technical" ways to get out of the way of silly rules. this seems like a good place for that type of thinking.
 
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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Flowers in the greenhouse for Feb 14 seems like a wonderful idea. you make 1/2 your income in just that one week. After which you only have to sell micro greens, which have less blemish and pest due to only being in the wild for a short period of time.
 
Rion Mather
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Craig, the problem is that if you want to expand the business and allow it to grow then you need to keep on the good side of the inspectors. In addition, most vendors are larger farms that have multiple products to sell so following the regulations is a must. I have a friend that clears several thousand dollars a month through his small processed food business so in the long run all the red tape is worth it.
 
Craig Dobbson
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Rion Mather wrote:Craig, the problem is that if you want to expand the business and allow it to grow then you need to keep on the good side of the inspectors. In addition, most vendors are larger farms that have multiple products to sell so following the regulations is a must. I have a friend that clears several thousand dollars a month through his small processed food business so in the long run all the red tape is worth it.



I agree with that. All I'm saying is that if the difference between processed and unprocessed is weather or not a fruit has to be cut (sized) to fit in a human mouth, then certainly there has to be some way around the technicalities that cause a silly law like that. If you're selling a lot of truly "processed" foods then by all means, get the license. That makes perfect sense to me. But if the reason a farmer's fresh melon sales suffer is because they aren't the same size as a tomato, then clearly something is wrong.

Either the law could be revised or bite sized melons, squashes and the like should be bred. Can you imagine that? Ha!

 
John Polk
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I believe that giving away samples is very important if you have a superior product.

We once went to a farmer's market, and one vendor had lots of corn. He had a bunch of it cut in about 3" pieces, and handed them out to passer-bys. As soon as we ate our samples, our family bought 8 ears (family of 4). By the time we were ready to leave the market, (we only had 4 ears left), we decided to go get another 8 ears...he was sold out! His free samples had convinced enough buyers to buy his corn. He probably sold more ears that day than the local supermarket did. People will buy it if it is superior to what they find elsewhere.
 
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