August 24, 2011

Last Farmer's Market of the Year

I participated in my last farmer's market weekend for the season. The market continues through August, but I foresee the next few weekends being jam packed with canning spaghetti sauce and salsa, traveling, and preparation for the upcoming semester.

I had lots of tomatoes for sale at the market. I sold heirloom tomatoes by the piece and small bags of mixed cherry tomatoes.

Just like last year, the heirloom tomatoes didn't go over very well with the customer base in my area. Many people have never seen a non-red tomato. I actually heard a women walk by and say in a somewhat snide way "Those are tomatoes? They don't look right." Then again, I also heard people pronouncing the word 'kohlrabi' as 'kohl-rabbi' (yes, like the Jewish word). There was also an amusing women wandering the booths shouting out "Does anyone have pomodoro tomatoes? I want to make marinara sauce and I need pomodoro tomatoes." I couldn't bring myself to explain to her that 'pomodoro'  is Italian for 'tomato' and that she was basically asking for 'tomato tomatoes'. I did however, explain that marinara sauce can be made with any kind of tomato (and of course, she proceeded to buy some tomatoes from the Amish vendors instead of from me).

I continue to secretly hate the Amish vendors...I came home with probably 2/3 of the tomatoes I took with me. However, they are currently living out their legacy in a batch of spaghetti sauce.

There were a few things that went over pretty well that surprised me. I sold most of the beets I took as well as all of the edamame (almost every single customer was curious about them). I also sold every single kohlrabi I took, which was almost shocking. I didn't sell a single bunch of beet greens, sage, or tarragon, the swiss chard did not go over well, nor did the sprouts (which always did well last year). The farmer's market is a fickle thing. I don't understand people's choices (my stuff was just as good as the darn Amish people's and my prices were the same), their inability to do simple math, and their lack of food education, but I knew that from last year


  1. I know it isn't a consolation, but I think you grew a tasty variety of tomatoes. Did you have signs up that educated your audience about the tomato and which could be used for what purpose? Maybe you could sell sauce this weekend instead of the fruit? It's a genius idea to sell the beet greens separate from the beets. I don't go to our local farmer's market too often because I grow a lot myself. When I do go, I try to buy something from every vendor. Sometimes it's hard to find something to buy, when they aren't an organic grower. Is there a perception in your area that the Amish need more help or that their veg is somehow better?

  2. I have the same problem as you. I love to go to other farmer's markets, but it's really hard for me to find things to buy that I'm not already growing myself. I usually end up buying bread, meat, or honey.

    I think people see the Amish vendors and assume that they are expert growers (which they are) and that their product will be superior. However, sometimes the smaller growers have a better/more unusual selection, similar quality, and/or better prices. Many customers head straight for the Amish booth before even checking out the other vendors. It's really frustrating seeing this happen when you know your product is just as good and priced the same.

  3. Wow - that's such a shourt season. Farmers' Markets are year round here but so are earthquakes.

  4. A great post Daedre! I always enjoy the challenge of figuring out why somethings go at one market and then will not sell at another. I usually blame the weather if I can't figure it out :) It looks like you grow good quality heirlooms too so it's a shame they didn't sell liked you would have hoped.

  5. Our growing season is pretty short here in Michigan. Other markets in my city start earlier and end later, but the one I do is only June through August.

  6. As a mid-Western girl who's now in New England I can sympathize with the frustration on lack of food knowledge. I thought I was pretty good, until I moved here. A lot of smaller farmers grown Asian vegetables because they do well in our soil and climate, so I had to start learning all over! I'm sure they were frustrated with me too.

  7. Maybe next year you could sacrifice a few of your non-red tomatoes, and offer free bite-sized samples.

  8. I would love to give free samples, but then there are liability issues (in the event that someone gets sick and they blame it on your free sample). My "farm" is not insured for that.

    Also, since my kitchen is not certified by the food safety department I cannot "process" any of my produce (which includes cutting tomatoes into smaller pieces).

    The rules are kind of crazy! I can sell whole lettuce leaves, but I cannot cut the leaves into smaller pieces to make salad mix. I can sell non-perishable processed foods (like jam or candy), but I can't sell perishable processed foods (like coleslaw mix).

  9. Is there a central group running the farmers market? Last time I went to the farmers market down here (in Austin), I got a free sample from a central tent. I didn't ask why or how, but maybe it'd be possible to donate a few tomatoes to remove liability from yourself.


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