Jan 252017
 

 

farmers market table selling

Selling at Farmers’ Markets can be fun and slightly addictive. The people are great and they usually have something in common, a love of gardening, or at least the fresh results from gardening.

When thinking about selling at a farmers’ market, do not feel like you have to be kept in the box of plants and fresh produce. Check with the rules of your market first, but there are many other related items you could sell.

1. Hanging gutter garden

2. Mason Jar Solar Light –   Great use for jars that you would no longer can in

3. Recycled pallet planters

4. Wind chimes – you can change these up by adjusting the decorations on top

 

What are some other items you could think of making? Are there places, beyond your Farmer’s Market, where you sell?

Feb 112016
 

produce auction collage

This post is part of a series about produce auctions across the USA.  While this is not a comprehensive list, I have tried to include auctions about which I can find information.  If you know of any others, feel free to leave a note in the comments section.

New Jersey is called The Garden State for a reason, though it originally had little to do with gardening.  Coming in as one of the smaller states in the Union, there are still 5 different climates found within its borders.

There are currently 2 produce auctions found within New Jersey’s borders:

Vineland Produce Auction

1088 N Main Road

Vineland, New Jersey 08360
Phone: 856-691-0721
Fax: 856-794-2301

Email: info@vinelandproduce.com

Website: www.vinelandproduce.com

Open mid-April through late November. Auction are held Monday – Saturday at 10:45 a.m.

Tri-County Cooperative Auction Market
619 Route 33 West
Hightstown, NJ 08520
Phone: 609-448-0193

Email: Bill@tricountycoop.net

Website:

Auctions held Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays starting at 5:30 p.m.  Call to check for the opening of the auction season

There used to be a third auction, Swedesboro Auction, though I was having trouble finding detailed information. When I could not find any more information than the basics, I called the phone number listed.  Unfortunantly it had been disconnected.  So the searching continued.

The results?  The Swedesboro Auction is no longer in existence.  Instead the Former Swedesboro Auction property to be preserved as open space.

The acquisition of the Swedesboro Auction property completes an eight-year effort to save not only the last significant piece of open space in Swedesboro, but also an important part of our history that will be preserved to remind people of the important role agriculture played in Swedesboro’s past.”  -County Freeholder Robert Damminger

Having spent time on the East Coast, I know that open space can be very limited.  While I am glad to see that this will not become another developed area, I am sad at the loss of a market for both sellers and buyers.

The Landisville Produce Auction was another name I came across.  This one was a bit harder to find, as I believe the name officially is the Landisville Produce CoOp and there are no live auctions held.  An article on the Press Of Atlantic City website from 2013 gave more information.  It turns out that the Landisville Produce Auction may be the oldest in the country.  The combination of history and gardening always catches my attention.

Felix Donato owner of Landisville Produce Cooperative, the oldest agricultural coop in the nation
Feb 042016
 

produce auction collage

This post is part of a series about produce auctions across the USA.  While this is not a comprehensive list, I have tried to include auctions about which I can find information.  If you know of any others, feel free to leave a note in the comments section.

New York State currently has 6 produce auction sites across the state.  Most are held on Tuesdays and Fridays, though some also are held on Mondays.  You will want to check their times and days before heading out, especially early and late in the season.

Finger Lake Times wrote an article in 2013 about the Seneca Produce Auction.  It was nice to hear from those who bought and sold at this auction, as well as those who help run it.

Often we hear from the buyers at an auction, about worries concerning available produce.  Here is a look from A Farmer’s Perspective: The Talk at the Produce Auction.

Cornell University’s Extension Office has a pdf available showing the locations of produce auctions in the state of New York.  Their map may give you a better idea where the closest produce auction would be for you.

Chautauqua Produce Auction
7844 Rt. 474, Clymer, New York 14724
Phone: (716) 355-6500 or (716) 355-6391
Time: Tues. & Fri. at 10:00 am
Email: nwesterberg@stny.rr.com
Website: www.chautauquaproduceauction.com

Finger Lakes Produce Auction
3691 Route 14A, Penn Yan, New York 14527
Phone: (315) 531-8446
Time: Mon. at 10:00 am, Wed. & Fri. at 9:00 am
Website: www.fingerlakesproduceauction.com

Finger Lakes Produce Auction’s Facebook page

Genesee Valley Produce Auction
8855 Country Road 3, P.O. Box 163, Centerville, NY 14029
Phone: (585) 567-8640 (auction days from 8:30 am)
Phone: (585) 567-4312 (8-8:30 am all other days)
Time: Tues. & Fri. at 10:00 am

Mohawk Valley Produce Auction
840 Fordsbush Road
Fort Plain, New York 13339
Phone: (518) 568-3579
Time: Tues. and Fri. at 10:00 am

Orleans Produce Auction
12590 Ridge Rd., Albion, NY 14411
Phone: (585) 798-5466
Time: Mon. at 11:00 am, Tues. & Fri. at 10:00 am

Website: www.bontragerauction.com/orleans-produce-auction

Seneca Produce Auction
2033 Yerkes Road, Romulus, NY 14541
Phone: (607) 869-5470
Time: Tues. at 10:00 am, Fri. at 10:00 am

Seneca Produce Auction’s Facebook page

Jun 282012
 

Note: For this post I will write the first part in the singular form, as I think going between “I” and “we” will be confusing.  However, this has been a joint effort between my friend and I.  It isn’t that I’m taking all the credit for the work and such.  I just don’t want to confuse all my readers. 

I talked about how I started going to the produce auction and getting produce for my family at mostly wholesale prices.  One thing I quickly realized is that I was able to get much more than my family was able to eat.

For example:

24 count box of cucumbers.  My family could probably use enough to warrant buying this, even given the loss of a few of them.  However, they usually sold them is stacks of 3 or 4. So, 72 or 96 cucumbers were just a bit more than we could use before they started going bad.  (It would have been a great deal if everyone in the household had been willing to eat a cucumber or two with all 3 meals for two weeks and cucumbers only for lunch.  That actually would have lowered the grocery bill considerably.  However,  I think I would have had a mutiny on my hands.)

There were a few solutions.

  1. Find someone at the auction willing to sell you a box from a stack they just bought.  Sometimes this worked, but not always.  It helps if you know the person or have formed some kind of relationship with them.  If it is another individual there to buy for themselves then they may sell it to you.  If it is someone buying for their store, or several stores, then you will probably be out of luck.
  2. Take a friend or two along.  Not only would you be able to split the price you end up paying at the end of the day.  Also, neither of you will end up paying for stuff that will only go bad before you can get to it.  That is not a way to save money.
  3. Give it away.  There were several times when I took boxes of stuff to church, let everyone know it was there, and told them all that I really didn’t want to take it home with me.  I even went as far as handing out plastics grocery sacks so they could carry more.
  4. Sell it.  Check with your appropriate local offices before setting something up.  The last thing you want is for them to come take down your set-up because it is not allowed to be there.  Or, worse perhaps, send you a fine for not having the appropriate permit.

I had so much extra produce that it was going bad before I could use it.  I tried to give it away at church, but there are only so many green peppers people need.  I decided to put out a table with my extra produce and offer it to those passing by.  Once my garden, and my friend’s, starting producing more we were able to add items that were more than our families needed.  As time has gone by, I’ve also gotten better at starting seeds and was able to put out some of my own garden plant seedlings this year.

There are several ways to do a produce stand.  You need to figure out what works for you.

  1. Will your stand stay out all the time or is it something you will put out in the morning and bring in at night?
  2. Will you be close by to help everyone who stops by or make it more of a self-serve setup?
  3. Is this something you want to do at your home or elsewhere?
  4. How about going to farmers’ markets?
  5. Do you want to do it all season or just during specific produce’s harvest times (watermelons, tomatoes, corn, etc.)?
  6. Are you going to offer things besides produce?  Plants, artwork for the yard, things to go in the garden (trellises, pots, compost, etc.)

I decided that didn’t really fit my lifestyle to be outside with the stand all day, every day, so I chose to do more of a self-service setup. Others have done this too, which is where I got the idea that it was possible.  Every morning I put out the stand, put out a money container (I do empty this during the day if I see someone stop by with money or if I notice items gone), add price signs, then go about my day.  Just before dark, or whenever is the best time of me, the stand gets brought back up to the house.  I think if the house was further from where I have the stand, putting it on a wagon would work well.  If I wasn’t able to actually see the stand, this would make me more nervous.  However, because it is right in front of my  house, I feel I am better able to use this method.

Farmers’ Markets are something I tried for a few years.  It was fun but ended up not being worth it for me. (Read more here and here.)  Perhaps if there weren’t little ones I had to keep an eye on while doing it, this would be a different story.

I have not added extras to the stand, as in non-produce/plant items.  I thought about doing this at the Farmers’ Market this year, but then opted to not do the market at all.  I hope to one day have enough worms, for composting, to sell.  At this time, I am just trying to keep them alive.  They are.  I checked just yesterday.

Now, to follow a rabbit trail.

There is always a point or two during the season that I start to question my sanity in this.  Then something happens and I get renewed energy to keep going.

There was one time each of the past two summers where it was obvious someone had stopped by, yet no money was in the box.  We had not been having problems with this, so it was always a big blow to us.  More so because it wasn’t just a quarter or two.  Usually it was several dollars worth of stuff.  However, we would keep putting the stand out and just hope it didn’t happen again.  We would put it out a bit later in the mornings and bring it in earlier in the evenings, all while keeping a closer eye on it.

A few days later, someone would be knocking on my door; usually an older lady.  “I stopped by your stand a few days ago and got some produce.  I didn’t have enough money on me and am from out of town.  So I came by today to give you the rest of it.  Here you go.”  It would have been so easy for the person to not have stopped back by.  My faith in our community was renewed.

Or, the latest example.  This happened this past week, actually.  Items on the stand had not been selling.  I was tired of putting it out and bringing it in with no results.  Nothing.  “Why do I keep doing this?  Perhaps I’m just not meant to do it this year?”  Yup.  The “Oh woe is me” was going full blast in my head.  Then a note was left in the money box.  “beets?”  was all it said.  Now, if you remember a few weeks back was also when I had been canning up all the beets.  All 7 pecks.   It was actually put into the box on the last day of canning … when I had the last peck’s worth sitting in the pot, with no water over them yet.  The person had not come up to the door to ask.  I didn’t see it till after I started cooking the beets.

I was able to get beets a few days later and added the sign to the table.  “We have BEETS.  Ask inside by knocking on the door.”  Due to the heat, beets would not last more than a few hours outside without becoming icky and inedible.  One day.  Two days. (It was at this point I realized how silly the wording sounded, so I crossed off the last half.)  Three days went by with nothing.  Then another note was left in the box.  “I REALLY want beets.  I’ll be back tomorrow between 9 and 10 to see.  Thanks.”  Again, this customer had not come to the door, otherwise I could have told them I had beets on my kitchen counter.  I was starting to get a bit annoyed.

The next morning, I was sitting on my porch talking to my friend and getting ready to put out the stand.  A van slowed down as it approached my house.  It was the customer who was wanting the beets.  We took them down, talked to her and got to know her a bit.  Turns out, she has arthritis and can no longer garden like she used to.

“This stand is a blessing.  Thank you all so much for doing this.  I love to come by and see what produce you have.  You both are a God send.  When I get up in the mornings to take my pain medicine I always say a prayer for you and this stand. Thank you.”

That is when I realized my attitude had been completely wrong and self-centered.  There were other things going on in life and I let that affect my attitude about this situation.  Instead of being annoyed, I came away refreshed from the encounter and ready to take on the day.

I will keep the stand going as I have come to realize something about my produce stand.  There is more to it than me making money.  My neighbors are also being blessed by it.  Yes, I could try to charge a lot more in the hopes of selling and making a larger profit.  That is not why I originally started it and not why I keep it going.  Yes, it is nice to get money back from it.  No, I do not plan on getting rich.  It is a way to make a little extra money, in addition to paying for the items from the auction.  However, it is also a way to offer fresh produce to those around us that is cheaper than the stores, usually, and fresher.  We may not have the best selection around, but try to keep what we do have fresh and affordable.  This is why I keep doing it.

Feb 212012
 

 

In a previous posts (here) the idea of selling items other than produce was talked about.  Now this could be in addition to or instead of produce.  It really depends on your market.  Sometimes you do not know what will fill a void till you try it.

Here are 50 ideas for adding value to your produce or expanding what you offer.

  1. Transplants – these could be of flowers or garden plants.  This would be a good idea for spring, before you actually have any produce to sell.
  2. Baked goods – check your local laws on this.
  3. Canned goods – check your local laws on this.
  4. Fresh food or drinks – check your local laws on this.  It could even be as simple as some premade sandwiches.
  5. Eggs
  6. Maple syrup or honey
  7. Basket of related produce – for example: ingredients to make salsa plus the recipe to do so.  Or you could do chutney, jam, flavored vinegars/oil, pickles, or tomato sauce themes.
  8. Pot holders
  9. Cloth shopping bags
  10. Cloth napkins
  11. Table clothes or table runners
  12. Embellished towels or hand towels for the kitchen
  13. Aprons
  14. Art work – paintings, photos, shadow boxes
  15. Lawn/yard ornaments
  16. Wind chimes
  17. Sun catchers
  18. Decorated pots – ones you have painted or embellished yourself
  19. Books related to what you are selling or gardening books in general
  20. Play music while sitting there – do not forget to leave your instrument case open. Not a good idea if there is an official band, though. Of course, make sure those in charge are okay with you playing and that you are actually good.
  21. Natural beauty items – body washes, soap, hand soap, lotions, etc.
  22. Blankets, quilts, afghans
  23. Worms for composting
  24. Bins already put together for vermiculture
  25. Worm castings
  26. Worm casting tea bags
  27. Compost bins
  28. Games – card games or board games.  Even better if they are garden/agriculture related.
  29. Bleacher cushions – for ball games
  30. Clothes pin bags – for use on your laundry line
  31. Fresh cut flowers
  32. Jewelry
  33. Bird or bat boxes
  34. Bird bath
  35. Bird feeder
  36. Mosaic tile garden tables or wall decor
  37. Garden bench
  38. Porch swings or cushions
  39. Cushions for kneeling on while working outside
  40. Potting bench
  41. Picnic tables – make sure you have the ability to transport these
  42. Rain barrels
  43. Trellises for flowers or plants to climb
  44. Knitted or crocheted items – hats, scarfs, toys
  45. Yarn – either homemade or dyed
  46. Candles
  47. Items with themed decor – such as pens with flowers on top, which are then wrapped in florist tape. Use your imagination
  48. Kid’s activity – face painting, make a craft while the parents shop, etc.
  49. Wooden games – ones played on porches, such as checkers
  50. Paper – make paper with items added in.  Items such as flower petals, grass, seeds, etc.
Feb 142012
 

Perception, or expectations, and reality are not always the same thing.  Rarely are they the same thing.  In this case I am talking about your perception of what it will be like being a vendor at a Farmer’s Market versus the reality.

Perception – it will not take long to get things together, get there, and unload.  We can do all the logistical planning the day of Market and wait till an hour before to load and unload.  After all, it is only a few blocks away.

Reality – “What?!? It is 10 minutes till the Market opens and we are not quite ready to go?  Okay, you go and I will finish up here.  I will bring all the extras and the large items.  We just need to have something set up for the first time.”

Perception – it is only a few hours long.  We do not need snacks or drinks.

Reality – all that talking makes you thirsty.

Perception – taking a toddler who has never been a similar situation is a great idea because it will teach them lessons about entrepreneurship.

Reality – “Don’t eat the money!”, “The produce is not a toy”, “No, you can not have the neighboring stand’s candy/jams/cinnamon rolls or the ice cream/soda/sandwich from the store across the street.  We have snacks and lunch in our cooler.”

Perception – toddler in question will bring in people with their adorable smile.

Reality – “Where did Little Jimmy go?  Who is he talking to?”, “Don’t play so close to the street”, “Watch out for the band’s speaker and electrical cords … don’t touch their sound board!”  All the while your customers are wanting  your attention to ask questions and actually buy produce.

Now, in all honesty, this is not a toddler who has been with me since birth.  That toddler would have been taken from birth to situations like this.  I talked with one mom, who also goes to markets, about her experience.  Her experience sounded a lot like what I would have done.  She said she started off when her 1st was little by putting up a little play yard behind her stand.  As the kid got older she knew what was expected and the mom did not have to worry about her very much. (Note: that is not an affiliate link, in case you are wonder.  I just linked an item similar to what I was talking about.)  That is the reality I was hoping for.  Maybe next year or the year after.

Perception – people will love the baskets decorated with seasonal/holiday decor.

Reality – “That basket looks really cute” as the potential customer walks by.

Perception – We had a lot of strawberries.

Reality – We were out of strawberries before the market was technically even open.  Unfortunately we did not have more as the rest had already been turned into jam.

 

Your perceptions/expectations and reality may be different than mine.  You have a unique set of customers and variables where you are.  However, there will always be a learning curve.  Just because things work well one year, does not mean they will work well the following year.

Looking back I can laugh at some of the things I used to think.  Really?  No water, yet it was about 4 hours of talking.  Hmm, yeah.  Care to share any ‘words of wisdom’ you have learned?