Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Seed Addicts Anonymous and getting rich at the Farmers Market

Seed Addicts Anonymous...I should join.  I have almost finished my seed lists.  Yes, lists, plural.  I have a list for each seed catalog, and there are...umm...four or five that I'm actually ordering from.  I sit down with a notebook and a huge pile of seed catalogs, find something I like, then cross-reference that selection with the other catalogs, looking for the best deals and more information on certain selections.  I'm ordering from a couple of new places this year (not new companies, just ones I've never ordered from before), and I hope that works out well.

I'm getting frustrated with the Baker Creek catalog.  Most seed catalogs have details about the plants:  zone info; days from seed to harvest; determinate or indeterminate, etc.  Baker Creek has wonderful stories about walking along a dusty path and finding this amazing fruit, but that doesn't tell me if I can grow it here.

I'm looking forward to this year's Farmers Market.  If I can make enough money to cover what I've spent on seed, I think I'll be doing well.  You know, that brings to mind something I've read in many homesteading books: selling extra produce at roadside stands and the like.

A lot of those books lead one to believe that you can make a decent amount of money selling at markets.  That really depends on your location and how much you have to sell.  If you are near enough to a big city, you may make a decent market wage, provided you have enough produce to make it worth your while.  I could, in theory, drive to Cleveland or Columbus and do the market there.  It's a pretty big investment, since a season at those markets can run over $500 in stall fees, where our local market costs a mere $15 a year.  Also, some of the larger markets require a vendors license, health inspections, etc, each of which comes with its own fees.

Personally, I prefer to keep it local.  I'm sure, even in the big cities a hundred miles from home, compared to major grocers my produce would be local.  But here in our small village, when asked if I'm local, I can proudly say, "Grown less than two and a half miles from where you are standing."

Another thing that most books don't point out is that many people visit farmers markets for bargains.  They don't realize how much work goes into growing, harvesting, prepping for market, hauling, setting up, etc.  They seem to think that our produce should not only be fresh from the garden that very morning, it should be cheaper than, say, Walmart.  Most of the time, it actually is.  But I did hear one lady complaining about paying 75 cents for a huge, lovely red pepper, when she could get it for that price at Walmart.  Oy.  It wasn't my pepper, in case you were wondering, but still..sad.

When it comes to selling produce at the market, there's a lot of competition.  It's hard to get a good price out of something when every other table at the market has the exact same thing.  My best sellers have been those things that no one else grows - unusual varieties of squash, tomatoes, etc.

As for setting up a roadside table near your homestead...well, most homesteads are too far from major thoroughfares.   Sometimes there are laws against doing that, anyway, so you'd have to check for your area.

Either way, I've rarely heard anyone say they made a killing at the Farmers Market.  I did hear about one lady that made quite a bit by purchasing produce at auction and hauling it to one of the bigger markets.  How does that make it local?  I feel it's a bit fraudulent, when people think they are buying something you grew, but you are just the middle man.  Turns out I'm not the only one that feels that way.  Many of the markets are doing garden inspections to verify that you grow what you sell.  I realize that sounds a bit overboard, but when you have people showing up at market, complaining about a sore back from picking beans, and then selling beans they bought at auction, well, you just have to do what you have to do.  Dishonest people make life harder for the rest of us.

Anyway, when it comes to the market, it's hard work, and you won't walk away with a lot of money, but you'll meet interesting people, learn a few things, and have fun.

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