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Old August 5, 2016   #1
pmcgrady
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Default Re thinking Farmers Markets

Recently I tried my hand at selling tomatoes at a local farmers market, and observed a few things... I had a pretty good assortment of tomatoes:
KBX
Orange Slice
Marianna's Peace
George Detsikes
Momotaro
Olpalka
Big Beef
Lucid Gem
Big mama
Yacqui
Mushroom Basket
Goldmans Italian American
Big assortment of cherry tomatoes
Etc.
The going rate with other vendors was $1.50/# so that's what I set my price at.
I spent 4 1/2 hours there and sold a grand total of about $35, some of the sales were
spaghetti squash, eggplant, and cucumbers. People wanted red baseball tomatoes, they didn't care about taste, just looks...
After about 2 hours there, a truck loaded with huge cantaloupe and watermelons pulled up next to me and set up shop. They were grown south of here in Beardstown Illinois.
The lady running the stand said this was the best melon crop in over 20 years, the cantaloupes were bigger than basketballs. I bought one for $6 it was a SuperStar variety and was probably one of the best cantaloupes I have ever eaten...
She sold around $500 worth of melons in a couple hours... People walked right past my
tomatoes to get melons. I'm not going to waste my time going there Saturday... I'm planting less tomatoes next year and more cantaloupe, melons, and squash. I made a deal with a high end meat market that will buy my tomatoes for $1.50/# and resell at $2.50 - $3.00/#, and I don't have to sit out in the heat trying to sell them to the uneducated public. Lessons learned...
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Old August 5, 2016   #2
clkingtx
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I have gone to the farmers market here a couple of times lately, and the only tomatoes there are bland,-ish hybrids. There is only 1 guy who seems very knowledgeable about what he sells. He will have Cherokee Purple in the fall, he says. That is the extent of the heirlooms available here. I would be so thrilled to find someone with heirlooms like you have here! The tomatoes here are $3-$4 per pound. I would be glad to pay that for a selection like yours!

Since your customer base would be very different from those that only want red baseball's, maybe you could advertise on craigslist, possibly attract the attention of those who want good flavor?
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Old August 5, 2016   #3
Hellmanns
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Cantaloupe is the worst basket you ever put your eggs in! A good melon year is about 1in 4.

On tomatoes.. You think people don't care about taste? That's wrong. They do care about taste, you just have to have good flavored varieties that are perfect. Then customers will flock to you!
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Old August 5, 2016   #4
Nematode
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If you can, have a sample plate out with toothpicks and a salt shaker. Samples sell.
Raise your prices $.50, let them know you have something special.
Do some merchandising, cute signs, flavor and texture descriptions, nice display, anything to stand out in a good way.
Did I say samples?
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Old August 5, 2016   #5
pmcgrady
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hellmanns View Post
Cantaloupe is the worst basket you ever put your eggs in! A good melon year is about 1in 4.

On tomatoes.. You think people don't care about taste? That's wrong. They do care about taste, you just have to have good flavored varieties that are perfect. Then customers will flock to you!
I'm really impressed with the flavor of Lucid Gem, but I didn't sell even one of them even though I promoted them... People just didn't like the color I guess. I had the best looking paste tomatoes there (San Marzano, Olpalka, Big Mama) didn't sell one...
I had the only orange/yellow tomatoes at the market only 2 people bought some. I did sell some Momotaro (red baseballs) though...
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Old August 5, 2016   #6
pmcgrady
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nematode View Post
If you can, have a sample plate out with toothpicks and a salt shaker. Samples sell.
Raise your prices $.50, let them know you have something special.
Do some merchandising, cute signs, flavor and texture descriptions, nice display, anything to stand out in a good way.
Did I say samples?
Sounds like some good advice! I do need to stand out from the other vendors.
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Old August 5, 2016   #7
pmcgrady
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A vendor that buys his produce from the Amish and resells was run out of the farmers market because he's a reseller, set up shop on the other side of town is charging $2.50/# for tomatoes not sure how many he's selling though. May need to setup by him.
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Old August 5, 2016   #8
My Foot Smells
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I have a relationship with the local bar, haha, who serves food. I give her tomatoes and get a free meal and drink a few pints of stella artois off the tap in exchange. However, that is in years of excess, which this year is not. Know a couple of ppl that do grow for high end resturants here, but pay is low, but perks are high. A thought. as most do like the distinction and flavor of the 'loom (the joint I deliver uses to slap a red slice on hamburger). There are some that take pre-season orders from vendors and grow to specs... occasionally I will go to the local pizza joint with my own tom and have them use for pizza margherita (YUMMY!!).

Do you only do cash sales or take credit. I never have any green on me, only plastic; then you got the CC use fee, tent fee, etc...

I deal with joey pub 50 hours a week, you could not pay me enough to deal on my day off. I would be willing to offer fruit, but I'm not going to be the tomato pusher/barker dealing with all the yoohoo's in this world. I'm at a place in my life, I'm not really interested in convincing anybody of nothing. Just minding my own...

good luck
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Old August 5, 2016   #9
Hellmanns
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If you are going to make it in this business, you have to grow what the customers want. I started the same way trying to force my beliefs on others. It didn't work, never will. I regrouped then moved on to profit.
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Old August 5, 2016   #10
Nematode
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It also takes time.
If you are the new vendor, it will take time to get a following.
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Old August 5, 2016   #11
Nematode
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Our first few markets we averaged under $100. Totally not worth.it.
When we quit we were averaging over $400/ market.
Still not worth it.
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Old August 5, 2016   #12
Gerardo
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Black tomatoes seem to captivate people during taste tests.
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Old August 5, 2016   #13
Worth1
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hellmanns View Post
If you are going to make it in this business, you have to grow what the customers want. I started the same way trying to force my beliefs on others. It didn't work, never will. I regrouped then moved on to profit.

So true.
I had to tell this to a gun shop owner to help him out, but by the time he realized it it was too late.
Black plastic with high cap magazines at a cheap price nobody wants John Wayne cowboy guns.
If I were going to sell tomatoes here I would sell red and pink round tomatoes.

Just go to a grocery store and look at what people are buying.
For the most part they are buying medium sized red round tomatoes.
Latinos are buying the Roma tomatoes.
If you go into Austin where the Neo Hippies live it is different.
Tomatoes are perishable they have to move or you lose.
Or you can take them home make salsa go back next week and sell that.
But if it isn't red people wont buy it.
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Old August 5, 2016   #14
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By the way the best way to get someone to try something is to tell them they wouldn't like it or they dont have the sophistication to like it.
Works almost every time.

Worth.
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Old August 5, 2016   #15
Hellmanns
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Worth1 View Post
So true.
I had to tell this to a gun shop owner to help him out, but by the time he realized it it was too late.
Black plastic with high cap magazines at a cheap price nobody wants John Wayne cowboy guns.
If I were going to sell tomatoes here I would sell red and pink round tomatoes.

Just go to a grocery store and look at what people are buying.
For the most part they are buying medium sized red round tomatoes.
Latinos are buying the Roma tomatoes.
If you go into Austin where the Neo Hippies live it is different.
Tomatoes are perishable they have to move or you lose.
Or you can take them home make salsa go back next week and sell that.
But if it isn't red people wont buy it.
Worth
99% of the growers here grow a combination of rock hard tasteless commercial hybrids. Round and red! I still grow round and red, but mine have taste and juice. All the customers know is my round red tomatoes taste better, so they keep coming back.
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