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Old November 29, 2008   #16
cdevidal
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The post title also says, "selling to retail places," anyone have tips on that?
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Old November 29, 2008   #17
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The post title also says, "selling to retail places," anyone have tips on that?
Yes, I put that in the title and said above that I'd speak to it sometime.

The comments that I would have made about selling to chefs has been pretty well covered before I could get back to post re same.

And in the title I was referring to my many year sale of fruits to a large farm stand where of course conventional tomatoes were being raised and sold at the same time.

In this case the variety selection was mine alone and I had to start out with varieties that were primarily red or pink b'c the customers were not aware of the other differently colored ones. I would throw in from time to time some yellows, bicolors, whites, oranges and blacks.

Variety selection was based on taste b'c they were being sold primarily for taste alone. But firmness of fruit or lack of it was also a consideration re shelf life.

And it was up to me to deliver when I could, so no pressures as occurred with the chefs, some of whom thought picking in the rain and mud was not their problem but wanted the fruits anyway.

Glorious was the day when one chef said he wanted only German Red Strawberrys for every delivery, along with his beloved red and yellow pears, and I told him I had only four GRS plants and couldn't guarantee they'd be in future deliveries. He got nasty so I cut him off cold. I wasn't doing this for money and didn't need to deal with anyone with an attitude.

So, back to the retail large Farmstand.

Fruits were picked and gently washed and dried, and each fruit was labelled with a round white sticker. They were placed one layer deep in a standard size nursery tray and weighed , the trays were, as previously tared, do determine the poundage delivered.

It was up to me to stop by from time to time and remove any fruits that had sprung leaks, or gotten too soft, etc., and I'd subtract that poundage from the initial poundage in a notebook that was kept.

That was for the larger single fruits. One of the best sellers were pints with different colored cherry tomatoes, some all of one variety, some with my color combos.

I could always demand more money for the heirloom varieties than for the local standard varieties, even when the price of the local ones got down to the price of the heirlooms.

I made up an information sheet with every possible variety I intended to deliver and didn't put anything other than the color/shape/size and the history known for it, where available, and it ran several pages, was stapled, and xeroxed and copies left in a pile to be taken free. They were very popular and also useful.

From time to time the owners would post when I'd be there personally to discuss tomatoes with customers and I thorougly enjoyed those times interacting with the public.

Well I remember getting a call at home from a lady planning a dinner party and she had in mind a color scheme for the tomatoes she wanted and I was able to help her out.

But I didn't encourage personal calls with personal private requests.

Because the fruits were great sellers it was decided that I'd also sell plants. That wasn't so successful b'c, I think, of the type of customers there who didn't want to spend time growing their own plants since they knew I'd be selling the fruits at the same stand.

labor intensive to individually wash and label every fruit? Sure, but the result in terms of customer interest to know exactly what variety they had was worth it. They'd stand around the display and ask each other if they had tried this one or that one and lively chat ensued.

All this was before my book was published in 1999 and it would have been helpful to have that there, but I also posted pictures of various varieties in the display area taken from magazine pictures.

All in all I look back now and can really say that I preferred selling fruits to the farm stand more than I ever did dealing with the various chefs.

When I moved to my new location here in 1999 I sold fruits to two local chefs but I had retired b'c of two bad hips ( see the thread in the General Discussion area) and it was getting harder and harder for me to do what I used to with the tomato growing.

I think it was the third year that I was here that someone told the Glens Falls Poststar about me and that ended up with a large article about me and my tomatoes and that ended up with all sorts of organizations asking me to do talks and taste testings.

I also worked with the Cornell Cooperative extension in my new county, just as I had with the five county Cornell Coop Ext where I previously lived. The role there was to hold seminars for farmers looking for a new niche market.

Being a former teacher/researcher I loved doing talks and taste testings b'c I like to talk and I think one of the most valuable experiences was talking to the Master Gardeners in this area, in a formal meeting sense, as I had where I moved from.

The level of knowledge re heirlooms for the Master Gardeners was quite low and yet they were the ones that manned the phones at the Coop Ext, so education was part of my mission in terms of making heirlooms known more to the public.
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Old November 29, 2008   #18
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Carolyn, thanks so much for posting that story. It was truly fascinating. I can definitely see how satisfying it would be to not only turn people on to new and different varieties (to them) and have the opportunity to talk about them and their histories, origins and just their opinion on the different flavors. And chefs can be great customers from what I have been reading, and appreciative in their own right, but like you mentioned ...find one with an attitude and fa' get about it! That is one of the reasons I love working for myself. I am never disrespectful but if somebody is a jerk there is no boss over me telling me I have to take it! And working in the corporate world for two decades I had more than my share of 'grin and bear it' moments!

Thanks again for sharing and when you have the time please post some more of your stories and experiences!


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Old December 1, 2008   #19
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Carolyn, we're very blessed to have your valuable experience and help. I'm quite the "green tomato" myself but willing to listen and learn! In fact, your advice in the other thread about not desuckering may have swayed me.

I'll probably take your book of 100 heirlooms and base my restaurant sales off that as Bill "natural" suggested. I'll have to review everything you said above at some other time, but words cannot express how grateful that you guys are helping us out.
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Old December 1, 2008   #20
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CDEVIDAL,

Make sure you have have defined your sales goals for "restaurant sales" before making variety selections.

When you research any variety for your selection, don't forget to pay attention to the overall "productivity" factor. Also look at productivity as it relates to your climate. There are great tasting tomatoes that produce well, and some that do not produce well.

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Old December 2, 2008   #21
cdevidal
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I have looked all over for production guidelines but information like that is scarce. The only thing I can find is subjective judgments, e.g. "This tom produces well..." What if the grower isn't experienced, what if there was a disease in the grower's other plants, what if sun spots affected the planet Jupiter, what if, what if, what if...

Would Carolyn's book have more specifics?
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Old December 2, 2008   #22
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That's a hard one and something you might need to go to your local Extention for some info. Growing conditions from region to region would affect production. Also from year to year weather differences.

For me Black Krim is a must grow due to many people asking for it. But from year to year I just never know what I will get from it. Probably 3 out of 4 years it's only so-so for production. Then that 4th year it will be great.

In another thread here someone mentioned they didn't get much from their Marianna's Peace. For me it was loaded with huge tomatoes even when we frosted.

So I hate to say it but you will probably just have to go thru threads here and see what someone says about a variety you are thinking of growing. Then if it is something you really want to "plan on", figure getting only 1/2 what anyone says. That way you are allowing for EVERYTHING going wrong. If things go right, you will simply have more than you need. That's better than committing to something and then not being able to fulfill an order.

Just how I would do it.
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Old December 2, 2008   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cdevidal View Post
I have looked all over for production guidelines but information like that is scarce. The only thing I can find is subjective judgments, e.g. "This tom produces well..." What if the grower isn't experienced, what if there was a disease in the grower's other plants, what if sun spots affected the planet Jupiter, what if, what if, what if...

Would Carolyn's book have more specifics?
No, my book has no specifics re total poundage OR fruit numbers, which is what you seem to be after. For the varieties I discuss I just indicate yield as low, medium and high.

It's impossible to take results off the net for poundage OR fruit numbers b'c it can vary with the way in which the plants are grown, the amendments used, the weather in any particular season, any diseases that pop up, your seed source, and on and on.

The only way you're going to get a rough idea of yield, whether it be poundage or fruit numbers, is to trial lots of varieties, which I highly recommended in two threads now in this Forum.

And what you get one season doesn't necessarily predict what you'll get the next season.

But as you can see, many of us can and do work well to offer our tomatoes within those parameters.

You just can't be too scientific about it, if you know what I mean.
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Old December 3, 2008   #24
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Last year I picked twice a week from 120 plants and averaged about 160 pounds a week over a 15 week market season. They were OP indeterminates with a mix of sizes and seasons. After a while, as Carolyn was saying, you have a core group of varieties, and you try a few new ones each year.
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Old December 3, 2008   #25
cdevidal
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carolyn137 View Post
You just can't be too scientific about it, if you know what I mean.

I know what you mean, and I kinda expected an answer like that, which is probably why you don't see numbers anywhere.
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Old December 3, 2008   #26
cdevidal
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wi-sunflower View Post
So I hate to say it but you will probably just have to go thru threads here and see what someone says about a variety you are thinking of growing. Then if it is something you really want to "plan on", figure getting only 1/2 what anyone says. That way you are allowing for EVERYTHING going wrong. If things go right, you will simply have more than you need. That's better than committing to something and then not being able to fulfill an order.
You're on to something. My planning spreadsheet is set to 1/2 yield what people are saying; I am trying to see if this future career direction can be relied upon even when things go bad. Seems wise to me; that way, if I have a great year, woohoo! If I have a bad year, well, I'm not having to sell the farm.


Thanks all!
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Old December 7, 2008   #27
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While I completely agree that there can't be hard and fast rules of tomato variety productivity because of the variables, I do feel that sometimes there can be a loose, general consensus on production.

For example, Prudens Purple. I have raised this variety here in southern Indiana for several years. I have always had a decent crop. Sure I have had some years that were better than others but never what I would consider to be disappointing. And my (unscientific) impression of reading through the forums is that other growers often share the same experience. On the other hand I no longer grow Brandywine in my limited space garden. I have never been satisfied from a production stand point. And again my unscientific impression is that a lot of other growers share that feeling also.

Are there exceptions, sure. Do some varieties grow better in certain regions, sure. And under different conditions, sure.

But without actually saying that one will get an absolute amount of fruit every year I do think we might be able to establish that some varieties are generally more or less productive than others. This might be true only in a certain geographic area or might even be true more widely.

What do others think?
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Old December 7, 2008   #28
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[production; greenhouse pollenation in Florida]

Here is a thread that shows production numbers for quite a
number of varieties in what was a difficult year for the grower,
for a variety of reasons. Note the all-starts in the list, that
pumped them out regardless:

http://www.tomatoville.com/showthrea...ghlight=grungy

The climate in Wyndell, BC is a far cry from Florida, of course,
so you would still need to trial your cultivar selections for a few
years to have a good idea of how they perform locally.
(Humidity in particular is very different.)

Take a look at what the guide below has to say about
pollenation in greenhouses in Florida, too.

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/CV266

The section on pest control in the document above perhaps
explains why post-harvest fruit washing may be required by
statute. They are talking about post-harvest appearance there,
but protecting the buying public from fruit with pesticide
residues is in fact protecting the whole market, a principle
that the recent E. Coli issue demonstrated more than
adequately.
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Old December 17, 2008   #29
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In this Hee Haw place I live people don't even want to pay fare market value for the tomatoes, (my wife tried).
She sold some to a restaurant but not at a good price.

If that is going to be the normal for me around here, I had just as soon grow the red golf balls that you get at the store and they can eat those along with their Bud Lite.(in the can).

My wife doesn't have time I don't have time and my friend that takes care of the other garden doesn't have time.

I had just as soon put a table on the side of the road and the folks can just put the money in a coffee can.

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Old January 11, 2009   #30
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Default Sun Dried Tomato Market Booming

I have developed a sun dried tomato business and I literally can't dry enough to satisfy demand. I dry anywhere between 800 and 1500 lbs per year (Mother Nature being the person with the final "Say So".)
I have between 150 and 250 plants per year. My "stable" of regulars is a list totaling about 20 varieties and I try to give a trial run to at least three new varieties each year. I am looking for size (bigger is better) meaty, few seeds and not a lot of moisture. I do some specially sun dried's, like Borgo Cellano that I charge more for simply because it takes more work, more tomatoes to achieve a pound. There is also now a lot of interest in the "black" varieties dried with Chefs telling me they like the "smokey" fruity taste (I personally can't tell a lot of difference in taste but maybe my taster is of poor quality)

When I started, I handed out a lot of pint vacuum bags and pint jars of dried's in olive oil as samples to Chefs at the many upscale restaurants in Cody, Wyoming. I have never advertised other than by word-of-mouth. I deliver once weekly or will mail those that are in vacuum bags (not any in jars, too heavy.)

Sun Dried Tomatoes are the "hot" ingredient it seems. Many Chefs are using them in specialty recipes for the added tang and boost of flavor they provide. I highly recommend this venue for tomato sales. It keeps me hopping at the height of the growing season but I enjoy it immensely. Once vacuume packed, I store them in Rubbermaid big totes in my pantry and they don't take up a lot of room. I simply don't have time to sell fresh tomatoes although I get the occasional drive-in neighbor/person and do sell to them, fresh as well as dried. I don't grow anything else. My husband has a vegie garden and he grows a few eating tomatoes as well as other stuff.
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