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Old June 21, 2015   #31
AZGardener
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Thanks for sharing Reddeheddefarm!! Appreciate it!
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Old February 23, 2016   #32
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Any updates on this? Are you selling tomatoes to the pizza place this season?
I was approached to grow tomato starts for a farm. I am trying to learn as much as I can about the business aspect of tomatoes and wanted to see how it was going.
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Old February 23, 2016   #33
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Hello MissionGardens! I see you are local! Awesome! Well.... I have been extremely busy and barely got my garden planted this year. Life got in the way. I have made some great contacts but haven't done anything with them. Good for you! An acquaintance of mine grows starts for the nurseries, farmers markets, and a couple small farms called Vilardi Gardens. If you haven't heard of her, google her (she's on FB too). Good luck in any event!!
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Old March 5, 2016   #34
Urbanheirlooms
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AZGardener View Post
Hi guys- I know we touched on this on another thread but I was just told by one of the top local pizza restaurants (that always has a 1-2 hr wait) that if I grew more maters, he would buy them.

For those that don't know, this is part of my tomato growing dream. To have a farm and sell to local chefs/markets.

I'm on 1/2 acre but only have 6 raised beds. I could probably double that but would that even be enough?!! I have about 40 something heirloom/rare varieties and I could probably do 80 but again, not sure if that's even enough. I should ask how many lbs he goes through a day and perhaps that would give me a better idea of how many I should grow next season.

Any thoughts on this, would be appreciated!
Wow, AZGardener, It sounds like we have a lot in common. I too live in a residential area with a fairly small lot. I have gone from a small garden spot to a larger spot and then a bit larger. I always wanted to share my love for tomatoes with others and make a buck here and there. I finally set up selling some of my heirlooms at a local farmers market a few years back. Not the most pleasant experience as most people didn't understand the heirloom thing and wanted only the prettiest tomatoes-mostly from the people who don't grow anything, just buy them from importers.

I finally got into a situation where I am selling to a farmers market who in turn resells them. They have a market on Thursdays and Saturdays. I believe that he has a relationship with several restaurants who buy on Mondays at a discounted price. I thought about trying to sell to local high end restaurants, but since I only grow outside, I could only offer tomatoes in late June, July, August & September.

My wife and I also have plans to buy a small farm in the near future. I have a very good job and don't plan on making the gardening thing my way of life (until I retire).

Best of luck to you and I hope you can find you a place to expand on and live your dreams.

Joe
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Old March 5, 2016   #35
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Got a vegan co-op/restaurant and a sandwich place lined up. All they've known is Roma, Saladet , Tomate Bola and some Costco cherries.

Tasmanian Chocolate, Odoriko and Pearls of Wisdom made them realize they were but looking at shadows on the wall.

Last edited by Gerardo; March 5, 2016 at 10:34 AM.
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Old March 5, 2016   #36
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You are wise to educate these folks and I think you are smart to cater to such establishments. There are farm to table restaurants popping up all over the place in my region and I have given thought to pursuing their business. I just don't have the time to deal with multiple entities.
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Old March 5, 2016   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerardo View Post
Got a vegan co-op/restaurant and a sandwich place lined up. All they've known is Roma, Saladet , Tomate Bola and some Costco cherries.

Tasmanian Chocolate, Odoriko and Pearls of Wisdom made them realize they were but looking at shadows on the wall.
That is awesome. I am hoping to be able to do the same thing soon.
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Old March 5, 2016   #38
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Cool Gerardo! You've been busy!
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Old March 5, 2016   #39
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That is awesome. I am hoping to be able to do the same thing soon.
Right on guys.

I did the farmer's market scene for four years...but not selling produce. We raised chickens and turkeys on pasture. Our birds also went to high end restaurants.

I stopped doing poultry at the end of 2014, but still bump into the chefs, or still eat at their places and make it a point to say hi when I go.
We probably sold off and on to 4-5 places and had 2 others that were weekly buyers from May to November.
I have talked to 3 of these guys about buyin unique and heirloom tomatoes from me, and will be giving it a go this year with hopes to carry that into the fall/winter with one or two.
I am not counting on high production during the fall/winter season with the low light in December and January, but I am confident I can cover my costs, keep them supplied during a time when it is slower for them, and support my habit during the dormant season

If I may ad my experience with restaurants:

There are probably multiple methods to getting into the restaurant biz.
I am not a wheeler and dealer, so I personally would not be the guy that rolls into a place when maters are not in production, photos/brochures/seed catalogs in hand trying to land a sale for down the road.

In my experience, chefs are impressed with SEEING the real deal in their hand.
Roll in there with a box of your best. They will be all ears at that point if you bring something that is visually appealing and tastes good (assuming you insist they cut one open to try).
Our freshly harvested birds sold themselves once they had them in their hands. I will note, if you are already in a market, name drop that. We had street cred in both directions; at the market, we would name drop the restaurants we sold to. At the restaurants, we name dropped the market we were in which was the best in the area.

Incidentally, I had extra tomatoes to sell one poultry season, and just showed up with them while making a delivery for chicken. They were OK taste to me, but were nice looking red hybrid slicers. The staff freaked out. Head chef said bring me 3 boxes a week for the rest of the summer. Of course, I did not have the production to meet this request, and only could bring what I had for about a month. But I told him that up front, and he was cool with that. They had nobody supplying them. He also kept asking me to bring heirlooms, that "nobody had them". This was not the case. He did not know where/how to find them. That, and a lot of the guys growing heirlooms are not dealing with chefs for a number of reasons, good and bad.
So, even with dozens of farms in the area, there are plenty of chefs that are still ordering product from Cisco and US Foods. Probably just out of convenience. And this was a high end place.

If you are trying to get your foot in the door, I would just go to the front desk with box in hand and tell them you have a delivery and you need to see the chef, all the while taking the lid off the box with excitement in your voice and they see a whole bunch of unique colors they have never seen before. This would work with reds too if you can show your enthusiasm.

Just don't go in the middle of lunch or right before dinner, or on Friday-Sunday.

Everyone's area is different of course. We are blessed with 100 or more mid to high end spots within 20 miles of me. That probably goes up to 500 or more if I got 50 miles out.

I say if it fits your ability to deliver a couple times a week, you are already raising tomatoes for sale, and they pay near or at what you want, then its just a matter of walking in a showing your stuff with passion.

Good luck guys.

Last edited by PureHarvest; March 5, 2016 at 07:54 PM.
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Old March 5, 2016   #40
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Good information PureH. I may still try this approach. One of my friends has a good friend who runs a restaurant in the city downtown area near me and has already said he would buy from me.

Most of the high end restaurants have websites with contact links. Try emailing them with your info and when you might start having produce available. I do agree that having produce in hand makes it more enticing, but getting to the right person can be difficult.
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Old March 5, 2016   #41
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What Pure Harvest said.
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Old March 5, 2016   #42
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Yeah guys, and gal, it should be fun seeing people react to them.
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Old March 6, 2016   #43
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I think Black Beauty, will blow people's minds!!!
Just hope it tastes as good as what Brad's description says.
If so, you could really get people's attention and get your foot in the door.
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Old March 6, 2016   #44
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Lots to choose from. Blowing their minds won't be a problem, and I'll go mostly without the blues, except for Lucid gem and Indigo Cherry Drops. Other tools in the mind-blowing kit will be: Lucky Cross, OR-117, BWine Cowlick's & Sudduth's, GJ-Benton, Dora, Gary O'Sena, Daniel Burson, Rebel Yell, Stump OTW, JD's Special CT, Fresa, Anna Maria's Heart, Hungarian Heart, Belarusian Heart, Mazarini Heart, Larisa, Faworyt, Chapman, Crnkovic Yugo, Novikova Giant, Everett's Rusty Oxheart, Big Cheef, Terhune, Hoy, Daniels, Zamorano, Russian Soul, Bwine from Croatia, Petrovich, Momotaro & Odoriko & Sekai Ichii, Dwarf Arctic Rose, Tarasenko-6, Cosmonaut Volkov, Taxi, Jackass yellow, Orange Jazz, BHN-871, Fred's Tie Dye, Pearls of Wisdom, Solar Flare, Uluru O, Wherokowhai, Copper River, Tasm Choc, Vorlon, ISPL, Pruden's Purple, Darocense Corporalis, Rebelski & Marbonne, + many more dwarfs + artisan cherries.
In the fall I'll make the transition to former Soviet-bloc origin so I can keep pumping out good ones year round. If all goes well I'll erect a small greenhouse to aid against our excruciating, bone-chilling cold that easily rivals Newfoundland in its severity.
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Old March 6, 2016   #45
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Try to avoid that Tijuana frostbite.

I'm going to start with a menu of one tomato of each color, just to try to keep it simple to restaurant customers. For example, it's a big step to introduce someone to the concept of a GWR tomato; I don't want to complicate that by elaborating into the fact that there is more than one green when ripe variety.
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