Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Secrets of the Farmers Market

It turns out there’s a lot more to this farmers market stuff than just packing up your veggies and laying them out on some tables for finicky customers to peruse. When Sara Lipka moved from the customer side of the table to the vendor side, she found that out for herself. When every green bean, cucumber, carrot, and head of lettuce corresponds to a drop of sweat, a twinge in your back, or an hour of lost sleep, suddenly $5 a pound for blueberries doesn’t seem so bad.

From The Atlantic:

On Sundays we’re up by 4:30 a.m. to haul boxes out of two walk-in coolers and a storage room into our refrigerated box truck. Two or three of us sit across the cab as we roll down our gravel driveway onto asphalt. It’s still dark setting off, but headed east, we see the sun rise. The goal is to start setting up an hour and a half before the opening bell, maybe the only thing our market shares with that other one in New York. We line up our boxes along the curb, raise our tents and tables, and pile our harvest high. Layouts prompt much discussion and debate. What looks best? Features our marquee items? Lets customers flow through the stand? We weigh the relative merits of L shapes, T’s, and U’s; aisles, islands, and second tiers. Market design is about artistry and efficiency. And showing off. Our farm’s and others’ bountiful displays–diminished by the time I used to arrive–still amaze me. Prices don’t. As a customer, I sometimes balked at expensive arugula or leeks, either passing them by or invoking Michael Pollan’s “hidden costs” of cheap food as I broke another 20. Now I look at string beans and remember how long it took me to pick them, in the rain; dry them on wire racks so they wouldn’t rust; and mix green, purple, and yellow varieties. Not to mention seeding, weeding, and releasing wasps to prey on the beetles that devour the plants’ leaves and dangling beans. $5 a quart? Bargain. Prices do shift, I discovered. Just before we open, farmers surreptitiously scramble, eying one another’s signs. Cucumbers may go up if someone else is charging more; squash might fall. We add quickly in our heads as customers gather. The early bird regulars have been standing there since 8:55, their beets and blackberries packed, crisp bills in outstretched hands as they wait for the bell. Chatting with customers makes my day. A smiling elderly woman who always comes during the week also showed up one Sunday. “I already ate all the peas I bought!” she said. “I won’t be able to last till Thursday.” Another woman once approached me and whispered, “There’s a very large spider on the chard.” Other customers share tips, like crushing sweet stevia leaves with mint in mojitos. And sometimes a question starts a conversation. One woman asked if we had lemons. A man held up a sweet white onion, greens still attached, and asked if you could eat the bulb.
Read the whole article here. Related Articles:

A Simple Way to Grow Fresh Greens Indoors This Winter

Just because the temperatures have started to drop doesn’t mean you have to live without fresh greens until next Spring. With author and gardener Peter Burke’s innovative method of growing soil sprouts indoors, you can grow nutrient-dense greens all year long at a fraction of the cost of buying at market. Burke’s new book, Year-Round Indoor Salad […] Read More..

A Day in the Life of a Homesteader

As Homesteading Month comes to a close, we take a look at what it means to live the homesteading life every day. Read through the question and answer below and be sure to check out any of the previous articles you might have missed:Why Acquiring Land Presents a Challenge for New Homesteaders Homesteading Q&A: Solutions […] Read More..

Go Lean: How To Eliminate Waste and Increase Efficiency on the Farm

Using the words “factory” and “farm” in the same sentence may seem sacrilegious, but today’s young farmers like author Ben Hartman are discovering that the same sound business practices apply whether you produce cars or carrots.In his new book The Lean Farm, Hartman demonstrates how applying lean principles—originally developed by the Japanese automotive industry—to farming practices […] Read More..

Why Acquiring Land Presents a Challenge for New Homesteaders

More and more often, young people are turning away from cities and urban life in order to live off the land and even start farms of their own. But while many have the desire to grow food for themselves and/or others, acquiring land, and the financial burden that comes with it, presents a difficult challenge […] Read More..

How to Distinguish Permaculture from Natural Farming

Just what are the differences between permaculture and natural farming? How are they connected, and where do they diverge in philosophy and principle?Those questions are answered in the following excerpt that is adapted from the newly released One-Straw Revolutionary, a book that delves into the philosophy and work of Japanese farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka […] Read More..