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New to market gardening, intro

10 years ago

I've gardened pretty big for years but never market gardened until this year. We just moved to the area in fall of 2010 so we're still working on getting our gardens established, getting them bigger a bit each year.

The local market was horrible and I never considered being a vendor until this year when they formed a new, much-improved one. A friend of mine was appointed market manager and asked if I'd like to jump in on the ground floor. After a little convincing by her, I said yes, even though it was already April and the market opened in mid-May. Of course, I'd already had all of my plants started and the garden wasn't set up for market plans but I've made some tweaks as it goes. I'm chalking this year up to pure learning! I would be happy if we end the year making back the start-up expenses. In fact, I didn't even expect to that but figured that was shooting high in the hopes department. LOL

Luckily, I had several hundred tomato & pepper seedlings started so had extra to sell at market. I've had a few herbs and bags of lettuce to sell. Other than that, I've had to do some baking to fill in while I wait for the garden to put out (because I hadn't planned to market this year, I have had no early crops to sell). But, boy, the baking is taking off. Once the produce starts coming in, that'll just be gravy.

My main crops for this year will be tomatoes (100-ish varieties of mostly heirlooms so hoping they'll sell well), sweet & hot peppers (not big sellers, I don't expect), and green beans (I love pole beans for myself but have succession-planted bush varieties for market). I've also got a couple of plantings of watermelons and muskmelons that should do okay. I'm just not knowledgeable enough about market gardening to know what else sells so am reading and watching this year. I'll adjust and add in more market crops next year.

So far, I've sold a total of almost $1100 over, so far, six Saturday markets. Each week, sales have increased as I build a customer base: $131, $165, $154, $196, $201, $234. There are sixteen more Saturday markets to go this season plus they may add in some mid-week markets during the heavy produce weeks, depending on interest. My expenses to date total $700 -- but that's just the licenses, permits, tables, canopy, and an electric grain mill (my hand crank was too much work for that much flour!). There are also, of course, the normal, ongoing expenses of gas, seeds, bags, baking ingredients, etc. If you add those in but discount the one-time expenses (such as tables & canopy), I'm actually turning a bit of a profit already. That's not too shabby, I think, but there might be other miscellaneous expenses I've not yet thought to include.

As I said, this year is just about surviving, getting my feet wet, and figuring out what's what. The other vendors are absolutely wonderful and very will to share their knowledge with me and other newbies. That right there has made all of the difference in how much I enjoy it. And my customers? Also incredible. I consider myself very, very fortunate and am so glad that I took the plunge this year, prepared or not.

However, I want to be prepared for next year. I need to plan & plot my timing ahead of schedule so, when things get crazy, all I have to do is look at my schedule for that day/week to see what seeds I need to start, what to succession plant, etc. Balancing the baking with gardening is a bit nervewracking but, I think, it'll get easier with experience. (I had only planned on the baking being a little temporary fill-in until I had produce this year but, dang, it's blown up into its own thing now.) Is there some sort of software that helps with this planning? I can, of course, do it all on paper but, if there's software to make it easier, I'm all over it. I also need to get more organized at keeping track of income/expenses. Right now, I've got a ledger and baggie full of receipts and it's working but I'm sure I'm missing a few of the finer details.

I've rambled. I just wanted to introduce myself since I've been working my way back through the archives here at the market board as part of my education. I'd love hearing any tips/thoughts on it all!


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