Farmers Market questions

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by jaj121159, Nov 26, 2011.

  1. jaj121159

    jaj121159 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 27, 2010
    Northeast Nebraska
    I spent most of the summer selling at the Saturday version of the Norfolk, NE Farmers Market. I sell chickens, eggs and some produce. My sales were so-so.

    What I am looking for in my question is what you as consumers or producers feel are the best farmers markets in Nebraska or elsewhere. Tell why you like your farmers market: for prices, for selection, for hours, for quality of produce and other products, and/or anything else you think is important.

    Thanks for your answers and maybe I'll see you next year at a farmers market near you.
  2. feathersnuggles

    feathersnuggles Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 4, 2009
    I am not in Nebraska. But I can tell you about FMs here. We like the weekend Saturday and Sunday markets, cuz it fits our schedule. They run between 9am - 2pm. What's important to us is "true pastured" for eggs and pastured non-CX meat etc.

    Most farmers in the market sell theirs for $6/fdoz, but I've paid as much as $8/doz for so-called "pastured" eggs. But the yolks always tell the story. These eggs have disappointed me each year, because they are not really free-ranging and not getting the necessary weeds or insects for nutritious orange yolks. When I drill down and ask the nitty gritty questions to the farmer, they shrug and say it's impossible to pasture them or provide adequate space for free-ranging. So now when I need eggs, I purchase (duck and chicken) from a friend who sells hers at $5/doz. (I give her $6-7 cuz they are worth it) The yolks are almost as orange as my own flock can do. She has many predators, living in a forest, so she hand-gathers greens from her garden and insects for her birds to provide the wild banquet they require. Plus she raises rabbits inside the chicken run and the birds forage under the rabbit cages, in the rabbit droppings, for more insects. If the farmers markets carried eggs that good, I'd purchase from the FM, cuz my friend lives a long drive away. I'd pay $6-8/doz for really good eggs like my own.

    Most farmers here sell CX for $4.99-6/lb whole. They advertise them as pastured but when I ask, they admit the CX are really not doing much except sitting by their feeders. I would pay up to $6/lb. for true pastured heritage chickens. I'd pay the same or higher for true pastured heritage turkeys. Right now, in our entire FM structure, there's only one farmer selling true pastured non-CX chickens: $5.99/lb whole, $10/lb for the chicken livers! I've stopped eating chicken except for what I can get from that farmer, or when I slaughter someone from my own flock, or when I can purchase a friend's bird that was truly free-ranged and strong-boned. They just taste so much better. The other chicken tastes insipidly mushy and I'd rather skip on eating that.

    Hope this helps you. Check out your local buying clubs and the Weston A Price foundation chapter in your area. You may find customers there too.
  3. janchilds

    janchilds Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 27, 2011
    We are located near Washington DC and have participated in several markets over the past 5 years. Here are things we have found helpful in promoting our sales.

    First, don't be too quick to leave a market. It takes awhile to get established.

    Always, have some way to capture your customers information. We have a growing e-mail list that we can send e-mails to letting customers know what have available, other places they can find us, recipes and sometimes just FYI about our operation. For example I did a whole e-newsletter on the breeds we have and why they were selected. We've had other farmers tell us they can't give away white eggs... after I explained that our limited number of leghorns were superwomen out producing all the other hens combined during a winter cold spell, our customers more than appreciated the white eggs too.

    Set up a facebook page. This works the same way as the email campaigns, but I'll update it with what's cooking in the kitchen, what chores are getting done out at the farm, etc. Our customers really want to be a part of our farm and love the tid bigs information and photos. But, I don't over do it. At most, I'll post 3-5 posts a week.

    When we choose a farmers market we are looking for a balance of vendors and never too many meat vendors. Even the busiest markets can only sustain a limited amount of meat. We have an advantage because we sell a nice variety of meats -- lamb being our trademark.

    We sell our eggs for $4.50/doz and roasters at $5-6/lb. Several other vendors have raised their egg prices, but we have tried to keep ours more reasonable. We've picked up quite a few customers because others are raising their prices too fast. And once they taste ours, they never go back.

    Quality is our #1 focus. We've been raising livestock for over 40 years. Our management, although not always perfect, is purposeful and with the end product in mind. Both the breeds we chose and our breeding program are focused on carcass traits. And we are constantly getting feedback from both our customers and chefs who buy our meat.

    Our favorite markets are Saturday markets and we have our best market on Sunday. We prefer 9-12/1. We've been in a couple of markets that have tried to extend their hours earlier. All that has done is get the regulars our earlier. Our biggest slug of customers come in after youth soccer games and lazy Saturday breakfasts.

    We also look for markets run by great market masters. We have all but lost our customer base at one market because of the feuding between the board members. It got so bad, nasty emails were being sent out to the general mailing list. It was a disaster... and now the vendors don't understand why the market is dying. Go figure! We have two other markets where the market masters are visable, interactive with neighborhood friends (our customers) and doing all they can to promote the market through newspaper articles, facebook, and great signage. They have by far the best atmosphere and thus the biggest draw of customers. We search out markets that are friendly, provide a variety of producer-only products, and in upscale (established may be a better term) or progressive neighborhoods.

    All of the markets we are in are producer-only. We aren't much into markets that have both producers and crafts, or allow vendors to re-sell non-local produce. Our purpose for attending farmers markets from the beginning was to reconnect consumers with their food, give a face to the local farmer, and educate our public.

    Hope that helps! Good luck in your search for the perfect fit. You'll find it!


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