First Farmer's Market and a New Plan

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Last weekend we attended our very first farmer’s market and I’ve got to say it started off scary. Our first four perspective customers all asked for eggs and left disappointed (and empty handed) when we told them we didn’t have any. Fortunately, the next several dozen people didn’t give a toss about eggs and bought up almost everything we had. We’d come with spinach, kale, soil blocked starts and plants in compostable pots. We left with a few soil blocks and a couple tomato plants. It was a great day and a fantastic introduction to the farmer’s market. Best of all, it left us with a clearer vision of our business and new ideas for our future.


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When we decided to offer plants and veggie starts at early farmer’s markets we also decided not to send anything out in plastic pots or tray packs. For years, before we began growing from seed, we’d bought plants and starts in standard 4-inch plastic pots. Before we knew it we were drowning in the things. Our garden was strewn with horticultural waste and plastic litter. The volume of plastic we brought into our little garden was absolutely incredible. It was also absurd and 100% unnecessary. Not wanting to foist similar waste problems on others, we decided to sell our plants either as soil blocks or in fully compostable pots. (Soil blocking is also better for the plants but once again that’s a different post.)

Soil blocking our entire operation has been a lot of extra work. I could seed a 100-plug, plastic tray in less time than it takes to press and seed 20 soil blocks. And I have to admit, we are more than a little behind in the grow room (and thus behind on the farm as a whole), largely due to the extra time soil blocking requires.

Fortunately, now that we’re at market I think the extra work will pay off pretty quickly. Customers have been receptive to our plastic-free credo and it differentiates us in the market place. There are dozens of growers offering veggie starts at our farmer’s market but we are the only one not using plastic pots. It also gives us something to talk about. Local food is as much about community and relationships as it is about the actual food. Being plastic-free gives us a nice entree into conversation and relationship building with our customers.

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The market success of our soil blocked plants has inspired us to take another look at our business plan. Originally we’d only planned to offer plants in the early spring during  the traditional home garden season. Now, after speaking with people at the market, we’re planning to sell small, soil-blocked plants all year long.

The folks shopping our farmer’s market spoke of trying new methods in their home gardens. They had questions about succession planting, hoop houses and row cover. They wanted to know how to grow lettuce all year and how to harvest spinach in February.

Personally, I think the idea of the home garden is changing for some people. I think it’s becoming less about having a hobby and more about producing good, healthy, sustainable food. That’s the kind of change I can support. That’s why we started our farm. I also think providing blocked starts all year long will support this kind of positive change. At the very least, it will give us something else to chat with folks about. Come July, when we’re the only ones at market offering veggie starts, people may ask why we have them and we will answer and maybe everyone will bond a little. Surely that’s a good thing. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

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