With June almost over there is now a certain rhythm which sets pace here at the farm. It is one where the back beat is always constant, one which may include extended jams like planting tomatoes for 12 straight hours, or picking peas for 10 hours. But more then the harvesting which is fully underway, more then the CSA program which provides the farm with a solid investment base, the part of the farm experience which really tells you how you are doing is the farmers market. We participate in five markets – Kent, Weston, Newtown/Sandy Hook, and two in New Haven (Wooster Square and on the historic Green). During the winter we are involved with two in New Haven , as well.
Farming for a market is what excites many growers. It is a chance to get off the farm and see other producers up close. It offers the chance to see what other crops may be good to grow that you may have over looked, and also catch a trend before everyone else does. It is a the way we best represent our brand, too. Few things are as satisfying as a packed truck heading off to market. Thinking about the set up, what the weather will be like, if a crwod will be there, all of these come into play all season long. Now, certainly it sucks when it rains, especially at the more rural markets like Kent. But in a city like New Haven there is always a crowd out during even the most inclement weather.
How does one stand out against the competition? That can be tricky when we all grow such similar fare. However, one basic of marketing is those who have the most stuff set up will gather the biggest crowds. Price points and knowing the true value of things also works in your favor. Setting up an inviting tent stall, with clearly labeled products, and employing solid, dependable, workers for the markets all make for a good market experience all around.
We have been slowly moving our business away from the “tomato farm” we were once known for, and have increased the production of just about everything we grow. Yes, we still grow a lot of tomatoes but were are also at markets for months before they arrive so we need other product. After all, farming is an inventory based business and if you do not have supply then you will lose your customer base. One cannot survive on the risky tomato crop alone, its just too risky.
So, its late June and we have a lot of great produce heading off to markets three days of the week. This week we have baby lettuce heads (romaine, red leaf and green leaf), arugula, radishes, collard greens, tuscan kale, winterbore kale, redbore kale, red russian kale – yes, we grow a lot of kale – salad mix, bok choy , and sugar snap peas. Of course we are asked when the tomatoes will be ready, or when the corn will be available (we do not grow corn, btw), or even if the apples are ready. We gently remind the customer that it is June in New England and what is available is primarily green, mostly leafy, as well as some early root crops like hoop house grown tomatoes and potatoes, and carrots. There were even summer squashes out this week and cucumbers, too, though for us they will arrive sometime in early July. The cold weather set them back a few weeks as well as the dreaded stripped cucumber beetle.
So thats the word from the markets. As the summer goes along we will add further market reports. The season is off to a good start despite the awful weather we have had ad the set backs will be felt in the middle of the summer when June’s plantings are late to produce. People want the mid summer produce now and grow impatient. But, the cucumbers, summer squashes, and tomatoes will come, maybe slowly, and the peppers and eggplants, too. They always do.