Friday, 22 May 2015

Greens are doing well

The greenhouse has a lush green floor.  There is bok choy and garland chrysanthemum, cilantro, spinach and now a very tidy lettuce patch.  We have been struggling to keep flea beetles from getting out of control, but it looks like our efforts (catching and pinching) are paying off.  They seem to be few and far between.  Fortunately, there are no other signs of pests.  Greenhouses are handy in that they give cover from wind and cold, and pests are not as keen to enter and set up shop.

Seedlings in April

We are doing a Sunday market in Kingston and have a few food box shares (a weekly pickup of vegetables, eggs, and some steamed buns).  The season is off to a fairly good start - we are back into a steady income (relatively speaking) and we have a fairly good sense of what we want to do for selling efforts.  

I can remember last year running a farmgate operation throughout the week before Friday and Saturday markets in our township.  We did get customers, but we were at a point in our farming and business career where we just wanted to get something going - and that meant winging it sometimes.  A car would drive up at some point in the day (maybe two or three over the morning and afternoon) and either we would be inside working on dim sum, or we would be in the fields doing chores.  

We would greet the guest (almost always someone we'd never met before) and tell them what we had available.  There was a table set up in the garage with the day's vegetable pickings, and a sign listing our pricing - pork, chickens, buns, egg tarts, dumplings.  I'd often have to shoo the cat away or chickens that had gathered at the garage entrance. 

It was a kind of commerce that most people aren't used to, and it has made for interesting memories, mostly fond ones.  Some days we'd be having lunch and a car would slowly roll down our laneway. Whichever of us saw it first would announce...."Customer!"

I have to admit, Sunday market works better for us than managing an all-day from-the-house selling venture.  We are working on setting up a farm stand at the foot of our laneway, close to the highway. Something rustic and professional looking and mostly unmanned.  Somehow, even though the local food movement talks about how much people like to connect with their farmers, we've found that people also seem to enjoy some distance.  Many people feel uncomfortable alone in the presence of a vendor selling something because they can't as easily walk away as they can in a grocery store.  There is nobody to offend there.  

The idea would be, if someone wants to meet us, and discuss the farm and what we produce, they would just need to drive up to the house and honk.  We are hoping to have it up for next summer.

It's important for people farming like us to find a way to juggle producing and vending with as little unnecessary stress as possible.  This means finding efficient and satisfying ways to sell, and giving up the ones that seem to take up so much time for so little return.  There are many such opportunities - you start to reason that if nothing else, you get some reading in, but after a while you just can't sit through markets where only a trickle of customers come through, or where most of the people passing through aren't there to buy, they are only there to examine this strange thing they have never seen before (a farmers market).  

But a good farmers market is satisfying.  Many small farmers complain, "who has time to sit around when you could be farming," while other insist that the farmers market is a fading concept.  But our Sunday market in Kingston seems to have some real momentum.  It is growing and attracting a good crowd, and there is an amicable feeling among the vendors because we are busy and engaged and pleased to have a place to buy or barter.

It's satisfying as well being able to bring a few bags of bok choy and salad mix and show the world that we know how to grow good vegetables.