by Derek Schmitt
Have you ever been to a farmers market? The first time we had ever been to a farmer’s market was when we were selling at the Pickerington Farmers Market for the first time. And wow, was it eye opening. Our market began in June but the planning began last fall. Planning what we were going to grow, when we were going to plant, what the booth would look like, prices, etc… This caused excitement, and stress.
We decided to focus on heirloom varieties for several reasons. The old history behind each variety, the intense flavors, the diversity and the uniqueness are all intriguing to us and our customers. Heirlooms come with their downfalls: disease, lower production, non-uniform produce. Even with those downfalls, heirlooms are still worth it! Thanks to a lot of care and prayers we are in a semi successful growing season, considering our wet spring and early summer.
Being our first year selling at the farmers market, we have had some trying moments. A slow start to our growing season had us worried, but everything picked up. Offering odd looking heirloom produce seemed to be a hit and miss with customers, but as the season progresses we’re finding our customers are more open to the strange looking veggies.
Because we are a small farm, we take any and everything to the market that isn’t ruined by bruises or holes. Have you ever seen a giant tomato that grew quickly and has cracks around the stem? Or ever seen a tomato that is bumpy and has several bulges on it? All of those still go to our stand, which has turned up several noses at the market.
Realistically, those so called “blemishes” aren’t taking away any flavor and most likely not taking away any edible parts. No need to be wasteful, ugly produce needs to be eaten and used too! We’ve used these moments as teaching moments for our customers and they seem to be catching on! Educating and talking to our customer has them always coming back for more.
The farmers market we attend has more than produce farmers. Bread, pies, tea, coffee, honey, pizza, jams, belts and candles are just some of the products available at the market. If you have a farmer’s market nearby I encourage you to attend and begin to shop or to even sell your products if possible! Here is a great resource to find local farmers markets in addition to the Our Ohio Buying Local Directory.
Derek Schmitt is a Fairfield County farmer raising show hogs and heirloom vegetables marketed at the Pickerington Farmer’s Market. He also serves as Fairfield County Farm Bureau president. This blog is part of Derek and his wife Emily’s turn as featured editors of the Growing Our Generation eletter.