[Market-farming] End of Season update
mf at austinfarm.org
Tue Nov 25 12:44:50 EST 2003
> I'm giving up on tomatoes next year. I go to Mexico and the ends of the
> earth searching for good seeds and grow them with love and care. I pack them
> like crystal goblets and then they get to the market and then they are
> trampled by customers who have ZERO idea how to choose a ripe one. I always
> offer to help ("Do you want one you can eat right away? Do you want it to
> keep until the end of the week?") but by the end of the day, my beautiful
> jewels are almost salsa. I much prefer Europe where the vendor picks the
> food for you. The truth is, most people have no idea what they should be
> looking for. Besides, at least here in northern CA, there is a glut of
> tomatoes, although no one really does it well, in my mind.
Truly an enduring problem! I've seen it for 20 years or more.
Selling in lots helps. "Just choose the basket you like". Every once
in a while, you encounter the customer that must SQUEEZE each and every
tomato in your display. An extreme and to be avoided solution: "I'm
sorry you can't find suitable tomatoes here; I think vendor Joe, down
the way, has much nicer tomatoes that mine. Why don't you check him
out?" A few years ago, I went to lots in mesh bags. That greatly
reduces the tendency of customers to build their own baskets. We
sometimes put out #2 tomatoes for the "build your own basket" crowd.
Tomatoes in mesh bags must be worked over much sooner than onions,
potatoes, okra, and peppers, though I pack them all in mesh bags. When
I started using mesh bags, I got quite a bit of resistance. "Is this
home grown? This looks 'professional'." I think I've gotten over the
hump now; many now look for my mesh bags. And, when the customer gets
the product home, the label reminds him where he got it.
An early in the season challenge: How many times have I heard "Will
these (pink tomatoes) turn red?" I grit my teeth and explain again,
very nicely, that they will.
It's a lot of work, educating your customer base one customer at a
time. I presume you have addressed the tomato handling problem in your
Do you fear that your business will dry up if you prohibit customers
from handling your display? Maybe your fellow vendors will follow your
lead if you give it a try.
Willie, ashamed that dixie chicks are from Austin
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