[Market-farming] Bagged Lettuce Mix for Market

breck bcarden at breckinridgegroup.com
Mon Jun 30 15:28:43 EDT 2008


I used a cooler filled with tap water and lettuce. Pull it out, shake and
weigh. Adjust your price for the added water weight.

Breck


-----Original Message-----
From: market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Melissa
Hatalsky
Sent: Monday, June 23, 2008 8:56 AM
To: Market Farming
Subject: [Market-farming] Bagged Lettuce Mix for Market

Dear esteemed growers,

I am looking for some feedback in order to gain insight and fresh ideas 
concerning the packaging, and marketing of fresh leaf lettuce mix at farmers

markets.  I have searched the archives extensively for information but have 
come away with just snippets here and there.  I thought if anyone had time 
(as I know we are all in our busiest season) perhaps we could all brainstorm

some ideas together.

I am currently growing predominately greens as a specialty grower for our 
local market.  I grow year round utilizing a small (very....12x24) very very

low heat house for lettuces and under double cover (21 x 50) for spinach, 
Asian greens etc.  This will be my second year and I am not afraid to say 
that my first winter under double cover met with very limited successes due 
to a variety of factors more to do with my learning curve, failing to meet 
planting dates and continued construction of our project,  I am determined 
not to give up though.

I attended my first market yesterday and nearly sold out of everything I 
took.

I will detail my process below of harvest, packaging and marketing.  This 
was my best attempt to try and combine presentation of my product with 
keeping it looking fresh and unaffected by heat.  It was moderately 
successful.

Lettuce is hydrocooled and spun dry using a commercial (manual) salad 
spinner...the largest one available.  THE BEST money I have ever spent. 
Varieties are mixed and packaged into 1 gallon size zip lock bags 
approximately six ounces each.  I manually cut vent slits into these bags 
for breathability.  The bags are the kept at 38 degrees until morning of 
market.

I purchased large clear totes with clear lids.

I froze water in the same gallon zip lock bags to make large flat slabs of 
ice.  I laid these slabs on the bottoms of the totes and covered with a 
sheet of the silver bubble wrap that you find in rolls at Home Depot or 
lowes.  The idea was to insulate the lettuce somewhat from direct contact 
with the ice to prevent damage to the tender leaves, but hopefully still 
allow "cooling" of the area inside the tote.

I intended to keep the totes covered with their clear lids to maintain a 
cool environment.  The result was very slow sales.

My display was colorful, and attractive and well posted with prices signs, 
recipes, copies of my newsletter as well as an easel album of color 
photographs of my farm and growing crops, family etc.  People would walk by,

look, slow down, squint and keep going.  I maintained that way for about an 
hour or so trying to give it a chance.  Some sales were made during this 
time.

I knew I needed to do something different...I was nervous about doing it but

I took the lids off the totes and opened the zipped bags of lettuce and 
greens and sales almost immediately increased and were steady for the 
remainder of the day.

Not long after removing the lids I decided to move the ice slabs from the 
bottom of the boxes to along the sides and begin misting the opened bags 
with fresh water from a sprayer.  This seemed to hold fairly well...but the 
day was only 81 degrees and partly cloudy some of the time.  The boxes did 
not really feel cool to me but somehow I managed to make it until market 
closing without losing any bags of lettuce mix.

It seems like a successful idea and plan, but if anyone can contribute 
additional ideas or suggestions I am all ears.

I learned that if people can't actually see it....they won't stop.

I am looking for creative ideas that might allow me to display a small 
amount of product in order to keep the bulk of the product properly cooled, 
yet have a dramatic and abundant looking display.

Here are some of my concerns.

1.  The ice slabs are heavy and have a tendency to want to topple over and 
squash or compress the bags of lettuce.
2.  The best cooling came from removing  the insulating material from 
between the ice and bags (obviously) but I did have some minor cold burn 
injuries on some of the bags.
3.  Visibility...how can I make my product even more visible without 
sacrificing its quality?

I am not committed to the clear tote idea in any way, and willing to start 
completely over and experiment with other presentations.

With much respect and gratitude for any contributions of ideas and 
experiences.
Sincerely,
Melissa
Winter Greens Farm
Central NY 


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