[NAFEX] Growing organically

road's end farm organic101 at linkny.com
Sun Apr 8 12:11:25 EDT 2007

On Apr 8, 2007, at 10:11 AM, Jim Fruth wrote:

>     I've been selling at farmers' markets for a lot of years and have
> learned that most customers do not want organic produce.  Oh, they 
> will all
> SAY they want organic but the want it at supermarket prices.  
> Customers want
> perfect produce; they handle every tomato and if they see a slightest
> imperfection, they reject it.  Customers also want their produce to be 
> the
> same size as that which they find at supermarkets.

Varies a good deal by market. I now have people in this area who snap 
up my heirloom tomatoes, taking them even when they've got some cracks. 
There are still customers who only want the standard looking ones; but 
word of mouth from the heirloom customers they're standing next to 
often convinces them. (This doesn't only have to do with organic versus 
conventional, but also with flavor and appearance of specific 
cultivars. Of course you really have to have the flavor; if it tastes 
like the store's but just looks uglier, that won't bring people in.)

Some people come to farmers' markets because they want supermarket 
produce at cheaper prices. Those aren't my customers; somebody else (or 
the supermarket) can have them. Other people come to farmers' markets 
because they want better quality, because they want locally grown, or 
specifically because they want a size or variety that they can't find 
at the supermarket. Those are the customers that will buy at my stand. 
Some of them care that I'm organic. Some of them don't.

Some areas have more such customers than others. But people who know 
what a tomato actually can taste like tend to gradually convert a 
significant number of other people; so once you have the first few, the 
situation often improves.

I can't resist adding here, that I see an awful lot of conventionally 
grown produce in supermarkets that I think looks terrible; including 
quite a bit that I wouldn't sell as firsts. Some of it may have looked 
OK when it left the farm, but no longer does several weeks and a lot of 
handlers later. Some of it clearly had damage that was sustained on 
farm, including insect damage. I think it's a myth that all 
conventional produce looks perfect; just as it's a myth that all 
organic produce looks bad. There are, it's true, a few crops on which 
it's harder to produce good looks organically than conventionally.

On Apr 8, 2007, at 10:27 AM, Lon J. Rombough wrote:

> Selling in baskets is a way to get around the problem to some degree 
> as some of the fruits in a basket can be less than perfect and still 
> go if the ones on top look good.

Except then the customer is likely to be angry, won't come back to buy 
more, and will complain to other potential customers. If I bought 
something with all the pretty ones on top, then got home to find ugly 
or damaged ones underneath, I'd be mad too.

When I fill baskets, if some of contents have imperfections, I make 
sure this is visible from the top, so the customers know what they are 
getting. I then talk up the flavor. Customers who have tasted my stuff 
do come back. And they talk other people into trying it.

I also find it interesting that many u-pick customers, or on-farm 
customers offered picked but unsorted produce to choose from, will take 
as firsts items that I would have thought of as seconds. For some 
people, knowing it's that fresh seems to overwhelm the look of the 
thing; or maybe they've seen so much crappy produce in the store that 
even what I think of as seconds looks better to them than it does to 
me. I'm not sure which.

On Apr 8, 2007, at 10:32 AM, Naomi wrote:

> I have thought..just to try out.  Make two baskets.  "Organic Perfect" 
> and
> "Organic Ugly".  Price accordingly. I would be interested in the 
> results.

I sometimes sell "selected seconds" or "canning grade" at reduced 
price. Some people will buy these; others won't. I suspect results vary 
market to market, and also depending on the item.

Finger Lakes NY; zone 5 mostly
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