Our regular marketing season is over for 2007 and it was a good one. Despite drought, high heat, insect hoards and other environmental ills we had a great season. The garden produced well for us (thanx to drip irrigation and a lot of skill, especially on Eugene's part) and we broke our one day sales record at least 5 times this season. We did not break our yearly sales records due to slow sales in July and early August but we are working on that.
I give a big round of applause to Larry the OFMU manager. He did a really nice job of managing the Saturday market. I had my doubts about him early on when our sales were lagging, lots of changes were made to the Saturday market that involved craft people setting up and selling and it seemed that the attendance was down. I was against this letting a lot of crafter/artisans set up at market idea due to horror stories from other market farmers about how the artisans took over the farmers market and pushed the farmers out completely. But, after watching how the market grew because of craft vendors I am not as against this idea any longer. Still, I must take a wait and see attitude as the artisans could usurp the market from us farmers 5 or 10 years down the line. For now, the artists nicely fill space and attract customers to the market (though food is definitely the main reason for going to the farmers market).
The Tuesday market was not quite as good as past years as far as sales go but it was far better as far as farmer attendance. Not once did we have a week where we were the only people setting up. We always had at least 2 stands and usually 4 to 6 set up. There were a couple of weeks when no one came to market due to weather, but what can you do? I believe that next year the Tuesday market will do better than in the past. One thing I noticed this fall was that a lot of Miami Students are suddenly interested in local and organic food and were thrilled to find a farmers market that was open when they were awake (early Saturday mornings are not good for most undergrads and quite a few grad students).
The Tuesday market was a lot more fun than Saturday because it is smaller and far less busy. On Saturdays we would get to market set up for 15 to 20 minutes (a quick set up as we have around a ton of food to get out on the tables) and than do nothing but sell, sell, sell until after 11:30. No socializing with the other farmers, no buying from other farmers, just selling. And this is a good thing. But Tuesdays were a lot more laid back. we would show up around 4pm, haul our tables, shelter, produce, signs, etc., from the van to the grass and take about 20 minutes to set up (often making a couple of sales while setting up). We would get done with setting up and if there were no customers around (common) we would socialize with Debra and whomever else was there (Don, The Ellises, Dan the Tee Shirt man, J Harris). Around 5pm Eugene would be sent for malts at UDF as the three of us would get malts every Tuesday. I usually got a peanut butter malt made with chocolate milk. Debra would get a chocolate malt and Eugene got whatever was on sale. Some weeks we would be pretty busy during the market other weeks would would talk of all sorts of things from politics to opera to birding. And of course there was the 3rd of July market when we got removed from the park for the day so the City's Parks and Recreation Dept could have their 4th of July kids carnival on July 3rd without letting us Farmers know about the change (it's not like we didn't have a permit for that park for every Tuesday evening may through October). Yeah I am still pissed off about that glitch. but overall I am really pleased with both markets.
Now, if we can get the farm store off the ground we will be golden. The farm store, I am afraid, is not thriving the way the other markets are. I believe a lot of this has to do with lack of publicity. The people who need to know about us do not. The local population (PC/Eaton) simply does not care much about local and organic foods. Most seem to be very content to shop at the local Wal-Mart and eat awful processed food. I suppose in another 10 to 15 years the locals will realize that local and organic is the only safe way to eat. But for now, they do not. So I have to get the word out to people in the Dayton and Cincinnati areas that we exist and are well worth the effort to find. I don't know if paid ads are the way to go or to just depend on the local Harvest/New farm/Boulder Belt Website listings. I have recently found a great list serv called Cincinnati Locavores that is full of people seeking local foods. they only problem is few on the list seem willing to drive out to the farms to get food off season. They all want the food no more than 5 to 10 minutes away, just like Wal-Mart or Kroger's
As long as the FDA and USDA keep on providing all of us with scary suspect food I can see only growth for local food and that should mean better and better sales in 2008.