My husband and I raise Simmental cattle. We sell breeding stock to other farmers and beef to restaurants and individuals.
We also raise laying hens and a variety of vegetables and herbs that we also sell to restaurants and individuals. From April to October, we spend many Saturday mornings at a local farmers market.
It has been a difficult year for most of the grain and livestock farmers I know. Those who grow kohlrabi and sweet corn, potatoes and pork for farmers markets are no different.
We “mudded in” our cabbage and tomatoes. We were at least a calendar month later than last year in planting green beans, Swiss chard and okra.
On Saturday mornings in early June when vendors set up their stands, they were not as likely to have the abundant bright yellow and green zucchinis, onions, cucumbers and pattypan squash piled high on their folding tables like they did in years past.
We all get a chuckle when in mid-April or early May the shoppers start asking us when we’ll have tomatoes and sweet corn. None of us are chuckling now when customers ask why we don’t have green beans or carrots.
Most of the people who stop by our stand at the market are genuinely nice, although some are obviously far removed from agriculture and what is really happening on the farm.
A farmers market is a great place to interact and have dialogue with consumers. It’s also a great place to learn what people think about their food.
The following are comments made in recent years by customers at our local farmer’s market:
“Oh, I’m so excited you have heirloom tomatoes.”
The smiling 40-something woman in yoga pants looked down at the fruit on the table where I pointed.
“Ewwwwww, that’s not even pretty,” she said, looking at the Cherokee Purple and Brandywine and Mr. Stripey tomatoes. “I want pretty heirloom tomatoes that are easy to slice. It will take me longer to slice these with all the dimples and ripples. I want heirloom tomatoes that look like that.”
She pointed to a Celebrity tomato which is probably the most maintenance-free, easy-to-grow hybrid tomato plant I know of. She didn’t really want an heirloom tomato. She liked the idea of an heirloom tomato.
“Is your beef grass fed? I like grain fed better, but know that grass fed beef is healthier and better for the environment.”
Seriously? Don’t make me throw out the fact that grain finished beef has a lower carbon footprint and produces less methane than grass finished beef. Grain finished beef has 22.6 grams of protein while grass finished has 21.8. I could go on and on and on.
“Oh, good. You have farm eggs. May I look at them? Oh, I was expecting them to be brown. I really like the taste of brown eggs better. Do you have any of those?”
No, sir. I cannot convince my White Leghorn chickens to lay brown eggs.