Growing for Market in partnership with Johnny's Selected Seeds has created a library of expert information about growing and selling vegetables and flowers. Links in the article will take you to johnnyseeds.com.
Subscribe to Growing for Market for more great ideas about growing and marketing!
For more topics in the series, click on Market Farming Basics in the left column.
There's never been a better time to be a fresh market grower. Farmers markets are thriving and customers are enthusiastic about locally grown food. This is the year to take advantage of the local-food trend and make more money marketing your produce. Today we'll tell you about the best ideas we've seen for improving revenue at farmers markets, roadside stands, and other direct markets.
Be first and last
Many growers work hard to be the first in their markets with a particular item. It's a smart strategy because growers who are first to market in spring capture customers early and build loyalty that can last all season. It is equally beneficial to stay active in your markets until they close in fall, or to go even further into winter with home delivery or on-farm pickup. Here are some of the crops that will keep the cash flowing long after summer is gone. . .
If you've got 70 days or more from now until your first frost, you can still plant many heat-loving summer crops, including basil, beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, okra, parsley, peppers, summer squash, and tomatoes. For fall cut flowers, you can still plant sunflowers and zinnias.
Fall field crops
The cool weather of fall improves the flavor of beets, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, radishes, spinach, and turnips. With a low tunnel of Quick Hoops™ and row cover, you can grow most of these crops with a harvest target date up to a month after the first frost. Be aware that plants grow more slowly as the day length declines in fall, so you should add about 14 days to the estimated days to maturity for each variety. For example, a 21-day crop of Johnny's Mild Mesclun Mix or Spicy Mesclun Mix could take 35 days in fall, so count back that many days from your frost date to schedule your final planting.
If you have a hoophouse, you can grow many cool-weather crops for harvest right through December. The trick is to get your crops established before the day length drops below 10 hours; after that, plants won't grow much, but they will tolerate cold temperatures until you're ready to harvest them. Some of the vegetables you can plant in a hoophouse in August or September: leafy greens including collards, kale, lettuce, salad mix, spinach, and Swiss chard; root crops including beets, carrots, kohlrabi, radishes, and turnips; and brassicas including broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
Many vegetables can be held for a long time after harvest, anywhere from one month to six months. If you have appropriate storage facilities, you can grow sufficient quantities that you'll be able to sell them all winter. One of the biggest trends in market gardening in recent years is the winter CSA, in which members pay for a monthly delivery of storage vegetables. Many farmers markets have extended their open season to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even year-round. Holiday markets also provide additional opportunities to sell storage vegetables.
Of course, it's too late to plant many of the traditional storage crops such as winter squash and sweet potatoes (although you might want to write a note to yourself so you remember to plant plenty next spring). But some short-term crops such as beets, cabbage, cauliflower and turnips can be grown now and stored for a month or more into winter. Here is a chart of required storage conditions for many vegetables:
Reprinted from JSS Advantage July 2010.