Experimental Homestead

Why I’m Not Selling at the Farmer’s Market Anymore




“It’s not just the work, which is an inconvenience that can be scaled, it’s the feeling of doing something utterly useless that involves other people doing the same, stretching in a line back to some place totally disconnected from the reality of the ground war of farming and direct marketing.  A burden of useless labor for all involved, all victims of the same stupid system, with a life of it’s own, and hardly anyone to really blame.”

This post is part rant, part politic, part personal, part declaration.  My farmer’s market career has always been spotty.  I have had long standing plans to eventually sell at the market, and have planted trees and flower bulbs here with that goal in mind for many years, but I wasn’t really ready when I started going.  I was under a lot of pressure at the time to start going though, and finally decided to go with it since I probably wasn’t going to be much more ready anytime in the near future and I wanted to accommodate my partner at the time.  I’m glad I did, because I learned a lot and it was good for me to get out in public with my stuff.  Iit has rarely been easy to pull off though for all the reasons I knew I wasn’t ready in the first place.  I had big plans for the market that I was not able to materialize to any extent.  I still hold those plans in my head and in notes scattered around clipboards and computer files for some future time when I am functioning at a higher level.  At least I was doing something though, and big plans could wait.  So, I’ve basically limped along, making it to the market now and again.  It has been rewarding, I met some great people, and that little bit of income was very significant in my universe.

At some point last year, I just decided not to grow any vegetable crops specifically for the market.  Many of the crops I grew last summer went completely to waste because I wasn’t able to make it to the market due to chronic health issues.  That just is what it is.  I can adapt to that.  But I still had other things that grow here perennially, and sort of grow themselves, which I could take to market if health and crop timing coincided.  I have daffodils from about January through April and they sell pretty well.  In May and June I have lots of artichokes.  In late summer I have amaryllis flowers, which are also pretty popular and from late summer on, my many varieties of apples start coming on.  And then there might be a few other odds and ends through the season, vegetables that I may have extra of on a day I might be going to the market, like a few tomatoes or something.  Growing things specifically for the market just was not working out though, and I had to throw in the towel on that or keep wasting my limited energy producing crops for the chickens and the compost pile.


Even selling those perennial crops I just listed is not that straight forward though.  The process starts in the spring, when I have to tell the county agricultural department everything I’m going to grow.  Now don’t laugh, but they actually want to know everything I’m going to grow for the season, down to the specific variety, how many plants/acres, and how many pounds or units or bunches.  It’s so ridiculous that everyone just sort of throws out some numbers and calls it good.  This is farming, not accounting.  Everyone knows it’s silly, but the laws come from on high where I imagine someone that knows fuck-all about growing anything is probably paid rather well to make our lives more complicated.  I’m sure the intent is all good and well, to make sure people are selling stuff they grew themselves, but geez…

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July 1, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 22 Comments

Onion Braids: functional, symbolic, marketing ploy.

onion braid headers



I often braid my onions, but my braids aren’t all neat and pretty-like.  Stylish onion and garlic braids are nice, but I don’t have the time, energy and patience to sit around making something that I produce essentially for functional reasons look like I bought it at a country chic boutique.  Last year though, we braided onions for the market.  I spent a lot of time trimming the bulbs and making them look presentable, then dipping the dried leaves in water to re-soften so tonia could braid them neatly.  We added dried lavender and stuff to spiff them up a bit.  they turned out pretty nice and It was kind of fun, but it was also time consuming.  A major motivator was that it allowed us to sell our onions for a lot more.  If you really added up our time though, it was more like having another mediocre paying job to our lives, which is actually okay, but not high incentive.  I liked our onions braids, but something never quite sat right about the whole thing.  I think in a way we were diminishing the value of the food we grew by making it into something that may be viewed as art first and food second.  Also, I couldn’t help thinking that we could have spent that time growing more food or making something more lasting.

Onion braid for market

Pretty?  Pretty expensive!  (photo by tonia chi)

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November 10, 2013 Posted by | Food and Drink Making, Garden Stuff | , , , | 12 Comments