Today is the last day of the season for farmer's market. Attendence and sales have been drifting down as the season ends. I had time for a short chat with one of the farmers. His farm has four major sales channels, and part of his challenge is maintaining a proper balance for them.
- They run a CSA program. For a fixed payment in the winter you get a weekly box of mixed produce during the season. This up front money is very important for the cash flow of the farm. But they limit participation because they don't want to kill the other channels. They are not sure that the CSA approach has real endurance. If it turns out to be a passing fad, the farm will need the other channels. Also, CSA customers do not like to be subject to the variability of good and bad seasons. In return for up front payment, they want assurances on quantity.
- They run their farm stand. It will stay open for another month. This is a long standing tradition for suburban farms. They are not willing to close it.
- They sell at the farmers market. This has held up nicely and provides a high efficiency sales environment. They make a lot of sales in a few hours each week.
- They sell to a few local stores and restaraunts.
This year went OK for them. Not too much was lost to rain or insects. The increased interest in local eating helps. The less fad driven locavore efforts have also helped. A lot of the press and educational coverage has emphasized a realistic assessment of what crops make sense for this climate and soil. So instead of the locavores pushing to grow difficult poor yielding crops, the locally suitable crops are pushed on the locavores.
I've also noticed an increased interest in canning this year. There were sales on canning supplies at the hardware stores and more press coverage. This seems to be a nationwide thing too. Amazon and other Internet stores were sold out for many canning supplies. I had not noticed canning before. I don't have a garden so it makes little sense for me to can. If I really enjoyed it, personally canned goods would taste better but using locally grown foods would cost more than commercially canned goods.