I can’t believe how fast the off season is going! I’ve spent most of my 2018 researching and gathering ideas for this year’s market. We have big plans and even bigger goals for 2018. But before I fill you in on what we are working on, I’d like to share with you what was going on behind the scenes and my final thoughts on last year’s market season.
I would summarize the 2017 market season (or more accurately, all of 2017) as one big adjustment period. We constantly had to make changes to roll with all the challenges and setbacks that kept popping up. Before I sat down to write this post, I reread Excitement over the 2017 Farmers’ Market Season. Saying everything panned out as I hoped would be a giant exaggeration, quite possibly the biggest lie I ever told. Honestly, it is pretty embarrassing that so little in that post actually worked.
This was my first farmer’s market season at my new house, and with that brought a lot of extra prep work prior to the growing season. Dad and I spent several weeks removing sod and putting in raised beds in order to grow herbs and other produce here at home. Matter of fact, with all the rain and other delays, we didn’t even get the plants in my raised beds until mid June. Luckily, we were able to get the homestead garden planted in a more timely manner.
As some of you may have noticed, Dad missed quite a few markets last summer, leaving me a little more short-handed than usual. Not only did he have all three-day-drills with the National Guard, he was also gone five weeks for training. That means not only did it fall on me to do all the harvest Saturday morning, but I also didn’t have much help harvesting and prepping on those Friday’s either. Truthfully, I am surprised our gardens survived his five weeks away. In the past, I could hardly keep up with one garden while he was gone for three weeks. Needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed. While I did the brunt of the work when he was gone, I was fortunate enough to have my mom step up and help out. I would be remised if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank her; those Saturday markets might have been pretty pitiful without her help. I can’t say we ever made it to the market by 7am, but we made it nonetheless!
There were a lot of setbacks when it came to my herbs last summer. First, because it took so long to get the raised beds ready, the herbs were kept in the greenhouse longer than I intended. Frankly, it became a true challenge just to keep them alive, and I ended up losing some to pests. We were able to get everything in the ground right before we left for vacation, which brings me to the next setback. While we were on vacation everything seemed to thrive, which was great, but the tomato plants ended up taking over my herbs before I got a chance to stake them up. Dad left for training shortly after we got back from vacation, leaving me to detangle and stake up the tomato plants in both gardens. By the time I got around to the herbs, most varieties already flowered.
As mentioned earlier, most of the things I was excited about for the 2017 market season did not actually come to fruition. First, I was hoping to have potted herbs at the market to cut as needed, but it didn’t take long to figure out that it wasn’t very practical. The pots took up too much room on the tables, were a pain to pack and unpack every Saturday, and I planted them in smaller pots in order to be able to carry them, which made them susceptible to drying out.
Second, we had trouble getting the plants in one of our garden plots to grow. I’m not sure why, but if I had to guess, it was either because the nutrients were depleted in that area or, the deer that were tromping through the area killed the plants. Unfortunately, this is where we planted our cantaloupe, watermelon, and cucumbers (including the Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumbers). Lastly, most of our squash and pumpkin plants succumbed to pests or disease before they matured so very few actually made it to market this year.
The high notes
Despite our difficulties, we still managed to break some of our personal selling records thanks to all of our loyal and supportive customers. I am so grateful for each and every one of you! You are the reason all the hard work that goes into this is so worth it. It took a few years, but I feel like we finally have a following and that definitely came into play as we were planning for the 2018 season.
If you’ve read 2017 Farmers’ Market Update, you already know that we were pretty happy that lambs quarter finally started getting the respect it deserves. Although I probably say that about any of the greens we sell.
We strive to provide the best quality, nutritious, and appetizing produce. If it passes my quality standards then chances are you will enjoy them, especially when prepared correctly. Greens have always been and probably always will be our hardest sell (right up there with herbs, surprisingly) although they are easily the most nutrient-dense food we grow. I don’t really think it is an acquired taste, I just think a lot of people are afraid to try them. Lambs quarter is what we consider our “starter” greens; they are the most mild and tender.
Kale and Swiss chard are a little more bitter but can be eaten raw when young. However, they should be cooked when mature to eliminate some of the bitterness. Collard greens are slightly more bitter, therefore I would recommend cooking before eating. I don’t want you to think that Collard greens are the most bitter tasting greens out there; that title, in my opinion, goes to dandelion greens. However, collard greens are the most bitter of what we sell.
I may have tried to tackle more than I could handle in 2017, but I worked hard to accomplish all I set out to do. It may have taken a little longer than I thought, but I was able to finish a few things during the off season. The rest will hopefully be ready for this year’s market season. I was able to post a handful of recipes on our Hubpages account, which usually get picked up for their niche site (delishably.com). Because all articles posted through their site undergo a quality check and a quick edit, it usually takes me a few days to post them on our Facebook page. If you want to get them sooner, feel free to follow us on Hubpages; there are plenty of good, informative “hubs” and recipes on the site. I also did some work on our website this January. I added a few more tabs so the “What’s Cookin'” tab is where you will find all my recipes I have posted so far, the “Garden Guides” tab is where you will find our informative articles, and the “Tales from the Market” tab is where you will find all my blogs and updates about the farmers’ market (like this one). I can’t wait to fill you in on what we have planned for the 2018 season. Please keep an eye out for that post which will be shared on the website and our Facebook page. Thanks again for all your support and I look forward to seeing you again this May!