Farmers market questions/ideas

A place to discuss where and how to market our products. Users can share experiences with value-added enterprises, ask for information on costs, and find out who's paying what for what kind of lambs.
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Saffronsheepranch
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Farmers market questions/ideas

Postby Saffronsheepranch » Tue Nov 25, 2014 11:27 am

I thought perhaps I could hash out my farmer's market plans with some experienced folk, if you're game.
I am for sure going into the farmer's market business, even if I don't get my VAPgrant, though I feel pretty confident I will being a "beginning rancher" and "socially disadvantaged" and a nice guy in charge proof reading my application and plan before I submit it.

This isn't going to come out organized at all but here goes:
I visited the bustling farmers market of Springfield, MO because a guy on the board came to a sheep meeting and said they really needed grassfed/pastured lamb meat down there. Except when I went there, I realized that I could be the only fool down there selling Cornish hens, pheasant and quail meat along with my lamb (of which there are at least 2 others selling it). I have raised and sold broilers in the past but that was such an insane amount of meat that it didn't suit my household so I raise chicks to 3 weeks and get one bird that serves 2 people very well which is a much better portion size and yummy meat. I also raised turkeys and I may do that also but I preferred heritage because they were smaller and then I went so far as to have these 8-14 pounders halved so that 2 people or a small family could enjoy turkey more often. Part of my selling plan is reasonable portion sizes, one package: one meal. The board guy said I can home process the first 1000 birds at home and I hope he meant first 1000 of each species. I am doubting that the greatest portion of my consumers are going to be families.

I am going to push quail a lot and do the Texas A&M white meaty birds. I will also raise bobwhites and pheasant and have a secondary market of hunters. The Texas quail take 8 weeks to finish, bobwhites 16 weeks. I shall have a total of 2 separate houses, 13 pens and a whole big brooder room in a totally insulated (waters never freeze!) 7 foot flat roofed 100 foot long farrowing house with attached yards down the road. The yards being pheasant/quail net and surrounded by sheep electronet. They will also all be "flight ready" as it is all downhill out of the building! The yards will be pretty tricky.

That guy said the huge demand was for ground lamb and to grind up the cull ewes too because people didn't care: ground mutton is selling very well too. This guy was also totally pro wool sheep for feeding people which was really funny considering this is hair sheep land and probably only 3 of us at the meeting had wool sheep. But he is a butcher and after years of butchering all these sheep, he has a definite preference for wool sheep hanging in his locker than hair sheep. So I was going to save chops and a couple legs and then have the rest ground on every lamb. Are there other cuts that sell well that I haven't thought about? Are all your chops frenched? Non-frenched chops confuse people. They just aren't used to seeing lamb like pork chops. Restaurants sell frenched. I thought that lamb chops came out frenched from the butcher. I was surprised.

Anybody have a recipe and cooking method for gyro meat? I miss that from Detroit. I have a grill and spit- that would be a really great bbq food and can feed a lot of people. That is what I will do with my first leg.

I plan to put my freezer on my pick up and have an inverter to run it off my truck. Where did you guys buy your tents? My problem is that I am selling all meat and eggs and thus, have an empty table. I think I will try to do baked goods too if I can just put up a sign that says, "these were not produced in an inspected kitchen." The only people I saw selling baked goods were the Amish and the Amish can just set a wood stove outside or in a hut or another room and a table and call it a separate kitchen! I may have to argue. Are you guys allowed to sell baked goods.

In the beginning, I am going to have a sign that says "Free dozen eggs for every 5 egg cartons. Limit 2 per person." Until I have a great stockpile. I think that will help bring people to my table.
I am going to give away recipes with meat purchases.
Then later, I will include nuts and berries.
I am going to sell raw fleeces too. There is a guy who is selling wool tags as self-fertilizing mulch in Iowa which prevents weeds also. I always garden with tarps because I can't stand to weed but this year, I kept my wool and I am going to try to use it in the same way to see if it really will keep the weeds down. If it works I will take pictures and sell some wool for those purposes too, if people don't mind their summer gardens looking a little wintry. The guy said manure was too difficult a process so I will sell it off farm.

But technically, all I have so far are a bunch of signs: the egg carton sign, the 1 cornish feeds two people sign, the quail sign, the pheasant sign, the lamb sign and prices. Oh. Where did you get your farm name banners made?

I have to get inspected by the farmers market? What did your inspection consist of? Then also, by the conservation department for all my game bird facilities... My farrowing house has 2 attached feed bins that are augered into and I have enough cats now to keep it all clean.

The fees here are 250 a year, plus 50 for application, plus 40 a week to sell there 3 days a week. It seemed a lot to me.

This is rather kooky but I am thinking of charging more for live pheasants then cleaned meat. A lot of people here have insinuated that pheasant is what is profitable here. Another guy told me pheasants cannot handle the shear amount of bugs here like ticks and chiggers and mites and they really suffer. But if I use a product like 7...

Also, do all your customers demand skin on? Because we clean a pheasant in less than 1 minute sans skin. But the quail may be an issue. Quail skin is very delicate and can't really even be semi-scalded. I may be able to rent a plucker but shoulder quail be battered about? I am going to enter the hackle market too. I wonder if people would accept quail without skin?

I saw that a lot of people are selling non-gmo and organic (I think) and such but the only organic feed I have seen came in 5 pound bags for like $13. Feeding thousands of birds out of 5 pound bags seems insane.
I think I will just do no hormones/antibiotics on the birds, free range on the eggs and pastured and drug free on the lambs. Is that then "all natural" on the birds? I am not up on my terms here. I wonder where these people source these feeds? There are not many farmers in the ozarks. I don't want to have to charge exorbitant prices. I was thinking of $5 per quail, $6 per cornish hen, $12-15 on live pheasants but 7-8? on dead pheasants?, about 6.50 seems to be the price on ground lamb, 17.50 for a rack of lamb chops... I forget what leg was... I calculated that the texas quail cost me 1.68 to raise to 8 weeks and they take less than 5 minutes to clean, plucked, far less than that skinned... I have $10 an hour hired help but that still leaves me with almost $30 in profit per hour after paying him and all input costs. Does anybody buy quail in a grocery store around them? They don't here and I have no idea but I do want people to start eating quail so I was going to go decent on the price.

I need to quit here. Sorry this is soooo long!
But any advice would be appreciated.
Thanks, Kirsten
Kirsten Wendt
Missouri

sheepfarmerbill
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Re: Farmers market questions/ideas

Postby sheepfarmerbill » Tue Nov 25, 2014 5:20 pm

Sounds like big plans do you have enough help to pull it off. I do three days a week and do not have enough with one other person at home and one helping me on sat. And do mostly lamb 90/% free range chickens from a friend and 100 dozen eggs from another friend..Have been lucky to team up with several high end restaurants.which is half oury business.You will have to figure out your costs because everyone,s is different.

Bill Fosher
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Re: Farmers market questions/ideas

Postby Bill Fosher » Wed Nov 26, 2014 5:18 am

Three days a week away from the farm would be a killer for me. Do you anticipate sales would be high enough to justify the expense of hiring help, either to attend the market and sell for you or to handle production at home while you're away at market?

The fees sound right in line with what I would expect -- assuming the market provides decent management and advertising support.

I know it's fairly common at larger markets for farms to have employees selling for them, but my observation over the years at small markets is that people want to meet the actual farmer, and those who send employees tend to have lower sales.
Bill Fosher
Westmoreland, NH

BIGIRON59
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Re: Farmers market questions/ideas

Postby BIGIRON59 » Fri Nov 28, 2014 2:15 pm

Fees look in line with my area depending on the market I sell at. The higher end markets that attract more buyer charge more. This year I took off. I did not want to make the commitment to spend 2 hrs 2 times a week. at my local. The very Sat morning was my issue. If you do not go all the time, you will not maintain customers. Even if you sell out, you need to stay the hrs and explain that to your customers. They will be first in line next time. They depend on you. The last year I sold, I posted signs that I would offer Home delivery of my eggs, 1 time a week in the 2 community that I live near. In spring I email/ call my past customers . I set my price and my delivery schedule for that town. Some have set deliveries per week, some call in and I fill orders as called. Couple choose to come to the Farm. I would agree, You need to go. The one year I sent help, and the sales were 1/2 that week. Even though my signage was up and the customers did not "recognize" the farmer . I am looking at this again, more to market lamb in another larger town.( 40 Miles) My problem, is I do not feel the need to "barter" with the clientele, and since that market would be largely ethnic, That is the custom. I also have no need to feel like offering on farm ritual processing ect, that potentially comes with that market. However, I may attend a few as an observation and see how much traffic is there. I have a small locker that is inspected in my town, so processing and packaging is no issue for me. I would need to have a glass fronted display freezer/cooler, ( no out of cooler meat sales here anymore). If that market looked promising, I could process lamb on Tuesday and sell fresh product on Thursday/Sat. the product not sold would be frozen and sold either that way as well as fresh the next week. My locker is set fee per head to harvest and package to my spec, but might wiggle that down if I an picking up fresh product versus having them freeze. This Locker cyro-vacs all product, so fresh could be kept some longer as well. I am not real sure on shelf life on fresh that is cyro vaced. I need to investigate that. He is open to working with me to develop specialty cuts, cured, jerky, sticks, ect. He does a large volume of that type right out of his shop on weekly basis with beef and pork. I would imagine I could get some shelf space in his cooler/freezer to sell lamb, if I wanted. He will get it if some one wants , but does not offer.

The locker in one other town is not inspected , but I also have a federally inspected locker about 25 miles away. Time will tell, It needs to be profitable to do this.
Starving sheepherder on the windblown tundra of Northwest Iowa

RKerr
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Re: Farmers market questions/ideas

Postby RKerr » Sat Nov 29, 2014 8:26 am

Yikes, all I know is just reading your plans made me tired!

I would venture lightly with the exotics until you know there is a market. I don't know about a cornish hen feeding two people unless they are pygmies or something. I can dust off 2 by myself :) Sometimes I could barely fit my hands into some 8 pound birds to process let a lone a tiny 2 pounder.

Personally I have taken the Salatin approach to direct marketing. I do beef so that kinda changes things a bit. You just have to wary of your transportation time and cost. Some people lose more money by running around so much with the farmers market/grocery store approach.

Saffronsheepranch
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Re: Farmers market questions/ideas

Postby Saffronsheepranch » Sat Nov 29, 2014 11:17 pm

I have absolutely no idea if it is a profitable venture. Actually if my grant goes through and I net 15K on that alone for each of the first 3 years along with the farmers market money, that will be profitable to me. I think I would go sit there with no sales for an extra 15k a year! My mortgage is only 6,770.00 a year.

As to the help and such, I plan to hatch based on demand. I have feed and water attached to 15 pens and numerous brooders all in one building. So that is only like 30 minutes each day in bird chores, plus an evening check and one day a week slaughter if I am selling well. When I have thousands of birds in large pens in other parts of the farm, provided I do so well, then about 2 hours in chores, sheep included. Rest of the day for fencing and clearing land. And when at last, my child goes to kindergarten next year, I will get a lot more done in a day!

If I bring the same fare as everyone else then I have to be the nicest farmer there. I would rather be the only farmer, except with the lamb. I think my Tunis will sell well. I could be the only wool lamb seller there...

yeah, I went to a lady's table who only sold weird seed concoctions in jars. That's it. I didn't understand it or how she could profit with a few jars of seeds you are supposed to eat. She called it something but I forget.

What is the salatin approach?

I plan to hire a live in hired man when I am doing well enough. I have to keep my current hired man who works 1-2 days a week also because he has become really attached to us so I will just need to become rich to support all these people. If the farmers market doesn't exactly keep me alive, the hunters probably will. There is a bobwhite breeder who sold like 8,000 quail last year and had a guy raise an extra 4000 for him and could have sold even more had he had them. He is more than an hour away.

Listen to my calculations, please: one lamb 110-120 pounds, 45 pound yield, 5 pound rack, 10 pounds in rear legs, 30 pounds ground...
17.50 rack, $10.00? each leg, 195.00 for 30 pounds ground=232.50 per lamb- $70 in processing= 162.50. That is worse than what I will get on the hoof this year, right?
How are you guys justifying selling it at the farmers markets? The cull ewes would pay.

Tent? Banners?
Do you guys do all the current preferences like non-gmo or organic or pure grass fed? Do you see people losing customers if they/you don't follow the current hype and trends? DO you have access to organic or non-gmo feeds where you are?

Thanks, Kirsten
Kirsten Wendt
Missouri

Bill Fosher
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Re: Farmers market questions/ideas

Postby Bill Fosher » Sun Nov 30, 2014 3:47 am

I can get non-GMO and organic grain very easily. Bagged or bulk. All I need is wheelbarrows full of money.

The non-organic non-GMO grain is a little less expensive than certified organic, but both are a lot more than conventionally grown products that may or may not contain GMOs.

The other big thing around here is soy-free poultry and swine diets. I know one place that is producing a broiler chicken using a certified organic soy-free diet. Last I checked the retail price was $8.25/lb. Soy free organic layer diets are becoming relatively commonplace, and generally put the cost of the eggs is the range of $7 to $10/dozen. In both cases, these are really micro operations producing a few dozen eggs a week and maybe 100 broilers a year. I'm not sure if they would be able to bring their prices down by scaling up -- probably a little bit. I don't know anyone who advertises soy-free swine diets, but I do have customers ask for it occasionally, and the feed rations are available.

I don't bother chasing all these trends and fads. I just adopt a production system that allows me to keep my prices below the stratosphere (although some would argue that I don't even achieve that goal) and allows me to produce animals in a way that emphasizes animal welfare, meat flavor, and environmental stewardship.

I also don't make any claims that are even remotely sketchy. I've seen producers who raise lambs in dry lots use the term "free range" to describe their lambs. I guess it's not wrong -- free range as it applies to poultry just means that they aren't caged -- but the image it evokes would not be one of a feed lot or barn.

A tent and a system of anchoring it are absolute musts in any outdoor market. They define your space, give you places to hang signage, etc.

I have to say that it never would have occurred to me to apply for a Value Added Producer Grant to go to a farmers' market. But then again, there was one awarded here in New Hampshire to an outfit that is going to mix ground beef and pork, so I guess the bar is pretty low.
Bill Fosher

Westmoreland, NH

Bill Fosher
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Re: Farmers market questions/ideas

Postby Bill Fosher » Sun Nov 30, 2014 4:04 am

Oh, and if the prices you mentioned are all the market will bear, you're right. There's no point in going to the farmers' market. I'm currently getting $12/lb for ground lamb, $23/lb for rib and loin chops, and $16.50/lb for legs. One of my best selling cuts is a boned, rolled, and netted shoulder that retails for $14.50/lb. Shanks are $12/lb. At these prices, my margins are still razor-thin and can go into the negative territory if things don't go well either at the market or on the production side.

I don't think you'd get 30 pounds of ground out of a 45 pound carcass unless you had the whole think boned out for grind, and even then probably not.

Do not use your grant money (if you get it) to subsidize the cost of taking your meat to the market. Use it to get yourself established and develop your customer base. This is a process that will take two or three seasons of being there every single market with incredible product and a good selection. But build your prices so that the cost of marketing your meat through a farmers' market is fully covered, so that when your grant runs out you are self-supporting.

That's going to be a tall order: if you have a payroll that includes a full time employee plus another working a day or two a week, you need to cover their salary, plus your own time, travel, and market expenses out of your sales at the market. That will gobble up $15 K in grant money pretty quick -- like in less than three months.

The thing to remember about farmers' markets is that they carry the highest transaction cost of any method of selling a farm product. You are essentially running a retail business at a remove from your home, and selling pieces of meat one by one. If you go the market and sell one package of ground lamb for $6.50 (a very real possibility if weather is bad and no one comes out), you not only have all the production costs of that pound of ground lamb, you also have all the costs of getting to the market, the overheads of insurance, your equipment, wear and tear on your vehicle, market fees, etc., etc.

When you're setting your prices, you need to be able to weather that market, as well as the one where there's a line at your stall from opening to closing, and your pockets are bulging with $50 and $100 bills and the credit card reader on your smart phone has melted down from having so many cards swiped through it. (This latter market is going to happen as often as you see the Easter bunny riding a unicorn across the dooryard.)
Bill Fosher

Westmoreland, NH

sloeffle
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Re: Farmers market questions/ideas

Postby sloeffle » Sun Nov 30, 2014 9:09 am

Bill Fosher wrote: One of my best selling cuts is a boned, rolled, and netted shoulder that retails for $14.50/lb.


Hi Bill,

Is the shoulder de-boned and then the bone is put back into the roast when it rolled and netted ?

Do any of your customers asked for smoked cuts of lamb ? And if they do, any recommendations on what cut is best to smoke. I would think a bone in or boneless shoulder or leg.

Thanks,

Scott

Bill Fosher
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Re: Farmers market questions/ideas

Postby Bill Fosher » Sun Nov 30, 2014 9:48 am

It's left deboned, and it's rolled into a cylindrical shape and held in place with netting. String sells.

So far I am the only one interested in smoked lamb meat around here. I understand there's a long tradition of smoked mutton shoulder in Kentucky.
Bill Fosher

Westmoreland, NH

Saffronsheepranch
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Re: Farmers market questions/ideas

Postby Saffronsheepranch » Sun Nov 30, 2014 10:05 am

Well, I am relieved to hear a lot of what you wrote.
The VAPG is a way for small producers to branch out into new businesses, bringing a farming commodity to their community while minimizing the financial risk in the most vulnerable stage of development ie.. the start-up. The guy said it fit in with VAPG's goals nicely. I asked first.

Well, how about I start with mutton? I will bring my math to the other lamb sellers there and ask them how they can do this at these prices. The buffalo guy said that while the farmers market wasn't paying for lamb selling in the high years, it saves you in the low years and gives you steady income throughout the year. Even so, I see this year's lamb crop going to a buying station.

LOL. I raised my first pig soy free. All she would eat was field corn on the cob the whole winter. She hated pig food, sweet feed, all feeds. She liked kitchen scraps, and some hay and weeds and grass. Took 8 months to raise her to 220 but she tasted fantantasic! And didn't actually cost me hardly any money.

This market is year round.
But slows to every other Saturday for 3 months I think.
Well, I have a lot of work to do!
Where did you find your tent was my question.
So I guess I will get started.
Kirsten Wendt
Missouri

Sugar Creek
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Re: Farmers market questions/ideas

Postby Sugar Creek » Sun Nov 30, 2014 11:39 am

The smoked mutton shoulder is from Owensborough, at town on the Ohio River almost four hours from here. I have never been there but it appears to be mostly prepared as a sort of "pulled pork" barbecue, usually sold as a sandwich. I think it began as a tradition in rural Catholic parishes. They also use mutton out there in "Burgoo", a sort of hunter's stew cooked over a wood fire in large iron kettles.
Hard to sell lamb or mutton in our local farmer's market. It does better in the more "Toney" markets like Danville or Lexington, where the market is strongly influenced by college professors from Centre or UK.

Bill Fosher
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Re: Farmers market questions/ideas

Postby Bill Fosher » Tue Dec 02, 2014 4:31 am

I was looking at smoked mutton shoulder on line, and I guess I would call it more like barbecued. It's slow heat, but not cool enough to be what I would call "smoked." Looks mighty tasty, though.
Bill Fosher

Westmoreland, NH

Bill Fosher
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Re: Farmers market questions/ideas

Postby Bill Fosher » Tue Dec 02, 2014 5:08 am

My tent is a 10X10 EZ-up. Ocean State Job Lot (local discount chain) has stacks of them for sale for about $125 all summer. You can also buy them on line. They're not super durable. I get about three seasons out of them. They'll last longer if you have two people to set them up. Sometimes you can get a neighboring vendor to help you open up your tent; I'm usually too impatient to wait for someone to have a second to give me a hand.. They are not waterproof, but will provide a reasonable protection from a light rain.

There are heavier duty tents available and they seem to last longer. You can get them printed with your branding, farm name, etc. These obviously cost more money, but they last a lot longer. One of the bakeries at our market has been using the same tent for at least seven seasons. Three days a week during the summer.

The 10X10 is a fairly standard size, and many farmers' markets have based their spaces off that size tent.
Bill Fosher

Westmoreland, NH

Ballymena Sheep
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Re: Farmers market questions/ideas

Postby Ballymena Sheep » Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:43 am

To find out what the "inspection" for the farmers market entails, and maybe answer some of your other questions, call or email them and ask them to send you their rules. What ours does is have us bring in samples and/or photos of everything we will be selling, to one of their monthly meetings (they "jury" the products). Since they don't allow everything, you save yourself a little time and effort if you get a copy of the rules first. Also I would advise that you be very careful about bringing raw fleeces or wool tags to the same booth you are selling food out of, for several reasons.


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