The Grant County Farmers Market opened for the 2020 season on June 6. This year, we were able to attend on the first day. As I had mentioned earlier, we have abandoned our portable canopy that we set up each day we appeared at the market, to move into the Farmers Market booth, which was built by Jeff Barger about 10 years ago to provide greater visibility for the Farmers Market. The booth has had many other seasonal farm tenants in the past, many of whom decided to abandon it or stopped selling at the market. As you can see from the pictures accompanying this post, the booth is beginning to show its age and needs a little sprucing up—which we plan to do for next season. Before we could move into it this season, we had to jack up the booth and reset one of the two skids that it rests upon. It had been dislodged when a vehicle bumped into it about five years ago. We believe the shed will make a better and more stable place to display Barb’s quilt products, which were difficult to hang from our portable canopy without blocking the visibility of our produce and other goods. The large quilt products she had to hang also constrained the space under our canopy. The shelf space in the booth also gives us more display room without having to bring so many tables.
The biggest issue with the booth is, ironically, visibility. While it stands out clearly from the highway when the market is not in session or only a few vendors attend, it sits back just enough from the edge of the parking lot pavement to make it difficult to see when the market is full of vendors and their portable canopies. The greater setback from the edge of the pavement makes it easier for shoppers to overlook it as they stroll around the market. To compensate for this internal visibility disadvantage, Barb and I made a hanging sign that we can place along the edge of the parking lot to better announce our presence and the range of goods we sell. Most vendors at the market sell vegetable and baked goods. We have added a rotating selection of baked goods to our product line this year. However, we also sell other home-made products, such as our signature goat milk soap, a variety of Barb’s quilting products, and (new this year), paperback copies of four books that I have recently written and self-published using Kindle Direct Publishing’s on-line desktop publishing services. We offer the most diverse range of home-made and home-grown products available at the market. Consequently, the visibility of our product line is essential to our sales success.
To make the hanging sign, we bought a standard wrought iron front yard hanging flag support to use as the base. We then used some old pine wainscoting panels (roughly three feet long by four inches wide to serve as sign panels for each product we sell. I installed cup hooks on one edge of each panel and eye screws on the opposite side. This allowed us to hang the panels from the base and each other so we could advertise all of the products we had to sell at each appearance. We painted the panels white and hand printed the products on each panel using magic markers. The result is a small, simple sign that we can put in front of our booth to make it easier for patrons to see what we are selling on any given day from the parking lot. We hope this sign will minimize the visibility disadvantage of our products while we are using the booth. If all works well for us this year, we plan to remain a permanent tenant of the Farmers Market booth for the rest of our participation.
We were fortunate to have some sweet peas and broccoli to sell on the first day of the farmers this year. We were late in planting our garden this year because of all the cold and inconsistent weather we experienced in March and April and because of the uncertainty of the farmers market operation this year due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Later in June, we were able to sell some red cabbage and onions. Now that we are in July, we hope to soon offer some beans, tomatoes, and peppers, all of which are flowering as I write this post. Sales of the new paperback books I have printed are doing well, but our overall sales volume is lower this year. We are seeing fewer patrons at the market this year, which we attribute to all the Coronavirus fears. We hope the better weather and our expanding produce production will draw bigger crowds in July and August. If not, we’re going to have a lot of vegetables to can this year, which doesn’t bother us a bit. After all, anything we can store away for the winter will reduce our need to buy groceries at the inflated prices we are seeing. It’s one of those situations where some bad luck in sales creates good luck for our winter food stores. That, again, is one of the biggest benefits you can achieve from self-reliant living—which one of my newest books, Country Life at Peeper Pond Farm, clearly explains. We hope we’ll see you soon one Saturday morning at the Grant County Farmers Market in downtown Petersburg. Feel free to come by and chat awhile.