Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fabulous Fall Finds

Fall, my favorite time of the year.
Farmer’s Market, what better place to shop?  As the seasons change, so does the market. It is sensory overload.

In spring the market is in full bloom. Flowers galore and vegetable plants are the main stay early in the growing season.  As spring changes to summer, so too the market. More and more fresh veggies and fruit become available. Sweet tomatoes, juicy corn on the cob, crisp onions, peas, green beans, peppers and cantaloupe.

Fall ushers in pumpkins, squash, berries, mums, and the last of the summer produce. The smell of the market changes with the seasons.

At our local market in Holland, MI there are booths that sell honey, breads, sweets, and even smoked fish.
I fell in love with this market when I had my cookie company a few years ago. For several months the market and the internet were the only places I retailed the cookies. Every Wednesday and Saturday mornings I would arrive before 7:00 to have my named dropped into a hat. There are a number of vendors that have a permanent space. But for the rest of us we were at the mercy of the draw. At 7:00 sharp the names were drawn and given slots. The earlier your name was pulled, the better the spot. If you were drawn early you would be under the canopy and more centrally located.

Then the work began. We had a canopy that was erected with a sign incorporated with weights to keep the canopy from blowing away. Two eight foot tables and a 6 foot table were placed inside the canopy. We wanted our booth to stand out, so we had a green table cloth with eight to ten glass covered pedestal cake plates that displayed the cookies. We also sold dog cookies, pies, muffins, coffee drink mix, hot cocoa mix, milk and bottled water.
All the goodies were made the day before, packed, hauled out of the basement licensed kitchen we used, and into what we affectionately called the cookie tank (a really old and ugly van). I also sold wholesale to coffee shops in a thirty mile radius and they were delivered the day we baked.
A lot of hard work went into Country House Cookies.
The best part of the business was the people at the market. We gave out samples and time and time again people would take a sample as passing by, stop, turn around and purchase what they had just tested. We had our regulars that came every week. We got to know their kids and heard about their weekend plans.
The hard part was deciding on the amount of cookies to make, not knowing how many people would show up. The weather was a determining factor too.  Sunny weather = more people, rain = less. The problem was trusting the weather man the day before on baking day.
Our first holiday weekend we sold out by 10:30 AM. Once in a while we would have cookies left over and we would deliver the extra to the police station up the road from the market.
On our best Saturday we sold just shy of 1,000 cookies. It was great.
There was live music and dancing at St. Pete's market.
When my sister and I were visiting our parents in Florida this past year we could not pass up the local market there. There’s just a great spirit there.
I don’t know if you have ever explored your local Farmer’s markets or not. I would encourage you to support your local farmers and enjoy the goodness of their labors.
Here are a few treasures from our market. If you are anywhere near Holland, MI you will miss a great experience if you don’t take the time to stroll the market.

Some cool yard art.
On a good day 3,000 and up visit Holland's Farmer's Market.
They are open Wednesdays and Saturdays at the West end of 8th St. You can't miss it.
Ray's Tamale King - the best kept secret of the market.

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