Monday, September 10, 2012

Virtual Farm Tour :: The Farmer's Market

While not literally on the farm ... the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market is a huge part of the farm. Last year we did twelve dates at the market (including the two winter indoor markets), and this year we are full-time vendors there each week beginning in May and ending the last Saturday of October. We are in the homestretch now, but it has been a very good and eventful season so far ... even if I've done about half of it on crutches and in a cast!

The Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market is a pretty large market covering four city blocks plus three north/south side streets off of the main avenue. I believe it has somewhere close to 200 vendors and averages large crowds each week with over 15,000 people. Needless to say it is a very large crowd each week and even though it has been hot we have had nice Saturdays and plenty of people.

For our farm the biggest thing about the market is getting our name out there, meeting people, and sharing our story. The great thing about the market is that there is an opportunity to really build a relationship with the customers and they can get a pretty good picture of the farm. Just in this first year we have built a great following of regulars who come pretty much every week (and mostly at the same time). Those regulars have also become some of our best advertisers and often recommend our pork to friends or people checking out the display while they are making their purchase.

We have been averaging about a hog per week in sales at the market with pork being the mainstay of our sales ... and the only thing that we've had consistently each week. At the beginning of the market we had a little lamb left over which sold very well, and the one beef we did this year sold out very quickly! We have also had our whole chickens for a few weeks and should have more throughout the last two months of the market. But, our pork has been our thing and I hope to gain a reputation as the place to go to for the best pork at the market.

The biggest thing about the market for the farm though is just the exposure. I have often commented that our eventual goal is to be selling just wholes and halves. I strongly believe that is the most sustainable method for the farm and for the way we raise the animals, but in order to get to that place people need to get to know us. This year we have been taking reservations for whole/half hogs and quickly filled up the spots for our fall hogs and are now taking reservations for the spring. If things keep up the way they are going now I can see us eventually working our way out of the market ... which could be a good thing.

But, for the time being ... the market is a great avenue and connection to a great crowd interested in some of the best pork available!


Anonymous said...

Can you share more about the t-shirts? Did you find a local printer or order them as needed online? Do you use them for promos/give aways or sell them? We've been tossing around the idea what they are so expensive!

Anonymous said...

glad to hear you are having success with your hogs at the farmers market. I am hoping to do the same on my farm in a few years. I know you raise your hogs on pasture, but what else do you feed your hogs? I know most farmers have to suppliment the grass with some other type of feed. Do you feed them hay,corn or soybeans, or some other type of grain?

Rich said...

"...and the one beef we did this year sold out very quickly!..."

Did you reduce the number of cattle you have? From the pictures and descriptions of your cattle, I would have guessed that you would have sold more beef.

Or, did you sell most of your beef as half a beef, a quarter of a beef, etc. instead of individual cuts?

Ethan Book said...

marriedtothefarm ... We did the t-shirts with a local printer, and you're right, they are expensive. We do sell them though for $18. The funny thing is that 1/2 the people that bought them don't even purchase from our farm ... they just see them and like them! It's kind of like a farm fundraiser (that hasn't exactly worked out)

milligansganderhillfarm ... We do feed the hogs a corn/soy custom ration. I would say that they get about 60% of their feed from the ration and 40% from foraging. I'll have more on that soon.

Rich ... Our last ten plus calves have been bulls, but prior to that they were all heifers and we ended up saving them back. In the next couple of years we'll add more for sale, but probably only by cuts because it will still be less than 10 a year even at full capacity.

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