Articles

Extending the Sales Season

The Coppell Farmers Market is a local seasonal market which means customers won’t find everything that grows in north central Texas all the time. Produce that is ready for picking now is at the market. Summer tomatoes and melons won’t be found in May. Neither will the winter squashes that were around in November. Fruit like plentiful berries and peaches might be available in late May, having been delayed by late cold snaps.

This also means our farmers sometimes find gaps in what they can sell at the market. Most of ours are full time small acreage farmers with families to feed and bills to pay just like their customers and need as long a sales period as they can manage. The earlier in the season they can get to the market, the better for all concerned. With the market committee making site visits to each farm, a recent benefit  was seeing the creativity of the growers to extend the length of time a given product can be brought to the market for sale.

Ryan Crocker of Johnson’s Backyard Garden in Denton showed his city ¾ acre plot to committee members this spring.  He densely plants his seeds and onion sets in rows, too closely for a full sized onion or turnip. As the onions and turnips develop, they need to be thinned to develop larger bulbs. Many gardeners throw away those thinnings. For Crocker those thinned onions are sold at the market as spring or green onions. Turnips are pulled at about the size of a quarter or half dollar for use as salad turnips. No plants are thrown aside and produce is at the market weeks earlier. Good Earth and Pure Land have had green garlic produced similarly. English peas are planted for rotating soil nutrition but the young pods can be picked and eaten fresh and raw for super human nutrition.

Eric Katzenberger with Greens and Goodies plants all of his seeds scattered really closely in small raised beds. His greens are planned to harvest a whole bed in a certain number of weeks. His spinach is picked as baby spinach leaves. Certain beds are totally picked each week on a rotating basis. He says this gives him a predictable harvest each week.

The take away point for customers is that a smaller vegetable this early in the season is a younger version, not one that didn’t grow well. The win is more variety of local produce for a longer time period. Ask the farmer how to use the selection in your home kitchen.

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