Tag Archives: Farmers Market

Box Truck

16 Mar

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So it was finally time.

We bought a box truck.

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We’ve been doing farmers markets for 3 years now with our trusty farmers market trailer which is dutifully pulled around by the farm pickup truck.  The truck/trailer combo served us well, but now we’re trying to reorganize our market days and we decided that a box truck would be a better solution.

After a whole winter of shopping around, we landed on this 2003 Isuzu NPR box truck.  Now we just have to change it from a plain-ol’ box truck into a farmers market truck.

First up on the list of must-haves is electricity.  Freezers don’t stay freezy on their own, so we needed a way of getting all that 120 volt goodness inside the box.

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We learned from experience with the farmers market trailer that a plug-in style outlet on the box isn’t really the best solution, when you inevitably forget to unplug before you drive away there’s a good chance of breaking something.

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Inside, again learning from our experience with the trailer, we put an outlet strip on the wall up a good 3-4 feet off the floor.  Freezers need to be unplugged and plugged back in a lot and having the outlet strip easily accessible helps a lot.

The one outlet we put in the trailer ended up behind a big freezer down at floor level.  Over the years much cursing resulted from the contortionist ritual that was unplugging the freezers.

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All the farmers market fixtures get the same treatment:  tie-out rings, a bumper board so nothing important rubs against the wall, and a couple of boards on the floor so that it can’t go rolling around everywhere every time you hit the brakes.  We put a lot of work into having nice-looking fixtures and freezers, so we like to make sure they don’t get too banged up in transit.  The display freezer gets the same treatment, but with one of the coveted spots nearest the electricity.

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And of course, after all that talk about how we’ve outgrown the trailer,  the box truck gets a trailer hitch.
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For all it’s shortcomings, we’re still going to be using the trailer this year.  We’re hoping to make our farmers market outings a bit more efficient this year, attending two markets per day on Saturday and Sunday.  That’ll leave us more time to get things done on the farm during the week, while keeping us at 4 markets per week.

The plan is to drop our trailer off at one market, take the box truck to the second market, and pickup the trailer on the way back home.

Big Wheels Keep On Turnin’

9 Oct

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We’re not quite done with our first market season with the new (to us) display freezer and we’re completely in love with it.  We happened upon it last winter on Craigslist for $150; worth every penny.

If you, out there in internet land, sell meat at a farmers market and you don’t already have one, go get yourself a display freezer ASAP.

While we tried to outfit our freezer the best we could ahead of time, one weakness has already reared it’s head, the big wheels weren’t big enough.

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The 5″ casters were plenty big for the (now defunct) egg refrigerator, but not quite up to the task of dealing with a full 7 cubic foot display freezer.

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  But this time with mild steel, a welder and bigger wheels.

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Fits just right.

And don’t worry, the old wheels are making themselves useful on the farmers market cart these days.  Waste not.

Velcro: a love letter

29 Jun

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Velcro, you’re just about the best thing that a market farmer could ever have.

I have no idea why I don’t see more of you around.

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You hold my vinyl banners on the freezer.

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And on the folding table.

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Or on the tent.

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And at the end of the day, you hold them up out of the way, on the wall of the trailer.

Thanks velcro, keep being awesome.

Spring crunch

29 May

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Grass is growing. Cows are grazing. Pigs are wallowing.

Farmers markets are starting up. (Eagan, we’re looking at you.)

Eggmobiles are progressing.

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Thanks to our friend Nate, the eggmobile will heretofore be referred to as the Winnebeggo.

Farmers Market Cart

27 Feb

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With all the excitement about the St. Paul farmers market, there has been a lot of worrying about how we’re going to handle a (much) bigger market.  We’ve been slapping wheels on appliances and researching new Point Of Sale systems.

The time has come to commit ourselves to a new POS, and Square has won out.  They don’t have a few features that would make selling meat much easier, but it’s good enough.  There are new mobile-POS systems out there that are a little cheaper, but Square’s still has the most full-featured software and that’s what tipped the balance for us.  We want sales reports, inventory and cashdrawer reports; Square is the only one that has ’em (that’s not murderously expensive).

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So with the POS all sorted, it was time to make ourselves a nifty little cart to put everything on.  We’re putting wheels on everything this year to make a nicer presentation at markets, so why not wheels for this too?

We grabbed the “small” wheels from the fridge and promptly got to building a 24″x36″ cart out of scrap lumber that we had lying about.

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The cart incorporates a nice little spot for our cash-drawer that’s rigged up to the Square stand, we don’t want that running away on us.
I used up a few 2×4’s, 1×12’s, MDF, Baltic Birch Plywood and Luan scraps that I had laying around. This cart has about every different type of lumber known to man.

 

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Up top we’ve got two little holes to get the Square stand all mounted and wired up.
It only takes a single specially-shaped USB cord, so we opted to keep the cord out of the way under the base.

 

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For the sake of our future convenience (and/or sanity) there are two drawers and some extra space to store all the stuff you end up needing or wanting at a farmers market.
Our list of stuff goes something like this:
Sharpie markers and alcohol pads – for writing and erasing on our laminated price lists
Pens
Business cards & holder
Brochures & holder
Informational & recipe postcards
Price list & signage
Calculators
White duct tape
Double-sided foam “poster” tape
Trashcan
Insect repellant
Sunscreen
Hand warmers
Freezer gloves
Phone charger
First-Aid kit
Extra shopping bags

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Speaking of shopping bags, I rigged up this beaut from a 2×4 with a few lengthwise cuts at about 15°. Its enough to hold a whole mess of shopping bags at the ready.

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When it’s time to go home the bag-holder and everything else slides back out of the way.
The vegetable vendors have been jealous of how quickly we could pack-up our old setup. This is going to make it so much faster, we’ll be on the road home in no time.

Big Wheels

14 Feb

It’s that time of year again, mostly spent inside where it’s warm.  That and the new year is kicking off with all kinds of “business” stuff to get done.  There’s all the tax prep, market applications and market-season planning going on.  While going through our big to-do list, I noticed that our annual re-inspection by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is coming up in 6 weeks or so.  Time to get cracking on a few projects.

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One such project is putting some new casters on our egg refrigerator.

The egg fridge is a True GDM-7, a commercial refrigerator (as required by the MDA) that we take to farmers markets with us.  For the past year I’ve had it on these 3″ casters.  It lives in the farmers market trailer and we roll it out at each farmers market.

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I love having the refrigerator out in front of our booth at farmers markets as it has really helped our sales.  Even though we have pretty extensive sinage (if I do say so myself) you’d be amazed at the number of farmers market shoppers who don’t realize we have anything to sell.  With the egg fridge at least passersby realize that we have something to sell, even if they think we only have eggs to sell. Getting a product out where customers can see it is awesome.

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While I loved having the egg fridge on wheels, the 3″ casters were aggravatingly small.  They didn’t work that well on anything that wasn’t perfectly smooth and the little “brake” on the wheels didn’t work very well.  It went flying around the trailer a bit more than it should have (with no eggs in it  thankfully).

I decided that some bigger wheels were in order this year.  These 5″ wheels should roll a lot easier.  Instead of brakes on the wheel, I’m going to bungee the fridge to the wall of the trailer when it’s in transit.

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I made a lovely frame to bolt the casters to out of some 2×4, 1×4 and whatnot. This fridge came with four metal feet, the feet screwed in with a 3/8″ bolts.  In our current arrangement the wooden frame is bolted to the fridge using 3/8″ bolts where the feet were.  The big casters are then lag-bolted to the wooden frame.  The old casters were screwed directly to the bottom of the fridge with sheet-metal screws.  I was a bit nervous to go that route with the bigger wheels. I guess the manufacturers don’t get much demand for big-wheeled refrigerators.

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That’s too bad, cause this bad boy wheels around like a dream!  And it looks about a foot higher.
Now lets see what other stuff I have around to slap some wheels on…

Square for Meat: still not there yet

31 Dec

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Before we did our first market we went ahead and ordered up a pair of Square credit-card readers to use with our smartphones.  I initially had very high hopes for Square as I was looking over it’s capabilities.  In addition to the credit-card reader, Square has a web-based “register” that can do all sorts of useful stuff, like generate sales reports and inventories.  Unfortunately for us, the one feature set that Square does not support is pricing by weight.  All the cool features of the Square register depend on running all transactions through Square, which is made difficult when you can’t input variable prices. This meant that Square was relegated to a credit/debit-card processing role for us for the past two years, even though it is capable of much more.

As we look at growing our sales at our new market next year we’ve come to the realization that our checkout process is going to be holding us back.
All of our beef and pork comes labeled with only the weight printed on the package. We have to calculate the price for each individual cut and add up the total on a little adding-machine that we bought. After we’ve made change, bagged up the goods and sent our customer on their way, we record the sales on a sheet of paper.
We break down our sales by category: Beef, Pork, Chicken and Eggs.
It makes for really useful sales records, but it’s very slow and we’re prone to missing things.

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I took another look at Square’s capabilities this past month and found that there have been a few changes.  While Square sill does not support pricing items by weight, they have come up with a few workarounds.  They’ve also come out with a POS/register system that supports scales, UPC scanners and the like.

The UPC scanner sounds like it could be really useful if it would work out right. Our butcher uses a Hobart Quantum scale to weigh and print labels for all of our beef and pork. This scale is capable of printing type-2 UPC codes on all the labels. The type-2 codes contain two bits of information in them. What the item is, and what the item costs. Type-2 codes were designed for use with meat, where weight (and therefore price) varies with each cut.
So we know it’s possible to get labels with individualized UPC codes, it’s now up to Square to see if they can read such codes. Square’s website is tragically devoid of much useful information, after browsing a few youtube videos it looks like I may be out of luck. I glean that Square’s software is limited to using UPC codes for a PLU (price look up) function. No word anywhere about Type-2 UPC codes.

I called up Square, and after explaining my question a few times and waiting a few minutes on hold, I heard back that they do not support Type-2 UPC codes.

The good news is that sometime in the past two years Square began supporting variable-priced items. We can at least get the prices printed on labels, input those prices by hand as a variable-priced item.

Looks like that might have to do.

I think it’s a problem they’ll get around to fixing, but not until all this chip-and-pin card stuff gets settled.

Hooray! Oh No!

10 Dec

We’ve been looking for another farmers market to attend next year. We were hoping to land another market in the south suburbs (of the twin cities) like our markets in Eagan and Apple Valley.

We were not expecting to have the Downtown Saint Paul market fall in our lap.

For those of you not from the area, the downtown St. Paul market is THE biggest market in the state, quite possibly the biggest in all the surrounding states.  We’re talking 8,000-12,000 people per day.  Compare that to our biggest market so far (Eagan) which sees about 3,500 people on it’s busiest day of the year.

Right now I feel like a high-school kid who’s just been signed by the Yankees.  (or something like that, I don’t play sport-ball)

Market starts on April 19th, so that means we have 4 months to prepare.

Based on the rough sales numbers of the farmer we’re replacing, we’re preparing ourselves for 5-6 times the sales volume of our three markets last year.

No idea how were going to make it work, but we’re sure gonna try.

 

 

 

Do you feel like Chicken tonight?

25 Jun

The wait is finally over!

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The first batch of chickens is back from the processor, and boy to they look tasty!

We’ll have chickens at Eagan tomorrow, Red Wing on Saturday, and Zumbrota on Monday. If you reserved a chicken or two (you know who you are) we’ve already set aside your birds.

If you haven’t reserved a chicken yet, there is still time! (I’m lookin’ at you Red Wing and Zumbrota customers. We expect these birds to go fast!) Give me a call or shoot me an email and we’ll hold back up to 2 chickens for you. If you haven’t picked your chicken by the end of the first market then we’ll go ahead an sell them on a first-come basis.

Farmers Market Trailer: Part 3

9 May

As I wrote about before, we’ve been hard at work getting our farmers market trailer up and running.  It’s nearly there.

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After a lot of strategic cutting, caulking and cursing the dairyboard walls and ceiling are all finished. The linoleum floors are all done too. Very spiffy.

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Meanwhile, up in the nose of the trailer, the magic happens. That’s a nice little electrical outlet (110v) and light that we’ll use to power our freezer and refrigerator.

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There is a corresponding outlet on the outside of the trailer that allows us to plug in to a power source with an extension cord.
While we’re on the road we are supposed to be plugged into a generator, so the freezers are always on. We got our hands on a nice little Honda generator, but we’ve got nowhere to put it while on the road.

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But after one sheet of expanded steel, two pieces of angle iron and some crappy welding (mine), we’ve got a place to put just such a generator.

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After being postponed once last week due to 14″ of snow, we finally got our appointment with the MDA inspector. She spent approximately 5 seconds looking at the trailer and gave it her stamp of approval. She jotted down the make and model of our fridge and freezer, took my $85 check and issued our Mobile Retail Food Handlers License.

And with that, we’re ready for market and moving on down the to-do list.