Market Stand Outs for Small and Micro Farms

by Erin Enouen

IMG_4363The gaining popularity of farming as a profession (and even more still, farming with organic methods), coupled with limited and expensive land, has led to a rising trend of small and micro-farm operations.

Just what is a micro farm? Generally, a micro-farm refers to a certain farming and business model of high production on a very small space, generally under 2 acres. For a beginning farmer, the appeal of a micro farm is that with efficient and effective management, the production of a small amount of land can rival that of a larger amount of land, with lower production and labor inputs. The challenge with a small farm is managing the small space as efficiently as possible, using every bit a space, turning over beds quickly, and maximizing the season to bring in as much income as possible.

Though this farming model relies heavily on planning and organization, it's also important for these types of farms to fill the specialty and niche food markets. One way to do this is to incorporate unique and appealing varieties that bring customers in and make them come back for more. Whether those customers are creative chefs, or home cooks that shop local, by having unique and valuable varieties at your stand or CSA offerings, you're sure to create excitement and buzz among your customers, which draws them in week after week. These varieties are generally eye-catching, with bright colors and superior flavor, and even perhaps a unique or personal story to share with the customer.

The following 15 varieties are excellent market standouts with broad appeal to the direct market:

Listada di Gandia: Market customers buy this variety because it is incredibly attractive; they will come back for more when they see how dense and and delicious it is. Very productive variety.

Lemon Drop: Exotic looking bright yellow wrinkled fruits pack a wonderful heat. Great citrusy flavor. Very attractive to hot pepper aficionados.

IMG_4665Hot Portugal: My absolute favorite pepper. This sweet and spicy pepper makes great dried chili flakes, and when added to stir-fries when fresh is quite delicious. Great for your DIY customers who love a dash of sweet heat at almost every meal. To make chili flakes, simply dehydrate until fully dry and crush.

 

Red-Cored Chantanay: Great winter storage carrot--gets better in storage. Customers are thrilled at these big, blocky roots in deep winter. The high yields you will get from these big roots lead to better sales in the fall and winter. Farm Pack

IMG_4174Blush Tomato: Opulent beauties. Very popular at market, Great size, shape, color and flavor make this variety appealing to customers. Minimal splitting, very productive and disease resistant qualities make it great for the grower. From the great classical plant breeders at Artisan Tomatoes.

 

Paul Robeson: For taste and looks, one of the best "black" tomatoes, though this tomato has a more orangey-red hue rather than a deep purple. More disease resistant than other varieties. This tomato's namesake starts great conversations. Taste test winner among our staff year after year.

IMG_4190Speckled Roman: Pretty speckled paste tomato brings an air of allure to the otherwise bland processing tomato category. Long, meaty fruits have a golden stripes on the skin. Apart from good looks, this tomato plant yields good amounts of very high quality, unblemished fruits, which is good news for the grower too!

Silver Slicer: Bred by Cornell University as a unique blonde variety with field resistance to powdery mildew. The flavor is unbeatable, sweet, mild, and crisp. Attractive pale fruits are unique, yet the shape, like a traditional slicing cuke, has broad appeal.

Purple Tomatillo: One of the best perks of peak summer: fresh salsa. Offering tomatillos in peak summer alongside the ingredients for salsa verde (onions, garlic, cilantro) drives the point home, but offering purple tomatillos starts a conversation. Better yet, mix purple and green tomatillos in quarts for a pretty market display.

Sweet Siberian Watermelon: Bright, sweet, and crisp--Sweet Siberian is a quality melon. The electric orange-glow flesh is

Red Swan Snap Bean: Light pink Romano-type beans are irresistibly attractive. The result of a stabilized mix between a pinto and a purple podded bean variety, Red Swan has a great flavor, and nice yields that make it more than a novelty. Beautiful when marketed alongside green, purple and yellow snap beans.

Flashy Butteroak Lettuce: One of our best performing lettuce varieties year after year. Flashy Butteroak makes a great addition to salad mixes with its unique speckled pattern, similar to Spotted Trout, and its oakleaf shape. An excellent performer in late spring, when temperatures rise and other head lettuces bolt. Market grouped together with green and red head lettuce.

IMG_4872Vivid Choy: Keep introducing new and delicious Asian greens year after year, and your customers with thank you for the diversity! Vivid Choy is a newer introduction from Frank Morton. It has stems in bright jewel-tone hues in shades of purple and pink, with big, luscious sweet, deep green leaves. Though a nice baby leaf, I recommend this as a bunching green, as the colors deepen when the plant matures, while the flavor stays mild and sweet.

Rainbow LacinatoRainbow Lacinato Kale: A favorite for winter production, Rainbow Lacinato is quite cold hardy and stands up to temperatures in the teens when under plastic production when other kale varieties go limp and lose their color. Rainbow Lacinato takes on an almost black shade of purple in the deep cold, making it quite attractive as a bunched green. Great flavor and now more uniform plants than in years past.

 

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