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My husband and I sold Squash at the Nampa Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings and at the new Wednesday afternoon Caldwell Farmers’ Market. In addition, I filled three large orders of squash during the season: for a local CSA (Eat Right Idaho) and for Bon Appétit, caterer for Albertson College of Idaho.
|Karen at the Pollinator Paradise booth at the Nampa Farmers' Market, 2007. Mini squash is prominently displayed in the tray on the left.|
I tried, several different pricing schemes at the market. At Farmers Market large squash sold well at 2-4 for $1.00. Small squash sold well at 5 – 8 for $1.00. The number of small squash for $1.00 increased as the size of the squash decreased late in the season. Baby squash were sold to Bon Appétit for $1.75 per pound, which turns out to be a bargain price compared to the price per pound that I got at the farmers’ market where 5-8 sold for $1.00, which is usually between $2 and $3 per pound (Table 3).
Price per pound was greater for mini squash.
Table 3: Approximate Weight of
$1.00 of Squash and Cost per Pound
Large squash were a better buy for the consumer. For small squash the zucchini varieties were a better buy than the patty pan varieties. Small squash were a much greater source of income per pound of squash. In most cases the cost per pound increased late in the season as the squash size decreased. However, small zucchini types decreased in price per pound, because their size decreased slightly but the number sold for a dollar increased considerably.
For comparison, most other vendors at the Saturday Farmers’ Market sold squash the size of my larger squash at 3 – 4 for $1.00, or at $0.75 per pound. I was the only vendor selling baby squash at either of the Farmers’ Markets. During peak season, 6 - 7 other produce vendors had squash for sale.
We kept track of the numbers of squash left over at the end of the Saturday market, and compared that with the number of squash that were harvested during the week. We found that we sold all but about 6% of the small squash that we harvested with green squash slightly more popular than yellow. An average of 17% of our large zucchini squash did not sell. Least popular were the large patty pan types: 28% did not sell. People frequently asked “What do you do with these?” Most people bought other squash varieties if they were available, even when we offered recipes.Table of Contents
To get more information about customer preferences, we did three customer surveys during the season. Two were conducted at the Saturday market and one at the Wednesday market. For the Wednesday market survey and one Saturday market survey we hired a friend to grill squash so customers could taste the cooked squash before filling out the survey. The other Saturday market survey included tasting of raw squash.
A total of about 75 people filled out our market surveys from the three days combined.
|Squash Tasting and customer surveys took place at a table next to the Pollinator Paradise booth at the Nampa Farmers' Market.|
|Overall, customers were equally willing to purchase baby squash compared
with “medium” sized squash. Very few were interested in “huge” squash.
Most preferred to buy squash by numbers (5-6 baby, 2-4 medium squash)
(89% of respondents) than by the pound. When asked how much they would
pay per pound for squash, most chose $1.00 or less, and many said they
would not pay as much for baby squash per pound than for medium squash.
This response surprised me, given that those who purchased squash paid
$2.00 or more per pound for them.
Are you a market gardener or small farmer who sells squash direct to consumers? Are you a customer who buys local squash at Farmers' Market? Contact me and tell me how your experience and preferences compare. Be sure to tell me where you sell or buy squash.
Six produce vendors who sell
summer squash at the Nampa Farmers' Market filled out
questionnaires concerning their cultural practices on August 5, 2006.
Kevin Laughlin solicited responses from 5 additional squash vendors
Capitol City Public Market
in Boise. To these responses I added my own
management practices. Some respondents did not answer all of the
questions. Here is a summary of the responses:
One vendor claimed he did not fertilize his squash patch. Three vendors
fertilized with compost and/or manure. One vendor uses a cover crop, one
uses pelleted fertilizer, one an “all purpose” fertilizer. One organic
grower uses Gardens Alive. One uses ammonium sulfate, added in amounts
recommended for vegetables by a soil test. (Other respondents did not
mention a soil test, but they were not specifically asked).
In summary, the vendors who sell squash at Farmers’ Market tend to differ in a number of ways from conventional farmers. Market vendors have small plots of squash, generally only a row or two, 60 or fewer plants or hills, as part of a diversified farm or garden with a variety of other crops. Most prepare the soil with a tiller rather than a plow, most plant by hand, use compost or other organic supplements as fertilizer, and use minimal pesticides. Most harvest two to five times a week. Daily harvests are rare, though harvesting takes only 15 to 20 minutes for most reporting vendors. The most that vendors reported bringing to market was 75 lbs of squash. Most vendors sell out of squash at the market or sell most of what they bring, with vendors doing better at the Capitol City Public Market than at the Nampa Farmers’ Market.
Surprisingly, only two vendors reported selling baby squash, including me. The other vendor who sold baby squash did not sell much at farmers’ market, but sold it to restaurants. There is potential to increase the market for this specialty product.
Are you a market gardener or small farmer who sells
squash direct to consumers?
Contact me and tell me how your management practices compare. Be sure to tell me where you grow
and market squash.
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Copyright © December 21,
2007, Karen Strickler. All rights reserved.
updated January 30, 2008.
updated February 6, 2008