The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

question for bakers selling at farmer's markets

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joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

question for bakers selling at farmer's markets

I know you're out there!  Now that I'm registered as a CFO in CA (cottage food operation is the term), I have permission to sell at farmer's markets.  I'm thinking to myself (remember I'm a home baker using my one oven, albeit convection enabled) how in the world can I produce enough loaves to make the market fee for a table worthwhile?  I would have to have somewhere between 40 and 50 loaves, right?  Right now, with the 2 or 3 customers a week on average, I can sell freshly baked loaves, baked either late the evening before or the morning of the sale (some breads do fine "day, or half-day old"--not bagels though, which have to be fresh as can be).  I am not willing to sell bread previously frozen.

Anyone out there willing to answer?  I would be forever grateful if you are.

Joyful

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

My first questions are...what is the market fee and what is the selling price of your bread.

In general, the answer to your question is that it takes a lot of time to produce enough bread to make it worthwhile.  Some solutions that I have seen have been acquiring a second and possibly a third home oven to accommodate the necessary baking.  Renting a commercial kitchen is another possibility.  No matter which direction you go the bottom line is that baking goods for sale takes a lot of time and the usual bottleneck is oven space.  Even with adequate oven space you will find that it still takes a great deal of time and effort.

Jeff

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Maybe Andy (anada) can tune in. He owns a Wood fired oven , though.

-Khalid

CJRoman's picture
CJRoman

I'm going through this exact process right now...

My farmer's market is $20/day. I naively assumed that I could "get in"...turns out its HUGELY competitive and there is a LONG waiting list. Check on that first. They only let a certain number of bakers in each year.

My home oven is far too much of a bottleneck to production and I'm not able to add more ovens because of space and HOA. I've decided to rent a commercial kitchen. Its PRICY...but the goal is to overcome those costs by having a large oven, mixer and EVERYTHING at my disposal.

Check with your local private schools...they may let you rent space in the kitchen over the summer if you both agree on the conditions. Some people use church kitchens but that usually doesn't last long.

 

joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

Thanks everyone, for your responses.  I guess I knew I would need more oven space, and, even though I can mix enough dough for at least 9-10 loaves (1# size) with two mixers (K/A and Bosch), the oven would be the problem.  I need to give this idea another "think"--maybe less is more in my case.  I did consider adding another oven to my kitchen (steam enabled) and got a good quote on a Cadco convection oven with steam--but I'm not sure about that.  Still, a commercial kitchen sounds like the right answer.

Joyful

joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

Good luck with your business!  I think you are going into this venture with your eyes wide open, and it's helpful for me to learn about the competition at the farmer's market.  I wonder about your comment about church kitchens.  There's one around the corner from my house, and I head from a caterer friend that they only want to rent to non-profits.  This she found after working there for years and years.

CJRoman's picture
CJRoman

This is what I've learned...

Churches have to file taxes as non-profits...so charging "rent" becomes problematic. Every baker/caterer/food truckie/whatever that I know had to craft some sort of arrangement, like: the baker donates money (read: "rent") to THE Church for whatever, or the baker exchanges baked goods instead of paying rent.

I was SURE this was how I was going to go...because they have GREAT kitchens that are usually not in use.

HOWEVER...I haven't met a single soul who was able to "rent" from them long. MAYBE a few weeks and if you are in production for a market or store...you can't just not have a kitchen anymore.

Typically, the church would decide that they didn't need the baked goods (i.e. "rent") anymore....

OR: the Church would have a big weekend event (fish fry, fundraiser) and the baker would get booted from the kitchen...

OR: someone in the church decided they were not OK with the "donation"...

OR: the baker needed to contact someone about an equipment maintenance issue or storage issue...and the relationship ended...

OR: church members were using the bakers supplies.

I'm not saying this CAN'T be done...but it seems short lived. And in my state you have to go through quite a bit to have the Dept. of Agriculture inspect the kitchen, approve you, etc. I decided that while this may be the most cost effective route...its also very risky....for the baker.

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

A few years back I had a similar experience with a church.  I had agreed to teach a bread class for a folk school contingent upon the school finding a venue for the teaching.  They found a church who said 'yes' to using their beautiful well equipped barely used kitchen.  Weeks beofre the class date the church imposed new unmentioned rules on using their kitchen that made it impossible.  Only the chuch folk would know why that came to be as it did.  I would avoid churches.

Jeff

joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

Thank you, CJR and Jeff, for relating these experiences.  I am a member of a congregation in town and thought of checking out their kitchen policies, and I now will consider the idea with several "grains of salt."