The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Carlisle Farmer's Market

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varda's picture
varda

Carlisle Farmer's Market

Today, I attended my first farmer's market as a vendor.   Yesterday I baked around three times more bread at one time than I had ever done before.   Miraculously it all came out fine with no kitchen disasters.  This morning I finished up the baking and drove a couple towns over to Carlisle.   I had never been to the Carlisle market before.   I had two reasons for picking it.   One, I figured, given that Carlisle is pretty sparsely populated, that the market might be small enough for me to be able to manage.   The second is that unlike Lexington, they were willing to let me start in the middle of the season.   Sure enough, it was a fairly small and low key market.   The neighboring booth was a lemonade stand staffed by a seven year old and his parents.

So I relaxed and got ready to sell bread armored with my hastily purchased $6 sign from Staples.

There were plenty of baked goods, but only a couple other loaves about, and nothing like mine.   The market officially opened at 8 am, but there were only a trickle of customers and few of those interested in bread.    I figured I was going to be bringing a lot of loaves home, or engaging in some pretty furious barter for corn and squash at the end of the market.   

And yet, slowly but surely over the course of the morning my loaves walked away one by one, and in the opposite order that I expected.  

First to disappear were the flaxseed ryes.

Then went the Cherry Almond Whole Wheats.

The baguettes took longer to go, perhaps because they were a bit pale due to my needing the oven for the Challah rolls.   Finally a woman who would have preferred a Cherry Almond decided to take the last baguette home.  

When it was all over, I had only four challah rolls left out of my starting 18 loaves and 19 rolls.

The crowd seemed to divide into two parts (in my mind of course.)   The people who glanced at the bread, and then walked on as if they hadn't seen anything.    The second group would be almost past, when suddenly their eyes would lock on the bread, and they would circle slowly back, and only after a moment or two remembering to look up and say hello.   Of course, I liked those people better.  

One woman bought a roll, took a bite, and informed me it was dry.   I noticed that as she walked away she was still eating it.    Ten minutes later, she came back and said that after a bite or two she realized how good it was.   She just had to reorient herself from puffy.   

I experienced the limits of my kitchen all in one night.    I reached capacity on my scale (5 K) my Assistent Mixer which started chucking up bits of rye dough all over the place as they got too close to the top of the bowl.   My counter space and oven, and so forth.   But I survived, and sold my bread, and I'm ready to do it all over again next week.  Now I just have to figure out what to make.    

Comments

golgi70's picture
golgi70

Awesome Varda, 

How many pieces did you make all in all?  Now that I'm doing this barter thing I couldn't imagine really trying to produce out of my little ol kitchen.  But just like you I'd find a way.  Baguettes are a bit light but they look wonderful and are probably more people friendly that way.  What is on the Challah rolls?  Is it a sweet glaze???  They look a bit like a donut I really want to eat.  

Excellent Work and Congrats on selling out

 

Josh

golgi70's picture
golgi70

I deal with baking and space issues regularly (our bakery is small and doesn't have huge oven compacicty)  I suggest building a schedule before beginning.  The day to day for us has been pretty much figured out but when the holidays come I spend a few days writing a schedule and adjusting it so that it will have the least loose ends

 Having 1 or even 2 doughs shaped retarded is super helpful when it comes to scheduling oven time and temps.  I suppose this could also help with a bulk fermented dough freeing up the mixer on the busy day for 1 or two of your doughs, also allowing you to choose its shaping time with a bit more flexibility . Working in a bread that needs a day to age like a heavy Rye would allow you to knock out a small portion a day in advance.

Build a board to post with mix times, shape times bake times.  Then you can see if there is any bad overlap and make the proper adjustments before you are in too deep to make a change. 

I'm trying to post my simple template I use but its a word document and I can't do it so I made a silly mock one in paint so you can see.  If you build this in advance of starting you'll see conflicts and be able to adjust.  Granted I have no clue of your life schedule or your spac so you'll have to word around that but this may help.  

 

varda's picture
varda

Hi Josh,  I have been working from an excel schedule for each bread, and kind of eyed it to see if there were conflicts, but I like your graphical approach much better.   I think I compressed the schedule too much on Friday night, and it was pretty wild in my kitchen for awhile there.   Flour, flour everywhere.   Thanks so much for your suggestions.  -Varda

varda's picture
varda

Hi Josh,   I was thinking of you when I thought I was going to have to barter my bread away instead of sell it.   My kitchen is pretty small too and there is no way it should be producing this much bread, but so it goes.   

So I made 18 loaves of bread and 19 rolls.   It was supposed to be 20 but for some reason the dough ran out.   I also almost ran out of starter even though I had done the calculations and thought I had enough to spare.   I was only able to save 5g of wheat starter and 7g of rye sour.   Of course that's enough, but it is nerve racking to get down that low.  

I first glazed the challah with egg water mix twice.   Then sprinkled on a lot of Turbinado sugar.    The challah dough itself isn't very sweet, so it is a nice contrast.  

I think I could have sold more loaves today, even though the traffic at the market (I'm told) was a bit low.   The question is whether I can make more loaves.   I'll have to see.  

Thanks so much for commenting.  -Varda

BobS's picture
BobS

Way to go, Varda. 18 Loaves and 19 Rolls; that's a lot of bread.

 

b

varda's picture
varda

I'm glad I'm not any older than I am if that makes sense.   Thanks Bob.  -Varda

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Varda,

Way to go!  Love the 'title' of your booth.  Now to work on procuring a brightly covered tent shaped like a loaf of bread to really attract people's attention.  Not sure one exists but when I saw your photo of the produce tent the though popped into my mind.

I would imagine that as soon as the word gets out people will show up right away at your table to buy a loaf or two for the week.  To more or less sell out on your first attempt shows great potential….Like soon we will be reading that you are renting oven time in a local bakery and driving a big van to take your breads to market on Saturdays….

As you can see my imagination knows no limits.  

Thanks for reporting back so soon.  I so enjoy reading about how you have managed all of this in such a short time and to read about it coming to life is really exciting.  

Take Care and have fun planning out next week,

Janet

P.S.  Just thought of a loaf for you since it is one you have baked in the past and it can be baked ahead of time….your Borodinski Rye.  It would allow you to bake on Thursday since it has to sit for awhile so the crumb sets up…..

varda's picture
varda

Janet,  I'm totally with you on the van, the kitchen, the bread shaped tent.  But perhaps a bit tired to make it so at this moment.   Yes, I was thinking about doing a borodinsky, but worried that it was a bit too out there for my first trip out.   I think the second and third too.   I have to get these people used to me.   But some other high rye perhaps.    I baked the cherry whole wheat and the flaxseed last night late, and baked the challah and the baguettes this morning (after retarding overnight.)  Pushing that back to Thursday would be great.   Thanks for your support.  -Varda

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

My thought so too on the Borodinsky but you never know….I always hesitate to make the 'heavy' ryes but when I do I get high praise.  I make a lot of my heavy ryes in mini pans  (HERE) that hold about 350g of dough but when I know someone likes them I go to my bigger pans.

Janet

ananda's picture
ananda

Don't forget Varda,

that your Borodinsky will appeal to 2 different sets of people...if you make it wheat-free of course!

Rye bread has a specific following of its own, but 100% rye also appeals to those seeking to avoid eating wheat.

I make around 25 - 30 x 100% rye breads [800g panned] for the Hexham Market, twice a month...and I never have any left.

Also, never forget the shelf life of these loaves once they have been purchased...they'll easily keep a week, and often a lot longer.   People like that too!

But you are right to guage your own market.   I offer considerably less 100% rye at Alnwick than Hexham, as the interest is much diminished.

It is so good to see you putting yourself out there like this Varda.   Your baking looks really good, and all I can really do is encourage you to keep going, and have fun along the way whenever possible too.

All good wishes

Andy

varda's picture
varda

Andy,  Haven't tried a wheat free version of Borodinsky yet.   Still at 80% rye.   Will have to try it.   Haven't yet gauged the rye-ness of the Carlisle market.   I just know that six people bought a 40% rye loaf.   I find myself very enthusiastic about increasing the scope of my baking but of course it is a lot of work and not always enjoyable in the thick of things.  It was certainly rewarding to sit at the market and see my breads out there selling on their own merits without the benefit of my friends and family's good will.   Now I hope to get better at it.   Thanks so much for your encouragement.  -Varda

grind's picture
grind

Way to go, Varda.  Prediction - the glancers will stop after you've been there a while.

varda's picture
varda

Maybe some of them.   Thanks so much.  -Varda

golgi70's picture
golgi70

Guarantee you will be running out fast before long.  If I were there I'd have bought all your challah rolls and a couple loaves.  I used to make challah and add sugar to my egg wash to get a sweet shiny coating.  So good.  I still want to eat them like they are donuts.  Maybe you should fry those and save some oven space for other things.  

The visible schedule and spreading things out is the only way to manage a small space.  This means your biggest task will be picking the perfect variety based on having a nice variety in conjunction with scheduling  

I think you did fantastic and will need double that before long.  Wanna make some bucks just add some simple cookies and quick breads/muffins.  They'll fill your table up and are easy to produce.  And who doesn't want to buy some chocolate chip cookies or a nice pound cake.

 I got an closet full of simple treats you could produce if you are interested let me know.  Cookies could be made and scooped a week ahead and held frozen only needing a short bake to finish (pending size 12-20 minutes).  Muffin batters and quick bread batters can also be be made in advance and kept in fridge for a few days before baking. I love that your in the market and I'm rooting for you to steal their hearts with great food

Josh 

varda's picture
varda

I appreciate your help and your support.   -Varda

proth5's picture
proth5

I've not been on these pages much as of late and ...did I miss a step?  Ther one where you lost your mind ( :>) ) and decided to start all this.  What finally pushed you over the edge?

That being glad you aren't older than you are really hits home.

No, really, joking aside - I need details.  I'm on a countdown right now and am thinking hard about my next steps (if ya catch my drift...)

On a marketing note, I wonder if people pass by baguettes because they are so used to the really bad ones (although freshly "baked") from the grocery chains and they just aren't good sellers unless you can prove they are extraordinary.  Are you allowed to put out samples?  Our local market has been in house baking baguettes and is having a heck of a time moving them.  They do not give samples  - which they probably should. I know that we bakers look to those things as the proff of skill, but maybe the effort isn't worth it.  I think about this from time to time.

And the bread looks great.  I'll try to pay better attention over the next few weeks...

And again, both congratulations and best wishes!

Pat

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Pat,

'If you could' get a space in the Cherry Creek Farmer's Market you would sell out within an hour.  Perfect crowd for this and then there are all your other goodies.  (Check out Josh's suggestions above)

Your kitchen will have to expand and then there is the issue of a larger oven to consider…

Oh the ideas do come rapidly and I love planning other peoples' lives  :- )

Take Care,

Janet

 

proth5's picture
proth5

that CO doesn't have cottage baking laws - It's commercial rental - or nothing.

Just a little twist in your plan for my life.

:>)

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Oh rats.  And it would have been so close to home.  Foiled by the legislative branch of the govt. one more time…..Who voted that in anyway?  Surely it must have been done before my time *^ }

 

 

varda's picture
varda

all the interim steps Pat.   I've been baking for friends for around 4 months now on a more or less formal basis but couldn't go any further until properly licensed.   This involved taking a food safety class and exam and then waiting until it got graded and getting a lot of stuff to make my kitchen safe and registering with the town for tax purposes, and discovering restaurant depot and buying more better pans and a bigger mixer then applying to the town for my license and then it was done.   In the meantime I contacted the market manager in Carlisle and she surprised me by saying yes.   And then she further surprised me by saying sure I could come two days after I knew I had the license as long as I brought the paperwork with me.   So bang.   A license, a berth in a market, better make some bread.  

As for baguettes, a woman walked up to me toward the end, when all I had left was one baguette and a few rolls.   She read my bread list, and said oh, the fancy breads are gone.   So I told her that my baguettes were fancy, and then she questioned me about starters for awhile, and then she bought my baguette.   I'm not sure whether to hang in and make more or replace them with something else.   I would like to help reclaim baguettes as good bread instead of supermarket crap.   

Thanks so much Pat.  -Varda

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Perhaps you can gIve the baguettes a fancy name - like Pain au Levain.  You and I know what that means but it might at least open up conversation about them so people know they are different from the run of the mill supermarket ones…..

Janet

varda's picture
varda

a fancy name?   And besides, I plan to sell some pain au levain.   Don't want to confuse the customers too much.   I think I will go back in there with baguettes again.  After all they all sold if a bit more slowly than the other loaves.   We'll see if people come back for more.   Now on to all your other suggestions!

proth5's picture
proth5

Cool.  Unfortunately CO is commercial kitchen or nothing - but yep it all can happen so fast.

I understand your desire to reclaim the baguette.  A tasting might help - then you could get a devoted following - I know that's what happened in my "give away" business - people will now get into their cars and drive when the baguette flag flies.  Of course, for you only the first one will be free...

Keep us posted!

 

Pat 

varda's picture
varda

is a good idea.   Thanks!  -Varda

MANNA's picture
MANNA

Way to take the leap! All of us TFL'ers that are doing farmers markets should get together and open a bakery called Loafers. I ran the gauntlet last summer and did the local market. The home kitchen is a tough place to produce bread in quantity. I got my schedule down and was able to produce a large amount of bread. It also meant I didn't sleep from friday morning till saturday night. I found a CSA farm and now produce a more quantity / time manageable amount of bread for my schedule and kitchen. Congrats on your venture.

varda's picture
varda

Wonder how many farmers market bakers are out there on TFL.  I completely see how this could get to be too much.   At the local market in Lexington, a well known bakery from Cambridge shows up each week with around 200 breads.    Mine is fresher and much more flavorful but then again only 18 of them.    Hard to win that one.   Thanks Manna.  -Varda

proth5's picture
proth5

in a baking class and met at least two bakers who are doing thriving CSA- type bakeries.  And having some good success.  One baker ran her bakery in conjunction with her farm - the other was strictly breads - out of rented kitchen space.

This seems to be a growing area for smaller bakers.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Even my big rye class last week didn't require me to do the oven choreography at home that you have to do for market.  The week I spent with Mark was very enlightening on the oven management front. Josh is giving you some great advice.  There may be a proofer or retarder in your future to help keep product moving smoothly.  Not to mention some 2 a.m. risings (yours, not the breads') on market day to do the baking. 

What if you were to switch the baguettes for some demi-baguettes?  Some customers who wouldn't buy a baguette might be interested in a smaller bread that could double as a sandwich roll. 

Congratulations on a good start.  You will figure out customer preferences and they will come to love genuine bread, even (or especially) if it is boldly baked. 

Paul

varda's picture
varda

Hi Paul, Not 2am!   Say it ain't so.  I'm taking all this advice into my tired brain and hopefully I'll be able to make some progress with it. Thank you for your comments.  -Varda

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

It's a big step to sell bread - even at a smallish scale at a farmer's market. Just getting certified to sell takes (as you know) a serious effort.

I think you should be proud of the results of your first sell. As you gain experience you'll do even better.

Thanks for posting! I look forward to your *continued* write-ups of your endeavor. Best of luck!

varda's picture
varda

Thank you so much.   I appreciate your encouragement.  -Varda

trailrunner's picture
trailrunner

Started 3 weeks ago. Everyone has to preorder the things they want from the list that is offered. We have dairy, my breads, honey and products made from the honey...creams etc for skin , goat cheese and products made from the goat milk and fruits and vegetables. It is very small now but we are hopeful that it will grow. I don't have to have any license etc here in AL since it is a farmer's market so I am covered by that law. I realized after last week that I offered way to many choices of breads and rolls . I also realized that it just isn't feasible to only have sourdough based breads with no yeast assist...the long stretch and fold periods and then retarding and then the bake in cast iron pots is just too slow. I have double ovens but still. I am rethinking everything for the coming week. I will likely offer bagels every week in different flavors as they are popular and then one specialty loaf and one kind of roll. That will be enough. It does help to have the pre-orders so I know exactly what to make and they pre-pay. At least everyone knows where they stand. It is great to hear that so many are doing this . I sure would love to have a  detailed discussion with everyone on how they manage and pricing etc. When I figured the prices...and then looked at the hours I spent ...well let's say that I worked for free !!  Would love to hear from all of you. Maybe we need to start a thread just for FM bakers so we can exchange info and then it will be a great resource for others. Congratulations Varda ~  c

varda's picture
varda

Hey Trailrunner,   Interesting to read about your experience.  Start that thread.   Thanks so much for your comments.  -Varda

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Another thought….If you intend to stick with this and play it all out - remember Cadcos.  Having 2 ovens to work with makes a huge difference and a Cadco can 'live' anywhere via being placed on a restaurant cart with wheels.  Big $$ to get set up but if production increases I can't help but think that you would recover costs in a somewhat reasonable amount of time especially since you are buying your grains in bulk.  Ingredients not as expensive as the equipment….

Sorry I just can't help sharing these thoughts as they pop into my head…..I will try to contain myself from here on out but I can't make any promises though I do think I have covered the main bases already….tent, van, oven……I will save my ideas about employees and stock options for another time *^ }

Janet

varda's picture
varda

I think I'd be required to put together a business plan if my little hobby required an outlay for a Cadco.    Not ready for that yet, and no room anyhow.    An addition perhaps?    Ha.   In my dreams.   -Varda

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

Beautiful breads.  How do you decide on the price?  Does it come from placing a value on your time and pricing the ingredients or is it just visiting other markets to see what the pricing levels are?

FF

varda's picture
varda

Hey FF,  A few months ago, I went to the big Cambridge bakery, tasted their bread, looked at their prices, and then priced mine accordingly (higher.)   At the market yesterday, I would say the crowd was pretty well-heeled.    Most people who came to the table bought something.    A few people looked at the prices and walked away.    I'd say that's about right.    Also, though, I tried to have some less expensive items - the rolls and baguettes - so there would be a range, and people could sample without spending too much.   The most expensive items sold first.   Go figure.  Thanks for your comments.  -Varda

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

....for the feedback.  That helps.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Write everything down about your first market otherwise you will forget how great the apprehension was at first and how nice it was to sell everything but a few rolls.    You will get a big laugh out of it in years but it will put a smile on your face.  I think anything will sell if it looks and tastes good.  You could always freeze  some of the bread too and thaw them out the day before on the counter if it fits your schedule,  Some folks bake and freeze all week to get ready for larger markets and crowds when they are oven and kitchen restricted.  Borodinski would be a good candidate for that. 

And we knew you when!  Nice job and stay happy baking Varda. ,

varda's picture
varda

I guess whether I'll be able to laugh will be determined by outcomes.  Freezing is one obvious solution to upping production but I'm concerned about quality.   I can experiment.  I can't imagine that crusts would survive intact but maybe I'm wrong about that.   Thanks DA.  -Varda

 

 

 

grind's picture
grind

Hi Varda, growing up, my mom always froze copious amounts of bread.  Our favorite bread maker was far from where we lived and we would drive the distance and purchase a big bag of bread.  10-15 minutes (depending on the bread size) in an oven and the loaves were restored to their original state of grace.  I now do the same with my own bread.  Give it a try and see if you like it.

varda's picture
varda

Thanks for the tip.  -Varda

golgi70's picture
golgi70

Parbaking and freezing works sorta well.  Then you just have finish them in the oven.  But if you do a lot of this you'll need freezer space.  And from my experience it is a loss of quality but its sure good.  Thats LaBrea breads all over the place around here.  

varda's picture
varda

so will have to do some careful experimentation.  I'll see how it goes.   Thanks again.  -Varda

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

WFO in the backyard that will take the load off too and you can charge more for the bread that comes out fo it.  Just think you could be running back and forth from the kitchen to the back yard all day to go along with your regular new baking routine  :-)

You can certainly do a bake of breads in it on  Wednesday  and Thursday where the breads that like a few days to mature like high % rye, pumpernickel  and 100% whole grain SD on Thursday.  Then Friday you can knock yourself out in the kitchen!

Then we can work on other ways to get to baking on Mondy and Tuesday.  You nust need to figure out which of your bread freeze well for half a week.  Half of my bread doesn't know it has been frozen - for up to two months.

varda's picture
varda

Hey DA, I'm trying to stay in good stead with the authorities, and unfortunately my WFO just doesn't fit into that.   But the other stuff perhaps.  Thanks for the enthusiasm and encouragement.   -Varda

possum-liz's picture
possum-liz

Welcome to the wild world of farmer's markets! I too started out with 18 loaves of sourdough and a few loaves of turkish for a very small market. Now I bake a lot more and get very little sleep. I liked Josh's suggestions for scheduling and other products. I've added crackers and biscotti to my list. I can make them earlier in the week and they are very popular. The only downside is they are labour intensive. Message me if you'd like some recipe ideas.

Liz

varda's picture
varda

Liz, 18 must be the magic number.  Do you freeze and if so what types of breads?  I'll message you.  Thanks so much.  -Varda

possum-liz's picture
possum-liz

I've never freeze any bread that I sell, but freeze for home all the time. I know some people do. Any suggestions for the types of bread that freeze well would be appreciated.

Because my oven only holds 5 or 6 tinned loaves, I tend to mix in batches of 6. Usually basic sourdoughs like white, part whole wheat, multigrain and then the fancies like fig and walnut, olive and walnut, green olive and roasted capsicum and then some sweet bread. I rarely have any leftover and usually run out long before the market closes. It does take a long time. I don't like the idea of running marathons but enjoy doing marathon bakes!

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Inspiring start, Varda! lovely to see your stall, as does Andy in Northumberland and mnay other TFL'ers too.

I'm impressed, you sold most of your baked good! well done Varda!

-Khalid

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