The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Selling at farmer's markets

bassopotamus's picture
bassopotamus

Selling at farmer's markets

I apologize in advance if this is the wrong forum, but it didn't seem to fit anywhere else.

 

I have been baking fairly seriously at home for about 6 months, and my wife really wants to start selling at the local farmers markets. I am a little skeptical of the idea but wanted to at least do some background on the matter.

 

The big challenge, as I see it, is that I haven't really baked in quantity before and we don't have commercial grade equipment. Average sized home oven (with quite good temp control at least), kitchen aid pro 600 mixer, which I'm pretty sure is not up to many baking in quantity tasks. That said, I think we can get around the mixing issues by at least starting with no knead (but for a few stretch and fold) recipies which wouldn't overtax the mixer. Since it only involves about 2 minutes of mixing per batch, I kind of figure the two of us could assembly line it. I've got a great sourdough and good baguette/boule recipe. If we were to turn a profit, I'd probably sink money back into either an Electrolux DLX or maybe a used 5qt hobart.  The bigger concern is the oven. It will do about 2 boules per rack, but I have not yet tried baking on both racks at once (I think it would be OK for this) but will need to try it later this week.If we could do 4 boules at a time, I can see baking about 50 loaves in around 6 hours which wouldn't be awful.

 

SO, a series of questions

 

1. WHat is the best way to store loaves, and what is a reasonable hold time. I see baking a bunch friday evening and selling saturday morning.

2. It seems desireable to get flour prices down. I use king arthur at home, which right now is 4 bucks for 5 lbs at the local grocery, or about a buck a loaf. Other material costs are negligable (water is more or less free, I got a ton of yeast at sams, my starter is going like a champ). Unfortunately, our Sam's does not sell any bread flour at all. Not sure if there are other ways to get bread flour in quantity easily.

3. I am figuring, supply wise, I need several more large rising containers, plastic bags, and twist ties for selling the bread, maybe some kind of homemade logo to establish a bit of a "brand". Am I missing anything here

4. Would baking stones be an advantage here? I currently have been baking on an old air bake cookie sheet and getting great results, but I'm wondering if more mass in the oven would be desireable.

5. What kind of quantity would be a sensible amount to sell? I'm thinking 20-30 loaves for starts to see where that goes, but I don't have any idea. We have a series of farmer's markets around here, and they are pretty well attended, but I don't know what the market looks like. I'm also not sure what fees are involved with getting space (I've got calls out). Seems like this and ingredients would be the main costs.

6. What about pricing? As it stands now, a loaf has about a buck of ingredients in it. The packaging (based on sources I've seen) works out to negligable per loaf, other main cost would be the cost of the space and a little bump on the electricity. I'm thinking I would probably need to sell pound loaves at around 4 bucks a pop for this to make any sense, but am not sure what the market would bear. I know a pound loaf of quasi artisan bread at Target and the local grocery goes for about 4 bucks, so that doesn't seem unreasonable. Don't need to get rich, but don't want to work for free either.

7. What else am I missing here?

 

Thanks in advance

justin

 

 

 

Zenbirder's picture
Zenbirder

Hi Justin,

I am starting baking for market this coming week.  I have practiced some, selling to my dance group and getting feedback (I can not seem to bake enough whole wheat cinnamon raisin).  Check your local laws.  Here you must register with the Environment Department and cook in a certified kitchen.  Our market limits the number of bakers, so do check with them.  Our market fees are 4%.

The oven I am using will do 5 full sized bread loaf pans, 6 loaves in the Chicago baguette pans, or 8 mini loaves at one time.  I plan to bake cookie bars, muffins and sweet quick breads on Thursdays.  Thursday evening I will start poolish for some loaves.   Bread will be baked Fridays for Saturday morning market.  I do have a heavy marble slab in the oven for temp maintenance, but if I bake rounds on top of it I can only get two loaves at a time with lovely crusts.

I grind all my own Wheat berries, and buy white flour at Sam's Club.  For kneading, I sought out used bread machines, $2 to $5 each at yard sales and thrift stores.  I have a table with them all on it, one loaf per machine and only use them as a kneading machine and rising place for Market.

I am planning on $5 per loaf for the bread 1 1/2 pound loaves fresh ground whole wheat.  I will need to charge more for raisin bread.  Good breads in the co-op are $6, so I do not think I am out of line.  I am still working out pricing for other baked goods.  Labels I will do on the computer on address labels I can send through the printer (30 per page).  We are allowed to have labels on the table as well for small things so we don't have to label every cookie and muffin.

I have spent a bunch of money so far: bread pans, paper bags for breads (ordered online), huge roll of plastic wrap, 25 pounds or more of raisins and many other ingredients.  So in one week I will have my shakedown sales and see how it goes!  I do not know how many loaves I can bake in a day.  I wish you luck.

Susan

bassopotamus's picture
bassopotamus

From what I can find of state law, bread is a non hazardous baked good (oh how I love that term) and therefore not subject to kitchen inspections or any of that. That bread machine idea is clever, but I don't think I have the room for a herd of them :)

mcs's picture
mcs

Double check with the specific market manager of the farmers market you're interested in selling in.  Montana state law says no certified kitchen is needed for a farmers market baked good, but the local board says otherwise, and they're the ones accepting the applications, so they make the rules.  However, fifteen miles south and north of the town I live, also have farmers markets and neither one requires a commercial kitchen.

-Mark

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Even if your farmers market doesn't require an inspected or licensced kitchen, that doesn't mean you don't need one.

 

Having baked commercially in a number of areas, and talked to professionals around the country, it is important to note that the laws vary from state to state, that farmers markets vary in their level of professionalism and legal expertise, and that you can get into REAL trouble in some states selling breads without a licensed kitchen.

 

In Colorado, you may not cook products for sale in your home kitchen.  And if you sell without a license, the fines are steep and the state can confiscate all your kitchen equipment.

 

In Texas, you may bake bread for a farmers market in your home kitchen, but that is tightly defined as the kitchen in your home.  If you decide to, let's say, put a mobile home in your back yard, but the walls leaving the bathroom and one big room you'll use as one big kitchen, well, that's not really your home kitchen, is it?  You don't sleep in it.  And they frown on using a garage as a kitchen, even if thats all you use it for, even if its attached to your home because you don't live in the garage.

 

And other states have their own little quirks.  The stakes are potentially high and ignorance of the law is no excuse.  The health inspector in a number of states will not be amused by your claiming, "But, Gail at the farmers market said I could do this!"

 

So, PLEASE check with your city, county and state health departments.  It will probably frustrating, but you'll sleep better once the exercise is over.

 

Mike

 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Farmer's markets have managers.  Your first step is to contact the manager of the martket you have chosen and confirm that you don't have to have any certification from your local health department to sell baked goods.  He/she will also advise you of the fees and any other local rules that apply to that particular market.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

While a market manager is aware of the market rules and regulations, that deesn't mean they will be aware of state laws and regulastions.

 

When your state health department knocks down your door, confiscates your kitchen equipment, and levys a large fine, I am inclined to think your market manatger's support will be limited to saying, "gee, tough break dude!"

 

YOU are the one responsible for stayong within the letter of the law.  YOU are the one who needs to check.  Not the market manager.

 

All the market managers I've known have been nice people.  But you have no way of knowing if they know what they are talking about.  Maybe they're riight.  But if they are wrong, they won't be the ones with the empty kitchen and huge fine.

 

Mike

 

hsmum's picture
hsmum

The city nearest you probably has some kind of wholesale grocery outlet.  In Canada such stores will usually sell to anyone, although probably their main market is small businesses and sometimes there is an annual membership fee.  In our local store of this type I just bought 100 loaf-sized plastic bags for about $3.50.  I can get about 500 twist ties for about $1.50.  Both a HUGE savings on anything you'd find in an ordinary grocery-store.  They also sell bread flour at large savings, although perhaps not the quality you're seeking.  Anyway, it's worth checking out if such an outlet exists somewhere near you.

Karen

bassopotamus's picture
bassopotamus

Looks like everything is a go (pending space). It is only 100 bucks for the summer, which really makes things work better for us. That's less than 10 dollars a week of overhead for the spot.The rules are pretty laid back here. So long as you aren't making cream pie, you are good to go.

 

The big downer is that to do this, we are going to need a bigger mixer. First attempt at making a reasonable sized batch of dough was an epic failure in the kitchen aid. Even for a low knead that only needs about 2 minutes of mixing. I've got a thread in the gear forum, but am pondering either a used hobart or a new DLX (leaning DLX at this point)

possum-liz's picture
possum-liz

I can't really comment on regulations--living down under, but I have been  baking for our local monthly farmers market for the past two years.

Yes, start out with 20-30 loaves. I started with 18 sourdough and a couple of turkish and now bake about 80 all up and always sell out. I'm at my limit now. If your bread is good the customers come to you first so they don't miss out.

I start Thursday morning with starters, preping fruit, olives etc. Mix some of the doughs Thursday pm and retard them in the refrigerator or the cooler. Then I mix the rest of the doughs Friday and start baking as soon as the retarded dough is ready. I do the turkish last because it's yeasted and not a good keeper.

I think you've underestimated your baking time. Don't forget turn around time and that your best planned baking time table may go astray. If you make it too tight and don't have controlled proofing conditions you risk overproofing which is worse than having to wait for a slow batch. Days with weather changes here are a nightmare.  I use baking stones to increase thermal mass and can get 6 panned loaves in my oven at a time and it is definitely slower than with fewer loaves.

I make all my bread by hand and think it is no big issue for batches under about 5 kg (12 lbs). I use big plastic tubs to mix in and when I run out for bulk fermentation I use large plastic bags.

Check out your local bakery/grocery wholesaler for bread flour. Here it is in 25 kg bags. I'm out of touch with how wholesaling works in the States or your local bakery might put an extra bag on their order if you're not cutting into their territory too much.

Have fun.

Liz

bassopotamus's picture
bassopotamus

Point taken on the timing. Figure on starting early in the day on fridays so things time out.

Zenbirder's picture
Zenbirder

I was so pleased Saturday at Market, I sold out even though the crowd was very light.  I also found that people are willing to pay way more than I thought for good whole grain breads.

Regular sized muffins $1.50,

mini loaves (banana bread, pumpkin bread etc.) $4,

baguette about 3/4 lb. $3.50,

full size 1 1/2 lb. cinnamon raisin loaf $7.

I took it easy on baking schedules because I am still learning the ropes.  I think I can make many more loaves and muffins with experience.  It certainly is financially worth while, and emotionally worth while when people come back for more and send others over telling them how good the food is!!

bassopotamus's picture
bassopotamus

Congrats!

 

We got our stall, and have been getting our stuff together. Extra pans, Electrolux mixer, a bunch of 8qt cambro buckets, collapsable table, canopy, etc. Our first time will be the second saturday of May. I hope we are as successful as you are! How many loaves did you take?

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I have a Kitchen Aid and a DLX. And I wouldn't use either of them for working at a farmers market.

 

When I was baking for the farmers market, I did 200 loaves by hand a night with no mixer using the stretch and fold technique.  I talk about it a lot on my web page, sourdoughhome.com.  The page where I talk about it is http://www.sourdoughhome.com/stretchandfold.html

 

When I was baking for the farmers market, I'd use bus tubs to mix the dough in.  I could do about 20 to 22 1.5lb loaves in a tub.  I'd dump the dough onto a work surface, stretch and fold, and then put the dough back in the tub.  I'd cover the tubs with wide cling wrap.  You could also use food grade trash bags or oil cloth.  I had three bakery racks, and could put 5 tubs on each rack.

 

The original mix was by hand.

 

It worked a lot better than trying to wear out a home grade mixer, and better than trying to buy a commercial mixer.

 

Hope this helps,

Mike

 

sojourner's picture
sojourner

Mike, you said that you USED to bake for farmers' markets. Did you stop because of pressure of work and time elsewhere or because it wasn't a viable proposition?

I'm amazed at the prices I'm seeing quoted in this thread. Here is the UK, a commercial artisan-style loaf hovers between £1.10 and £1.40 ($1.67 to 2.13) depending on type, while in France a baguette from an artisan baker currently sells for between 75-84 centimes ($1.02-1.14).

Sojourner

 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

We moved from Colorado to Texas and I haven't found a kitchen I can rent for the purpose.

 

Whether or not Texas allows home baked goods to be sold commercially, my home kitchen isn't up to the task.

If I was still in Colorado, I'd still be baking for the farmers markets.  Despite the peculiar politics that seem to affect small group dynamics.

-Mike

PS - Oops... AFTER I posted this, I saw I'd already answered it.  Sorry.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

A number of people have asked how the stretch and fold thing works on larger quantities.

 

I found my wife had taken some pictures of me doing the stretch and fold for a farmers market, so I put together a page with that information on it.

 

A quick warning - there are LOTS of pictures on that page.  About 44 including the banner and such.  As a result, it takes a long time to load if you hae a slow connection.  It'll get there though.  As with almost all the pictures on my site, if you click a picture, you see a larger version of the picture,

 

With that out of the way, try going to http://www.sourdoughhome.com/stretchandfoldfm.html

 

Hope it helps someone,

Mike

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Thanks, Mike, for putting that page together. I'm not looking to do any farmer's market baking, but the process really came to life in your wife's pictures and your helpful descriptions. (Fortunately my connection must be good, as everything loaded quickly.)

Great job!

David

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

For a number of reasons, we moved.  When we got here, we had two mortgages and one income, so I had to look for a "real" job rather than a kitchen, a farmers market and so on.

 

We're still investigating the markets around here.

 

One thing to be very clear about.  There is a world of difference between baking a loaf or two for family, a dozen for the church social, and 200 a night for the farmers market.  It is very hard work.  (It was especially bad when my work space and the ovens weren't on the same floor.  I stopped counting how many trips up and down the stairs in one bake night at around 50, and the night was still young.  My knees still haven't forgiven me.)

 

It can be very enjoyable, it can be fulfilling, it can even be profitable, but it is hard work.  I feel that with lots of energy, you could make a good living baking for farmers markets.

 

My own view - don't do baguettes.  Bad ones are available in most grocery stores, and as a result people aren't willing to pay a fair price for them.  With one person, time and human energy are limiting factors, so decide what you can get the most out of for your time.  In the end, we sold loaves of bread.  Lots of them.  If we had leftovers, we froze them and turned the leftover loaves into croutons and bread pudding for the next market week.  We also found health food stores that would buy and resell our market leftovers.  Any loaves beyond that went to the local food pantry stamped with a stamp that read, "Not for resale!"

 

Pricing is a topic I haven't touched on.  It depends on what the market will bear.  If you can sell all you can make for $7.00 aloaf, why should you sell them for $5.00.  No one will go hungry because they didn't get a loaf of artisanal bread.  Look at what is being sold in your area, and at your market.  Compare the price, the size and the quality.  It's tempting to charge the same as the guy in the next booth, but farmers markets are about quality, not price.  So, don't be afraid to charge more, if your product is better.

 

If someone says, "The guy on the other side of the market is charging $4.00, why are you charging $6.00?" the answer is simple.  "He knows what his product is worth, I know what my product is worth.  A friend started selling in a market where there was an Amish woman selling bread for about $2.00 a loaf.  My friend was unsure.  How much should she charge?  I suggested charging $5.00 a loaf.  The result?  My friend sold out of breads every week.  The Amish woman stopped selling breads and told my friend, "I really wasn't into bread anyway, I'd just been asked to sell bread.  I'm doing more jams now - they sell better than my bread ever did!"  The market will sort things out.

 

It is harder to raise your prices than to drop them.  So, don't charge less than you want to charge in the long run.  If you want to charge $7.00 a loaf, do so.  You can have some "get aquainted specials for 2 weeks only" to get people in the habit of buying your bread.  But if you start at $5.00, it'll be hard to go to $7.00.  If you have to raise prices, be ready with an explanation.  "My landlord raised the rent."  "Flour prices went up."  "Gas prices went up, and I have to drive forever to get here."  Otherwise, you will face stiff resistance.  You can always play with coupons and specials until you find a good price point and then adjust the price down.

 

Hope that helps,

Mike

PS - Am I the only one who wonders why the editing window is so much smaller than the text that will be displayed?  Why do I always find the typos after I publish the post?  Mike

 

freebread's picture
freebread

My wife and I have just started a bakery and we are currently attending three farmers markerts per week.  I agree with Mike that you need to sell your bread for what it is worth.  We have set our prices for the year at $5 dollars per loaf when I'm now sure we could get $6 or more.  People are willing to pay more for quality.  This is our second season selling at farmers markets and sales for the begining of this season has been good.  Make sure you love it,  Best wishes Thomas.

pipo1000's picture
pipo1000

Mike,

what kind of oven did you use to bake all these 22 loafs in one go of one batch?

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

In any bakery, you need to be aware of your bottlenecks and schedule for them.  For many people the bottleneck is the oven.

I had two ways of baking breads.  One was free form loaves which were allowed to rise on sheet pans, and were then baked on the sheet pans.  The other loaves were pan loaves baked in strapped baking pans.  Strapped pans are pans that are strapped together so you can handle 3, 4, 5 or more pans as a group.  They are an optimum distance from one another, so you can load your oven quickly and get GREAT space utilization.

I never had the ovens I wanted, just the ovens that were available to me.  I rented two different kitchens when I was baking for the farmers market. 

One kitchen had two commercial convection ovens.  I could bake three pans of bread in each oven, with each pan holding 3 loaves.  Or about 18 loaves at time,  With stapped pans, I could put 4 straped pans in each oven, for a total of 32 loaves.

In the second kitchen, I had one commercial convection oven and a commercial kitchen oven.  I could bake three sheet pans in the convection oven and one in the regular oven at a time, or 4 strapped pans in the convection oven and 2 more in the regular oven.  So, I could do about 12 free form loaves at a time or 24 pan loaves.

The ovens I wanted were deck ovens.  If you are baking bread, I feel they are the way to go.  Lots of options there, just avoid the used pizza ovens - their decks aren't tall enough for many breads and they don't bake as evenly as bread ovens.

Part of the equation is how long loaves can be held after they are risen and before they are baked.  This is called tolerance in the trade.  Most wheat breads can be held about an hour without significant degradation.  So, if I didn't have room for the entire batch the leftover loaves would go into the next bake.  Juggling when I started each batch of bread with an eye on bake time was a challenge at first, but after a while it became second nature.

Hope this late answer helps,

Mike

 

pipo1000's picture
pipo1000

Thanks for your answer it was very helpful!

 

bassopotamus's picture
bassopotamus

Wow!

 

Didn't realize that people had kept posting on this, and stumbled in...

 

We've been going for about 3 months now, and with some growing pains, things are going pretty well.Answers to a few of my own questions

1. Ours is a smaller market than what some of you have been up to, clearly.

2. We seem to have pricing and production about right. We take 70-80 loaves a week, and usually either sell out or come home with only a couple

3. We are basically at capcity given that we have one oven and one fridge

4. We are turning a pretty decent profit, even if our prices are perhaps lower on some things than they ought to be.

5. The one unanticpated piece of gear that has really helped this along is a 6 tier 4 foot by 1 foot wire rack from Sams.

6. We bake starting at noon friday and sell between 8 and noon saturday. Nothing goes into bags before saturday AM and no problems with freshness.

7. We've built up a loyal following of customers. Earlier in the summer, we had no power for 8 hours on friday and could only take about 1/4 of what we usually do. WE sold out in an hour and people were really bummed.

8. I'm not real keen on the Electrolux across the board. Not only for dealing with quantitiy, but in general. Everytime I voice this concern on other forums, people get mad or act like I don't know what I'm doing, but it just isnt' very good at mixing certain things, though it is good at kneading.

 

 

And a question.

Is there a "brand name" for a general mills unbleached bread flour? I've been using All Trump, but that is bleached. The local food service place cuts a good deal on 50 lb bags of it, but they are pretty useless for ordering stuff from (basically, they only deal with their retail side for smaller customers, and while you can get anything pulled from the warehouse, they have no idea what they have so you have to know what to ask for).

 

Not sure how much longer we'll keep doing this, honestly. It has been kind of fun, but it is alot of work and basically leaves me with no time off (since I have another job...). But thanks to all for the advice. It has been really helpful.

freebread's picture
freebread

The unbleached unbromated flour from GM is called Harvst King.  It product # is 53722.  We get ours from a commercial supplier for about $14.60 per 50# bag.  Hope that helps.  Thomas

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

All-trumps comes in many flavors.  Bleached, unbleached, bromated, unbromated.

Tell your supplier what you want.  The last time I checked the unbromated was available only west of the Mississippo river.  Still, check with a number of distributors.  You should be able to find what you want.

Also, All Trumps is around 14% protein, compared to around 12% for Harvest King.  They really aren't interchangeable.  And, all in all, while I liked all-trumps when I was baking in the mountains, it is a bit too strong for general purpose baking.

-Mike

Zenbirder's picture
Zenbirder

I have been baking and selling now for two plus months.  Our Farmer's Market is small and poorly located.  I am maxing out the buyers with 50 - 60 loaves.  I could make more, but not unless the market moves to a better location.

Mike - I do a great business in baguettes.  My whole philosophy is to not compete with stores, so I make things people can not get anywhere else in town.  To start with the market crowd is more health conscious than most.  I use organic whole wheat and grind it myself.  For baguettes, I use a pre-ferment base and add red onion, sage, thyme and parsley.  I get $3.50 each and I grow all my own herbs.

Loaves include whole wheat cinnamon raisin, seedy bread (millet, sesame and sunflower), and sun dried tomato and black olive, $7 a loaf.  I also sell whole wheat muffins and specialty sweets like old-fashioned gingerbread and Boston Brown Bread.  I have labels for every stack of bread listing ingredients, that also helps.

Yes I am making money, yes it is a whopping amount of work, but it feels like "right livelihood".

Tasty Little Dish's picture
Tasty Little Dish

Hey, cookingwithdenay,

I am VERY interested in reading this blog that you mentioned!  Could you send me the link?  I am a college student taking Hospitality Classes and I would love to start baking at my local Farmer's Market.  Thanks in advance!

BellesAZ's picture
BellesAZ

Selling for profit sounds too much like a job.. I'd lose the love.  I admire anyone who keeps it up and I particularly admire Mr. Knead My Own.. love that you do that and love that you wouldn't have it any other way.

Dobeda's picture
Dobeda

Our town requires that a permit be issued for any prepared foods, and that they be made in an inspected, commercial kitchen!!!  While that is a drag, it is what it is.  Not every market requires this, so I would strongly urge you to check before investing the time and energy into pursuing this endeavor.

TomKluender's picture
TomKluender

 I have taken up baking bread.  It is a career move as  I work outside and the weather is beating me up (58) this year.  I want to plant some herbs in my medium size garden and was wondering what herbs all f you use for bread.

 

TomKluender's picture
TomKluender

 I have taken up baking bread.  It is a career move as  I work outside and the weather is beating me up (58) this year.  I want to plant some herbs in my medium size garden and was wondering what herbs all f you use for bread.

 

TomKluender's picture
TomKluender

I am looking for brown craft wrapping for my bread to sell to give it that old world craftsman looks and be purposeful in protecting the bread.  Any help would be great.