The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cottage Baker Farmers Market Questions

Linda1956's picture

Cottage Baker Farmers Market Questions

I was recently licensed as a Cottage Baker. I recently asked another question and I received great advice. I am very small probably for many tell me not worth it I am trying to see if it is worth it all. I do about 4-5 artisan breads but I also do enriched yeast breads and quick sweet breads. May be adding cookies and possibly crackers this week. TIA.


1. How do many of  you bake so many loaves for a market? I am assuming most of my problem is not good at organization I have an electric 4 shelf basic oven in my opinion the design is not really that good for more than 1 shelf of bread I use mostly a large baking stone.

2. If someone orders or just out right purchase several loaves, either 1 type or a variety do you give a discount?  Do you give a buy 4 get 1 free? Or no discount at all? Do any of you have a rewards card? Like purchase 10 get 11 free?


drogon's picture

It's all about timing and what you can bake in-time. If the market starts at 10am, and you need to get there by 9:30 to setup, then ... You might be looking at 9am for the last bread out of the oven. Allow 45 minutes between oven loads and work backwards from there.

You might be able to get away with baking (late) the night before though - it'll depend on what you make and how well it keeps.

Your cookies & crackers can be done the day before, as can cakes ("bar" cakes which you can bake in liners then cling-film wrap them in the liners - a few days before.

It's worth while really looking at how to make your oven work for you. I have a small (68 liter) domestic electric fan oven and I can bake 6 large tins of bread in it. I can squeeze in 6 small (515g dough weight) loaves proofed in bannetons too - I don't normally use a baking stone though - just good metal sheet pans. That reduces to 4 medium or 2 large loaves.

But really - there is no big secret - you need bigger/more ovens. With the ovens I have, (small domestic, commercial Lincat EC08 and Rofco B40), I can turn out 52 loaves in 2 oven runs, starting at 5am and out the door by just after 9am. (my record is 64 loaves to be out the door by 9am, but I had to get up at 4am for that )-:

All the dough is mixed the night before and left overnight at room temperature (18-20°C). It's almost all slow-rise sourdoughs, but I do a lot of tins too - regular yeasted loaves, but with a small fraction of the normal yeast.

Is it worth it? Sometimes, not in a financial sense, (don't give-up the day-job!) but it can be hugely satisfying to see the look on peoples faces when they get some real bread.

Good luck!


Linda1956's picture

Thank you so much for this very helpful information.  I am the type of person I go after things I want to do but sometimes I need better organization of putting things in a consistent order or a schedule.

I do have 2 commercial size metal sheet pans. I did use it yes you do bake more bread on it. I just thought that the stone was better yet it was frustrating to not be able to produce more. 

It is a good feeling when people order more bread because they like it. I had a few tell me my prices are a bit high and I also have been told I need to go higher. 

I make a Boule, cranberry walnut artisan, country french, and a rosemary parmesan. My yeast breads I do a classic loaf, multigrain, marbled rye-it did not sell well. My quick breads-banana walnut, cranberry walnut, pumpkin walnut-walnuts are cheaper here than pecans. I know not a lot but I am all new to this.  My artisans are not as nice a crumb as I like but I still get excited over  I started a San Francisco Sour dough went through the process of seed and starter and then I forgot to feed it for a week. I was so frustrated with it and I forgot to ask here if i could still use it so I threw it out.

For this old woman 4 am can be rough but I did it. I am glad we just went back to what we call standard time, was on daylight savings time now it won't be so bad getting up at 4 am when I finally get in bed at midnight or 1 am.

I can't thank you enough for this.


Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I bake bread in my home oven and sell it in different ways. Year 'round, I have a little bread shop in a corner of my garage that is open from noon until 4:00 PM on Saturdays. I usually make around 18 loaves of bread and maybe some English muffins, bagels or dinner buns for that. May through the end of September, I also sell at a local micro-market, also on Saturdays, that is open from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM. I usually send 26-28 loaves over there. Finally, I sell to a subscription list. I send out an email twice a week telling people what kind of bread I'm going to bake on Wednesday or Sunday, and asking who would like a loaf (or two or more!). Once I have all orders I make that many loaves.

Re timing - the dough for several of my breads can be made up to four days ahead of time and stored in the fridge. These are mostly enriched yeast doughs (Oatmeal Raisin, a seeded sandwich loaf, cheese & onion bread, etc.). I make those doughs on Thursday. Other starters get made or refreshed on Wednesday and Thursday. Most of the doughs get made on Thursday and Friday and bulk fermented in the fridge. For a couple of the breads I shape the dough on Friday night, ready to bake first thing Saturday morning. And a few of the breads (such as any breads made with soakers or porridges made from different grains, or breads with a lot of fruit, or some of the rye breads) are actually better after sitting for 24 hours so those I will bake on Friday for sale Saturday.

For pricing - market and shop breads are generally $6 a loaf. For the people on the subscription list, it's $5.50 per loaf at the door, or if they give me at least $20 in advance (it goes on their account), then each loaf is $5.

And I agree with Gordon - the best thing is the conversations I have with my customers, the fact that they sign their order emails with "Love, <name>", the fact that they say they miss me when I'm away and have to buy bread at another bakery, and my bread is so much better. :)

Linda1956's picture

Wow! Thank you so very much to you and the others. This is so very, very helpful and informative. This gives me ideas on how to schedule myself, things to bake and if you don't mind I may try a few of the breads you make-not all I don't copy what others do but I do need scheduled guidance at times.

I charge around about the same prices as yourself. I like the subscription list idea I may try that or something similar. For the $20 how many loaves will that be for? Do you give a discount if 1 person buys several loaves from you at 1 time?

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

There are two kinds of discounts, and only for the subscription list people (not in the shop or at the market). First, if they pay for four or more loaves it's $5 per loaf. So, whether they're buying all four at once, or they are putting money down on account for bread in the future, it's $5 each. Most of my regular customers keep money on account and give me another $20 when they are getting down to the last pre-paid loaves.

The other discount is for bread that is left over from the shop or the market. I sell it to my subscription list customers for $5 a loaf, whether they have money on account or not. That's whether they pick it up on the same day (i.e. Saturday evening), or later after it's been wrapped and frozen. And just a tip - if you're going to use a Foodsaver, turn it off as soon as most of the air is out of the bag. Don't let it suck any of the air out of the loaf itself! :)

alefarendsen's picture

I fully agree with Gordon and Lazy Loafer. Oven capacity is the limiting factor. As soon as you have that, you can work out a schedule that optimizes the amount of loafs given the time you want to get up.

I bake 27-30 loafs every Saturday of which I sell 20. They go for €4 a piece (1kg dough, usually69-72% hydration). I only sell to a subscription list (a Whatsapp group). occasionally I don't bake (such as this weekend, I have a fever and have been in bed for the better partner fm he weekends), and then I get comments ffom people 'oh please let there be bread next week'. Like Gordon and Lazy Loafer are saying, that is a large part of why I am doing it. Well, for me, the weekly bake covers all cos for equipment and ingredients and then some, so we're eating our own delicious bread for free. 

one thing a I have added to my setup is a proofing cabinet. I converted an old chest freezer that I got from my dad to a proofing cabinet that I can keep at 30C with a lightbulb and a thermostat. This allows me to proof loaves in just over an hour, helping me churn out more in a short time frame.

I usually get up at 6 and I'm done by 10. dough is bulk fermenting in large containers in the fridge overnight, so has been prepared the previous day.


Linda1956's picture

Thank you as well. It will be awhile before I can afford even a small commercial oven. The small market I do will be over in 2 weeks. I have a big craft/Christmas event Dec. 3 1 town over so if that goes well hopefully I will pick up customers from that. I make my artisan dough up 2-3 days in advance will try the sour dough again I have several tell me they don't care for the sour dough so not certain if I want to make it. 

I did use my food saver to freeze some of my quick breads. Oh! It was an awful sight after thawing out. It had shrunk it to such a small size I actually thought it may puff back out. Wrong! LOL. Yes i really thought that.

MichaelLily's picture

Don't do discounts.  People don't mind.  The kind of people who go to farmers markets aren't there to save money.

Linda1956's picture

Good point. Thanks

yozzause's picture

Hi Linda

Your profile doesn't show from where in this big wide world you are operating, Its always nice to be able see a little bit about fellow members and sometimes enables closer bonds to those that might be close by or opportunities to meet fellow members on your travels as in fact I have with Andy ( Ananda / UK) Khalid (Mebake / Dubai)  Betsy (MalaysiaI) as well as having visitors here in Betsy (Malaysia) and Zita  (Baking badly / Cambodia) also meeting a fellow local  Ross (Ross-n-roller / Perth Australia)

Anyway the advice that has been given is very good and comes from people that are actually doing what you are wanting to achieve, the only thing that I might add is to do your cost analysis so you can tell anyone that might think a price you are asking is a little expensive what the actual cost is.

Ultimately your breads will speak for themselves and if people like them then you will soon develop a following. the idea of discounts on such small turnover numbers is not really an option unless like Lazy Loafer it is in conjunction with a subscription, bread club membership money up front arrangement and you can always reward those loyal customers with occasional test bake treats or guinea pig testers for anything new you may be wanting to try.

Unsold bread will takeaway any profit very quickly, Great bread usually makes great breadcrumbs and they keep very well too.

We look forward to hear more from your endeavours and hopefully see some pictures too. kind regards Derek

Linda1956's picture

I updated my profile Derek thanks for reminding me. My first market I sold 15 loaves out of 18 last week. I am semi-retired due to health issues and those issues also determine if I go to market or not. I have Acute Pancreatitis and I am pre-diabetic. Very long story I will always have A/P and yes my gallbladder has been removed, sorry if TMI.

I agree, I have been given some awesome advice and I am going to run with it as the saying goes.

Thanks, Linda

yozzause's picture

Well done Linda a comprehensive update too,

Our Jack Russell had Pancreatitis and its quite an insidious complaint.

TFL has always been a great source of friendly advice with some very Knowledgeable people only to happy to share advice and experiences. I hope you have a long and enjoyable association with your new found colleagues.

best wishes Derek