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So you want to be a farmers market vendor?

Wherever I travel, I seek out farmers markets and arrive early to avoid missing the best produce, baking, meats and crafts.

Last summer, I visited Salt Spring Island off British Columbia’s coast. Hundreds arrive by ferry each Saturday to enjoy the open air market with more than 140 stalls, free entertainment and island culture.

Being a market vendor was my fantasy for years. Now I have a table and know first-hand the work that is necessary to prepare the volume of food required.

If you want to be a vendor, your first call is to the market manager in your area. Regulations vary from region to region but generally you must bake it or grow it.

Many markets require “vendor made and sold.” Rules apply to vegetable and fruit growers as well as food preparation.

You will need a safe food handling course and may need an inspected kitchen. Call your local board of health for more information.

Health officials visit vegetable gardens to ensure a safe source of water, separation from livestock operations and approved gardening practices.

Success in sales comes from presenting a good product and creative marketing. I always try to use fresh and in season local produce in all my baking.

The following has worked for me:

  • Find a product that you have a passion for and sell it with enthusiasm.
  • Create a pleasing visual presentation at your stall. Products sell better if they are at eye level. Vary the heights within your display to create interest.
  • Cleanliness is important. Do not eat or drink at the table. Keep all personal food off the table and use sanitizing cloths for cleanup.
  • Create a signature such as a label or name with a logo.
  • Keep your display well stocked. No one wants to buy the dregs.
  • Have a proper cash box or apron with pockets for cash.
  • Stand and greet your clients. Do not sit and wait for them to initiate conversation.

People come to the market for personal attention. Remember faces even if you don’t remember names. Even if people are lined up for you, take a brief moment to make a personal connection.

Okanagan Peach and Almond Scones

  • 1 c. coarsely chopped fresh peaches 250 mL
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. butter 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. bottled lemon juice 15 mL
  • 1/4 c. slivered almonds, lightly toasted 60 mL
  • 2 c. all purpose flour 500 mL
  • 2/3 c. 35 % cream 80 mL
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder 15 mL
  • 2 tbsp. sugar 30 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 5 tbsp. cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch 3 cm cubes 75 mL
  • 1 c. icing sugar 250 mL
  • 1 – 3 tsp. milk 5–15 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. almond flavouring 3 mL

Combine icing sugar, milk and almond flavouring to make a thin icing for drizzling on scones. Set aside.
Cut peaches into 1/2 to one inch (3 – 5 cm) chunks and drop into a bowl of cold water with lemon juice to prevent browning. Melt butter and brown sugar in pan until bubbling. Drain and add peaches. Gently simmer until peaches are barely cooked and still firm.
Remove from sauce and lay out on parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze.
Mix flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in medium sized bowl. Cut in cold butter with a pastry blender or quickly with your fingertips. Add frozen peaches.
Whisk egg with cream and add to flour mixture. Mix with wooden spoon and knead a couple of times to incorporate all ingredients.
Form into ball and place on floured work surface. Flatten ball with your hands until it forms a circle about one inch thick.
Cut into six wedges. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
At this point, the scones can be put in a freezer bag and frozen for baking later. Bake by placing frozen scones on baking sheet and add 10 minutes to cooking time.
For smaller scones, divide dough into two equal sized balls, follow directions and reduce baking time by five minutes.
Bake in preheated oven at 375 F (190 C) for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
While still on the baking sheet, drizzle lightly with icing and sprinkle toasted almonds.
Serve immediately.

Chipotle Pepita Brittle

  • 1 tbsp. baking soda 15 mL
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted 60 mL
  • 3 c. sugar 750 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. water 375 mL
  • 2 tbsp. corn syrup 30 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. fine grained sea salt 2 mL
  • 1 c. pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas 250 mL
  • 2 tsp. crushed dried chipotle peppers 10 mL

Stir together baking soda and melted butter, set aside. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, set aside a second sheet of parchment the same size.
Combine sugar, water and salt in a heavy two quart saucepan, bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, wash down any sugar crystals on sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Simmer syrup 10 to 12 minutes, until it reaches 270 F (130 C). Remove from heat. Stir in pumpkin seeds and chipotle peppers.
Return pan to medium low heat and continue to stir. Melt again until mixture turns amber brown and reaches 290 F (140 C). Remove from heat.
Stir in baking soda mixture with wooden spoon. Pour mixture onto prepared cookie sheet. Cover with second parchment sheet. Press with a rolling pin to one quarter inch thick. Remove top layer of parchment. Cool completely. Crack brittle and store between layers of parchment in a sealed container for up to two weeks.

Baba Ganoush

  • 3 medium eggplants
  • 1/2 c. tahini 125 mL
  • 1 1/4 tsp. coarse salt 2 mL
  • 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice 45 mL
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeledand smashed
  • 1/8 tsp. chili powder 1 mL
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil 15 mL
  • a half bunch flat leaf parsley or cilantro, leaves only

Prick each eggplant a few times and then char the outside by placing it on the flame of a gas burner or on a barbecue. Turn during cooking so the eggplants are uniformly charred on the outside. You can also char them under an oven broiler. If they are not soft and fully cooked, place on a baking sheet and roast for 20 – 30 minutes at 375 F (190 C). Cool completely.
Split the eggplant and scrape out the pulp. Puree the pulp in a blender or food processor with the other ingredients until smooth.
Taste and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary. Chill for a few hours before serving. Serve with crackers, sliced baguette, or toasted pita chips. Baba ganoush can be made and refrigerated for up to five days before serving.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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