flowersQuick things:

  1. Baguettes are back! They’ll arrive by 9am on Saturday morning.
  2. This started last week, but I forgot to mention it — flowers are back! We’ll have ’em all weekend (while supplies last).
  3. We now accept SNAP benefits.
  4. THERE ARE SO MANY NEW THINGS.

Scroll down for the complete list of the produce & bread we’ll have this week.

 

After posting last week’s entry, I remembered several other things I had wanted to talk about or mention. Now I can only remember two of them, but maybe as I write others will occur to me.

First off, SNAP. (That’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.) This has been a long time coming. From the beginning, a big part of our mission has been making fresh, local food available to as wide a population as possible. The first step is just getting that food into an urban center where people can get to it. We’ve got that, though we’re always striving for more! The second piece is making it as affordable as possible.

One of the big criticisms of local/organic food is the cost. Growing produce without pesticides and herbicides is labor intensive. Farms striving to be responsible citizens ecologically also tend to prioritize paying their workers a living wage. Transportation, ironically, is often more difficult, because the quantities of food being moved are smaller. These things are hard realities, and the effect is that sometimes the price tags on local and organic food are higher than on conventional products that have traveled more miles. On the other hand, small-scale sustainable farming carries with it fewer externalities. A farm focusing on minimizing the run-off waste from their farm may need to charge more because they’re replacing toxic chemicals with manual (literally, with their hands) pest and weed control, but those costs are directly reflected in the price, rather than being deflected to a loss in ocean health, or even illness from swimming in polluted waterways, or later clean-up efforts.

None of this is really the point of this post — if you want to read more about it, and don’t mind a self-righteous tone, you might enjoy Joel Salatin’s rant on the topic. While I agree with most of his points, it is so self-righteous that I am a little hesitant to link to it, so, uh, just keep in mind that linked texts don’t necessarily reflect my views in their entirety…

But back to the topic at hand — when Dusty and I bought the stand, pricing was something we were very sensitive to. In our own lives, we have been very willing to pay for quality and integrity (along with deliciousness), but we have also tried to do so frugally. Some of the best ways to buy good food frugally are things like buying a side of beef, investing in a CSA share, going directly to a farm, or buying in bulk — these are all great things, which we wholeheartedly endorse (even if it means you get less from us), but they also aren’t for everyone (sometimes they aren’t for us, either). All mean a time investment to research the options and physically go get them, along with the time and loss of flexibility involved in figuring out what to do with things you may not have purchased on their own. Even more to the point, they also might require large upfront costs, a large freezer and space for a large freezer, and a certain faith that life will be stable enough to allow you to continue to store and/or use your investment.

So when Dusty and I bought the stand, we knew that we wanted to lower prices and accept SNAP. We looked at pricing first, and when we opened as Radish & Rye, it was with all new price tags, and many new prices. Most were significantly lower than they had been. As you know from my last post, this decision wasn’t made because we were making so much money we didn’t know what to do with it; rather it was because we wanted as many people as possible to be able to afford the foods we were selling. Put another way, we wanted as many people as possible to shop at the stand! Our mission was to make the food more accessible, but our business-guts also told us that we would be more financially successful selling a lot of food at a lower markup than a little bit of food at a higher markup.

The next thing we looked at was accepting SNAP/food stamps. Clearly, this is an important piece in making the food we’re selling accessible to as many people as possible. I filled out our initial application just days after we bought the stand, and then started researching options. It used to be that once you were approved to accept SNAP, the state (or someone) sent you a terminal to accept the cards. That ended a few years ago, though, and so anyone approved after that time has to purchase their own terminal, as well as contract with a third party for the actual processing. After eight hours of research, I was overwhelmed.

Lowering the price of milk had no upfront cost to us. The initial loss in revenue was intimidating, but, honestly, the volume at that time was small enough that we knew increasing sales was the key to our survival, in a way that made how many cents we pocketed from each bottle of milk seem inconsequential. Accepting SNAP, on the other hand, meant an initial outlay of many hundreds of dollars — maybe more because the market didn’t have WiFi at the time — a monthly commitment to pay for the ability to process EBT cards, and a fee for each EBT transaction. There were some lower cost options, but online and real-life reviews indicated that they were unreliable enough that the small investment they required might be a very bad investment. Ultimately, we concluded that the initial and ongoing costs of accepting SNAP would make it difficult to lower prices, and we made the decision that we would, for the time being, focus on growing sales with the new pricing model.

In the meantime, it was very difficult to explain to people who asked — both SNAP recipients and others, like us, who wanted to increase access to good local food — that we weren’t accepting the benefits. Every time someone asked I wanted to give them a rundown of the dollars and hours involved in being able to accept the benefits, to explain that it didn’t seem feasible right now, and to tell them that I really really hoped we would be able to soon. But really, that’s a yes/no question, and people don’t (generally) come to the market for a lesson on government bureaucracy and bank fees.

Happily, though, through a combination of the changes we made at the stand and the increased traffic at the market, our original decision seems to have played out as we hoped, and while we reduced the price of most dairy by 20% or more, dairy sales have more than doubled — more than making up the difference. Indeed, by late winter of this year, sales had increased enough that we felt confident that the costs of accepting SNAP were something we could absorb.

So we went through the application process again, did another sixteen hours of research (literally), figured out a way to use the market’s WiFi for processing (saving us a few hundred dollars), found a processor who would allow us to use their network only for EBT without having to replace our entire register system (saving us a thousand dollars or more), signed a processing agreement, and bought a terminal. It’s been up and running for a few weeks now, and we’ve had enough opportunity to use it to feel comfortable finally advertising that yes, we accept SNAP.

It’s a victory for us, personally, to be at a point where the stand is successful enough that we can make this investment toward our mission. We hope it’s also a victory for the market, for the local food movement, and for our customers who have asked over the last year if we can accept their benefits. So again, a big thank you to all of you who have supported the stand over the last year, and are helping make local food more accessible to everyone.

Oh! And the second thing I remembered that I wanted to mention is that while making the decision to buy the stand was the biggest test for our marriage so far, actually owning and operating the stand together has been a wonderful experience for Dusty and me, and has strengthened our relationship, given us greater appreciation for each other, and maybe has been the best thing for our marriage so far. Just in case you were worried. 🙂

Julia

Produce

 

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Categories are hard

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Fennel Bulbs
  • Green Cabbage
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Snow Peas
  • Sugar Snap Peas

Braising Greens

  • Bok Choy
  • Curly Kale
  • Lacinato Kale
  • Mixed Braising Greens
  • Rainbow Chard
  • Spinach
  • Young Spinach

Salad Greens

  • Lettuce Mix
  • Red Leaf Lettuce
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Salanova Lettuce
  • Young Spinach

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Onions & Garlic

  • Green Garlic
  • Garlic Scapes
  • Red Scallions
  • White Scallions
  • Shallots

Fruit

  • Strawberries
  • Cameo
  • Granny Smith

Potatoes

  • French Fingerling Potatoes
  • Russet Potatoes (limited quantities)

Mushrooms

  • Cremini Mushrooms
  • White Mushrooms

Herbs

  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Rosemary

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Cheese

 

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Keswick Creamery

  • Brie
  • Morbier
  • Quark
  • Ricotta
  • Vermeer
  • Wallaby
  • Wine-Washed Tomme

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Lykens Valley Creamery

  • Baby Swiss
  • Clothbound Cheddar
  • Colby
  • Goat Gouda
  • Cheddar
  • Sharp Cheddar
  • Smoked Cheddar

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Camelot Valley

  • Chevre (asst varieties)
  • Feta
  • Smoked Feta
  • Moonlight Fog
  • Starlight Crotin

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Other

  • Apple Tree Feta
  • Hope Springs Mild Cheddar
  • Hope Springs Monterey Jack
  • Millwood Springs Blue Cheese
  • Valley Shepherd Melter Skelter

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Bread

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McGrath’s Brick Oven Bakehouse
(fresh Friday & Saturday)

  • McGrath’s Original
  • Sesame Original
  • Irish Oatmeal Pan Bread
  • Prairie Bread
  • Cranberry Pecan
  • Jalapeno Cheddar
  • Baguettes (Saturday only)

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Talking Breads
(fresh Thursday)

  • Batard
  • Ciabatta
  • Miche
  • Seeded

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