Monday, September 30, 2013

Top of the Food Chain

Scenes from last Sunday's New Amsterdam Market...

We arrived early, maybe we were the first. A beginner's move. The tables were not ready so we spent some time standing around. Although trying to avoid the mad rush of setup while tourists and early birds ask questions, it ended up so anyway. 

People had lots of questions. Some folks appeared utterly dumbfounded by the sudden visual of garlic choice. I saw only one handlebar mustache. Several people took photos of our spread. I mean a lot of people did; hardly a moment went by without a full frame or phone camera. Business was decent, and we made our minimum, but speculated on lower than hoped for sales. For one, the Atlantic Antic and Dumbo Arts Festival were on. Another reason -few go down to the Seaport area so you don't get any incidental traffic. I think the NAM brand has been hurt by the discontinuation of weekly markets. And finally, we didn't bundle.

Well, we did at the Dumbo Arts Festival the day before, and we sold all of those, then made a few more. I had contemplated making tagged bundles of three (something other respected people agreed was wise), but I simply didn't have the time. People like labels, so we ended up bagging individual bulbs and labeling those during each sale -messy, fussy, and slow. We have enough garlic to attend the October 27 market, so if we do I will make tagged bundles of three in addition to the full variety bundles.

We sold maybe 20 percent of the elephant garlic and hardly any of the French shallots (I'm gathering folks do not cook with shallots all that much) and I'm now looking for a bulk buyer. The most popular selling garlic was the Marbled Purple Stripe (people were excited about its stinging, raw heat) and the Artichoke (juicy, sweet and light-bodied with little to no heat). Many people just bought one or two heads and wondered whether we would be back at the end of October. My pitch was the long haul, but some people didn't want to have garlic lying around -they wanted me to hold onto it until they were ready for more. Ahhh.

Market feels like the terminus of a year's activity, like an exhibition of one's finished work. I've learned enormously about myself, at least as much as working the land and growing garlic. I've developed more informed opinions on agriculture and the challenges of the small farm. I understand physically, emotionally, and intellectually what I am capable of achieving in this arena with little resources at my disposal. I've met several committed members of the agricultural community, including activists working tirelessly for local agriculture. And I've been witness to the legions of nameless, faceless workers who do the strenuous labor of providing for our enormous and fickle appetites. Finally, I thank everyone who has supported my project with kind words and purchases. 

Now, in the twilight of this year's work, I must decide how to proceed.


  1. I love shallots. Even more than garlic. I realize I'm not a bulk buyer, but I'd be happy to buy some.

    1. Ellen, send me an email, how much you may want and I'll send you the cost.


If I do not respond to your comment right away, it is only because I am busy pulling out buckthorn, creeping charlie, and garlic mustard...