Keeping Produce Fresh at the Farmer's Market

Keeping produce looking fresh while at market can be a challenge. Here are some of the things I've found that help.

Keeping Produce Fresh at the Farmer's Market

When I first started selling at farmer's markets, one of the biggest issues I encountered was figuring out how to keep my produce looking fresh throughout the day.

Most of my items are leafy greens, and in the summer it's not uncommon to reach 85 - 90 degrees. Here are the things I've found so far that help

Harvest as late as possible

Reducing the time from harvest to sale has helped to keep things looking fresh. The main markets I attend occur on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, so I do all of my harvesting on Thursday night. If possible, I would harvest and pack everything on Friday morning, but having a full-time job prevents that.

Rinse and Refrigerate Quickly

In addition to harvesting as late as possible, I also started dipping my lettuce and kale in water directly after harvest and prior to refrigeration. This seems to help keep them from drying out and still look fresh when removed from the cooler for display.

I also refrigerate everything right after harvest. Most times, it gets to the refrigerator within 15 minutes of being cut.

Keep out of the Sun

This one may seem obvious, but keeping your produce out of the sun helps to keep it from wilting and drying out too quickly. If setting up with a 10 x 10 tent, having one with walls really helps shade the booth. As the sun shifts, I move my items around as needed, to keep them from being exposed too much.

Have a Minimal Display

The general logic used at farmer's markets is "stack it high and watch it fly", and I would agree with this. Full displays look and sell much better than only having one or two items. Unfortunately, when it's hot outside and the markets are small, having a large display can mean that your products wilt if they're displayed for too long.

To help combat this, I've starting putting a minimal amount of product on display - 2 - 4 heads of lettuce, or 1 box of microgreens - and keep the rest in refrigeration. It's still enough to look attractive, but small enough that items usually doesn't sit too long. Again, keeping things wet also helps.

So far, these are the main things that I've found to help keep my greens looking better while at market. I'm still trying to figure out a solution with clamshells though - my basil and microgreens always fog up 🙁

If you do anything differently, or have other tips, I'd love to hear about them in the comments!