What Do I Do With My Crops?

DogAndCat36

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I want to grow a giant garden. A humungous, beast of a garden! But one problem, my family will most likely eat only a bucket's worth of vegetables and then the rest will rot. Do you know what else I could do with the vegetables? Do you think that I can, can them and put the cans up in those cupboards by the stores. The ones that are for poor people and are free? I don't even know how to can stuff.
Or should I just grow a small garden?
 

AMKuska

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If you're new to gardening, you should start off with a small garden. You might be surprised at how even a small plot can get away from you. I have a very modest garden compared to many here, but by mid-summer it's often overtaken by weeds and very hard to look after.

The good news is there is always someone willing to take spare vegetables. It looks like you have chickens, and they enjoy eating pumpkin, squash, and many other vegetables. Tomatoes are a great generic crop because from them you can get diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, and so much more. You can boil the vegetables and make vegetable stock for your soups.

Many food banks are eager for fresh vegetables, but don't always have access. Try talking to them about it. Your local "Buy nothing" group may also be interested.
 

digitS'

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You could take the veggies off to a farmers' market. That was a way for us to make use of garden surplus and it was successful, financially. In other words, the expenses did not outweigh the sales, although hourly income very likely did not meet even current minimum wage.

There are several parts to the enterprise. Being a vendor is quite different from being a gardener. It may also take real effort to establish a customer base of people who buy from you each marketday. Those are important customers and the folks who just drift in once or twice a season, are really not. To have repeat customers, you must be willing to commit to being there on a regular basis. A farmers' market is a group of sellers who compete directly with supermarkets. Americans are very accustomed to showing up at a supermarket and finding what they came for. They may learn the "seasonality" of local produce. But, they still show up with expectations.

My advice is not to have anything to do with flea markets no matter how welcoming the management is. Nope. They just aren't the proper environment for produce sales. Even craft markets may not be appropriate if they are dominated by crafters. Fresh produce selling requirements are just not the same. Additionally, find out before you make any commitment regarding the re-selling of produce. Nothing like competing against a wholesale produce company that buys from truck farms and that load up a truck and sends a guy down to a "farmers' market." Whatever didn't sell goes back to the company's cold storage at the end of the day. Small farming operations aren't nearly as cut-throat when they are lined up side-by-side as what one might imagine. Still, it won't be Big Bucks to bring home.

Produce coming home may amount to quite a bit less than what one might expect. "Pile it High and Kiss it goodby." That was a motto of a Seattle market manager. He was right but labor limits means that bringing in a ton of stuff isn't possible. Also, the food industry's economics of scale keep food prices nationally low and limits the market's customer base. My experience with disappointed vendors was that people would bring $100 worth of produce down and complain that they didn't make $200 and/or that they didn't sell every single head of cabbage.

Wastage was surprisingly low. There may be a senior center or some place like that which would welcome produce dropped off at the end of a marketday. That rooster in your avatar would enjoy some of it and you have to accept the fact that your compost pile is always hungry so nothing really goes completely to waste.

Steve

PS: processing food by canning is likely to put you directly under the watchful eye of the health department. rules may be strict and difficult to meet. government controls of farm-direct sales to consumers are often quite different if the produce is fresh and not processed.
 

seedcorn

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I want to grow a giant garden. A humungous, beast of a garden! But one problem, my family will most likely eat only a bucket's worth of vegetables and then the rest will rot. Do you know what else I could do with the vegetables? Do you think that I can, can them and put the cans up in those cupboards by the stores. The ones that are for poor people and are free? I don't even know how to can stuff.
Or should I just grow a small garden?
Define “a giant garden” or “humungous, beast of a garden”. 10’x40’? 100’X400’? An acre?
 

Artichoke Lover

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Why doesn’t it get eaten? Does nolike veggies? Even homegrown ones? Or is it just hard to incorporate them into meals?

Do keep in mind if you do go to a farmers market there is a lot of work and a good amount of starting expense. Though a lot of it will depend on your area and the particular market. You will need a table a way to transport your produce and as well as a way to keep it cool. You’ll want a tent and a way to except credit and debit cards. And there will be fees for permits you’ll need to be able to sell and the fees to sell at that particular market. Not trying to discourage anyone but it’s a lot more work than most people realize.
Local food pantries and homeless shelters are good if they are allowed to take fresh produce (some aren’t) I wouldn’t think they would take home canned goods since they have no way of telling if proper food safety was followed during canning. Local churches may have programs that distribute food and they may be able to take it.
Some non profit rehab programs would greatly appreciate it to.
thats who ours goes to since we don’t have a food pantry in our
town.
Ample Harvest should have a list of places near you that do accept fresh food donations.


Edit: missed that this is your first year gardening. Keep it small
this year. Probably about 10x10 maybe 10x15 if most of your plants will be space hogs like watermelon and winter squash. It’s always better to start with a small patch you can manage and then expand it later if you still need more space.
 
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seedcorn

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As big as a kitchen I guess. :hu
My garden is 40’X80’ and is not large by garden standards. We have extra but not as much as you might think. We usually keep some widows in produce with extras.

If you have never canned, find people that do. Learn from experienced people. Incorrectly canned food is the same as poison.
 

flowerbug

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i would guess you should talk to whichever food pantries you plan on working with as to what they would take. some places will not take home canned foods and would instead prefer fresh foods instead. it will also likely have a fair amount to do with regulations your state might have in place.

here in MI it is ok to be a small grower and to sell things as long as you clearly label them as coming from an uninspected kitchen and you put your name and address on them. which to me is entirely correct how to do things. once the business gets above a certain dollar amount then it has to be regulated and inspected.
 
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