Co-op Farmstands for Backyard Gardeners

Yard to Market Co-op has created an adaptable model for selling homegrown produce—from bunches of herbs to dozens of eggs.

| August/September 2017

  • Yard to Market Co-op enables backyard gardeners to bring a surplus of eggs or small amounts of produce farmers markets, local grocery stores, and restaurants. The gardener-to-consumer pathway allows customers to talk one-on-one with the producers of the food they're buying.
    Photo by Scott David Gordon.
  • Members drop off their produce or eggs in the morning and fill out a form recording the items and quantities they're selling. Pictured are Nitya Uthenpong's edible flowers and garlic chives.
    Photo by Scott David Gordon.
  • Co-op members can bring any variety of produce to sell. Pictured here are member Candace Squire's nopales.
    Photo by Scott David Gordon.
  • Jen Mack, farmstand coordinator, sets up for the HOPE market.
    Photo by Scott David Gordon.
  • Co-founder Annelies Lottmann talks to patrons at the Sunset Valley market.
    Photo by Scott David Gordon.
  • Nitya Uthenpong harvests garlic chives, which she'll weigh, bundle, and bring to market that morning.
    Photo by Scott David Gordon.
  • With its colorful shed and greenhouse for seedlings, Nitya's urban garden connects her with nature and inspires her to share.
    Photo by Scott David Gordon.
  • Shirley Mount has added to her coop over time. It even has a solar-operated automatic door.
    Photo by Scott David Gordon.
  • Member Shirley Mount sorts eggs for market.
    Photo by Scott David Gordon.
  • The abundance of each member's handfuls of homegrown produce.
    Photo by Scott David Gordon.

In 2013, a few folks who knew each other from the gardening community in Austin, Texas, came together with a dilemma — how to sell their extra produce at farmers markets. As individuals who didn’t want to deliver on a market-farm scale, the barriers to entry seemed too great. They had the idea to create a shared farmstand, a CSA program, or something — they weren’t sure what.

The group, including co-founders Annelies Lottmann and Lesley Williamson, spent most of 2013 meeting and figuring out which structure would work best. Finally, they decided to organize as a co-op because of their interest in group ownership. In early 2014, members began selling produce at the HOPE Farmers Market, which already allowed gardeners to drop off and sell small amounts of produce. Later that year, they had enough members to form a farmstand at HOPE. In 2015, then-named Yard to Market Co-op received a Value-Added Producer Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which allowed them to open a second farmstand, at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market in South Austin, and to pay their farmstand workers. The group has doubled its revenue every year since 2014, has about 50 members across the region, and sells 90 percent of the fruits, vegetables, nuts, and eggs that come in.

At two weekend markets, members can drop off any items they want to sell — even just a bunch of herbs or a half-dozen eggs. To join, they fill out a membership application and agree to certain commitments, including not using synthetic inputs. Members pay $75 to join, which adds capital and puts everyone on equal footing; if someone leaves the co-op, they receive $65 back. Before market, members weigh and bundle their produce according to the group’s guidelines, and on market mornings, they fill out a form that documents what they’re selling. After markets, Lesley, the finance director, compares these forms to the sales records, tracks what’s been sold, and pays each member quarterly.

Whatever doesn’t sell at the markets is brought to Austin-area grocery stores in.gredients and Wheatsville Co-op, as well as the restaurant Black Star Co-op. Produce is also advertised on neighborhood Listservs, where individual buyers can claim products — eggs and specialty fruit are especially sought after. The five-person board that represents all 50 members meets monthly and sends out newsletters to inform everyone of schedule changes or seasonal news, and all members come together to vote on group matters at an annual meeting. Yard to Market has become an entry point for selling homegrown produce, for everyone from windowsill gardeners to small farmers.



A Little Profit, A lot of Community

The model works well for Nitya Uthenpong, who in 2002 began transforming her yard with native plants and heirlooms. At one time she nurtured 17 raised beds, and over the years, she realized she could share her extra produce if she had an outlet. She’d thought about taking produce to market — but not every market. She didn’t want to give up every Saturday. So when she found out about Yard to Market Co-op through her daughter’s school, she joined.

“Now I know someone will be at the market, and I can just drop my extra produce off,” she says. At a recent market, she brought items she had picked that morning — some edible flowers and a few bunches of herbs, which she bundles for Thai cooking.

robert
8/5/2017 2:56:05 PM

We started gardening and we were gone wrong. We could not figure out why we were not getting the beautiful vegetables we were hoping for. People suggest to spray chemicals for vegetables and fruits but is poison and it is not organic vegetables. My lab professor referred a guide it helps me to grow my gardening as what we like, you can get the guide from here >> ( http://go2l.ink/plants ) <<. I have recommended this system to all of my friends and family. We got good organic natural vegetables and fruits in the next harvest, one of the beautiful products in the market...*







Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: February, 16-17 2019
Belton, TX

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE








Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters