Thursday, September 13, 2007


A big storm blew through on September 4, a little over a week ago, pushing some of the squash plants on to their side. As the storm passed, it created an impressive rainbow. I was almost too late to capture this image. The squash plants recovered by the next day.

Speaking of hazards to squash production,this morning I found a male flower bud that was covered with tiny squash bug nymphs. It’s the first time this year that I’ve seen squash bugs. I quickly plucked the bud from it’s stalk and threw it several feet away from my garden plot, into the weeds. Hopefully that’s all that there were, and none escaped to the rest of the plant. In the weeds these tiny nymphs won’t be able to travel back to the squash patch in the heat. They are too young to fly, and there is no squash for them to feed on for a considerable distance. But they are a warning to watch for the third generation of bugs in my patch.

I promised to write about taking squash to market. We’ve now been twice, and will be going for the third time this Saturday. Here’s how things went.

On September 1 we brought squash that had been harvested August 28, 29, 30 and 31. There were a total of 54 large squash, about 7 inches long. I sold all but 2. The ones that didn’t sell were of the variety Zephyr. Some sold at 2 for $1.00 (they were 240 gm and over) and others at 2 for 75 cents. These prices come to 75 cents to $1.00 per pound. I could sell them by the pound, but last year customers told me they preferred to purchase squash by the piece rather than by the pound. The sale of large squashes brought in $21.75.

I also had 192 mini squash, sold at 5 or 6 for $1.00, depending on the size. That comes to $1.50 to $1.75 per pound. Good deal. I sold 175 of the mini squash for $33. If I’d sold the last 17 I would have made an extra $3.00. They say to aim to bring home 20% of what you bring. That way you have enough for everyone who may want your product without too much waste. I brought home about 10%.

So, the total income from squash on Sept. 1 came to $54.75.

Meanwhile, between Aug. 28 and Aug. 31, I put in 20 to 45 minutes a day to harvest and clean the squash, for a total of 4.3 hours. That comes to $12.64 per hour, not including the time spent at market or the 14 hours spent in the squash patch before it started producing squash for harvest.

September 8 was our second day at market with squash. This time I brought 96 large squash to market, and sold only 32 of them, 1/3 of what I brought. I made $16.75. So the harvest was up, but people weren’t buying the large squash.

I harvested 291 mini squash and sold 177 of them, 61%, for $30.40. Total squash income for the week was $46.65. Glenn Scott, one of the vendors who has been selling at our Farmers’ Market much longer than me, agreed that Sept. 8 was a relatively slow week for sales. It’s between paychecks, he explained. People spend more if they were paid that week.

I estimate that I was putting in an hour or more per day, two hours on Friday, to harvest and wash the squash. The total was 7.4 hours. So, for the week of Sept. 8, my sales amounted to $6.30 per hour. At least it’s over the minimum wage!

What happens to all of the unsold squash? We use some of it. We grill a bunch after the market and freeze it for pizza and pasta dishes during the winter. We also make a big batch of ratatouille and freeze some of it. We give some to our neighbors, if they want it. Most of the rest goes to the Parma Senior Center. Glenda, the chef at the senior center, finds creative ways to use it. This year the master gardeners have started collecting leftover produce from our vendors to take to Ronald McDonald House. Some went to them.

Seeing how much didn’t sell last week, I contacted the chef at Bon Appetit, the food service at Albertson College of Idaho. Last year they purchased some of my mini-squash, and this year the executive chef is also interested. So, we have arranged to bring him our unsold squash after the market on Saturday, and more on Tuesday or Wednesday if we have a reason to drive into town, or enough to sell to make the trip worthwhile. I’m very grateful to have that extra market for the squash.

There isn't a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow over my squash patch, but hopefully there is enough compensation to do better than break even.

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