Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Although I don’t have the answer, I sure know that I enjoyed seeing both at the USDA Farmers Market last Friday while celebrating National Egg Day. One of the great things about farmers markets across the country is the opportunity to talk to farmers and learn more about our food. At Friday’s market, I had the opportunity to talk with Bill Schutte and Patti Lou Riker from Tall Cotton Farm – who produce grass-fed beef, pork, turkeys, chicken, and eggs located on their farm in Urbanna, Virginia.
For the past three years the husband and wife team have traveled from their farm in a rural, less densely populated area to the Nation’s Capital offering customers fresh eggs and meat - including turkeys for the holidays. They tell me that selling at the busy USDA Farmers Market has helped build their customer base and business. “We're able to bring an egg as fresh as 15 hours after it's laid to sell at the market,” Patti Lou told me.
In fact, many of the customers they meet at this market end up becoming steady customers outside the May to October market season. These new customers participate in their delivery program, which allows them to sell their products year round, a necessity for them to thrive.
Part of any successful market includes activities that help customers know more about the products sold at the market. In celebration of National Egg Day, Patti Lou and Bill shared a glimpse into rural farm life with city dwellers and tourists by bringing day-old chicks and a live egg hatching demonstration to the market. They even brought a pair of hens and rooster to roam the neighboring Headquarters People’s Garden. These types of activities are a way to engage with customers and attract new business. As Patti Lou said, “The USDA Farmers Market is unique in the exposure, we have to tourists from around the nation and even around the world. We have met some very interesting people!” Last Friday also included an egg candling demonstration from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and a visit from the American Egg Board (AEB) offering education on egg nutrition and creative ways to prepare eggs.
You can visit the market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Friday through October and see for yourself how farmers, small food businesses and ranchers are building their success! The USDA Farmers Market, managed by AMS and located just steps from the National Mall in downtown Washington, D.C., is a “living laboratory” for farmers markets around the country. So what’s next for Tall Cotton Farm? Patti Lou smiled and said, “In a little over a month I will be making the leap to becoming a full time farmer. I intend to retire from my 'day job' in early July and pursue farming as my career. We are excited about where this will lead us.”