Selling at a farmers’ market is more than just a 5 or 6-hour day.
Nearly a decade ago, after spending time with a bread maker on Salt Spring Island, Laura Taschuk Rogerson of BreadLove Artisan Bakehouse & Bake School realized bread making could be a retirement job she could be passionate about. Fast forward to today, BreadLove has been a vendor at the St. Albert Farmers’ Market for 8 years. Every Saturday market, Laura bakes an average of 4 dozen cinnamon rolls, 4 dozen pocket breads, 48 bread sticks, 62 assorted focaccias and 60 loaves of bread. From her first day at the market, she has sold out weekly, thanks to the support of market patrons.
To understand how she manages this much baking, let’s take a peek into a week in the life of this farmers’ market vendor.
Sunday: The day after market
You would think the day after a busy Saturday market would be a rest day. But not for a farmers’ market vendor and bread maker.
The day after market, Laura reviews what sold the day before and makes adjustments to quantities for the following week, taking into account the long range weather forecast and upcoming special events or days, like Father’s Day. Highly organized, Laura records her sales and next week’s quantities into a spreadsheet which generates a grocery list of ingredients she’ll need for next week’s market.
Monday: Get’s her shop on
Laura does all of her ingredient shopping on Monday, visiting various wholesale and retail grocery stores to get what she needs for prep and bake days.
Tuesday: Hard-earned day off (maybe…..)
Most farmers’ market vendors never get a traditional Saturday-Sunday weekend, or a day off period! If Laura isn’t teaching people how to make bread in one of her classes, Tuesday is a rare mid-week chance to rest and recharge.
Wednesday: The prep begins
In order to produce enough bread for market, Laura follows a very rigid prep and production schedule. Her breads and baked goods are made fresh every single week.
Laura spends half of Wednesday measuring all of the dry ingredients for her breads and baked goods and places them in sealed food handling bins. The bins are stacked and tagged with times when the baking of each product must begin. She also starts her sourdough, in preparation for her sourdough bread loaves.
Thursday: Everything by hand
The yummy, fresh toppings for BreadLove’s focaccia breads are prepared now – cheddar is grated, jalapenos sliced, onions caramelized. Everything is placed into containers, ready and waiting for baking.
Between 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm on Thursday night, the mixing of most of the bread dough begins. Laura mixes all of her doughs by hand and they are left to rise overnight.
Friday: Ready for it
Laura spends a part of the day preparing the doughs that need to be made one day before market. She also starts shaping the bread dough that has risen overnight and lets it cold proof so it can be baked that evening.
With all this baking and hard work, does Laura still have a favourite product she likes to bake? Without hesitation, Laura quickly responds, “Yes, Olivia’s Chocolate Pear Bread”. Laura created this bread in honour of Olivia, the daughter of one of BreadLove’s team members. Olivia spent time in the Stollery Children’s Hospital a few years ago with a life threatening illness. Laura created the bread as a fundraiser for the Stollery, and donates a portion of the proceeds from each and every loaf sold. The good news is that a) Olivia is turning 8 in October and is thriving and doing well, and b) her Chocolate Pear Bread is available every week at the market.
Friday doesn’t allow much time for sleep, but Laura manages to get in a few hours of shut-eye before waking up at 1am on Saturday morning to start baking.
Saturday: Show time!
Long before the market begins, in the wee hours of Saturday morning, Laura is baking her breads and buns. She starts baking at 1:00 am and finishes no later than 7:00 am.
At 7:00 am, one of her team members, either Alix or Beth, arrives to package the loaves and get them ready for transport to the market. Laura quickly showers, and the BreadLove crew departs for the St. Albert market by 8:30 am.
Laura and her team have their stall ready by 9:30am, and moments later the line-up at her booth begins to form. When the market opens at 10:00 am sharp, focaccia, bread and cinnamon buns fly off the table. Even though she makes mass quantities, Laura regularly sells out by Noon.
When the market ends at 3pm, Laura packs up and returns to clean up from the marathon bake and prep session. After a bit of rest and relaxation on Saturday night, like any dedicated farmers’ market vendor, Laura is keen and ready to do it all over again.