H. B. Fullerton of Long Island has developed a plan of shipping to consumers in large cities, mainly New York. Figure 50 shows the Long Island hamper packed with an assortment of vegetables. The two layers of three 4-quart baskets are separated by a division rack. Before packing, thin paraffin paper is cut in sizes large enough to line the boxes and to lap over the top and cover the vegetables. An assortment of about nine vegetables is sent in each hamper. After business has been established with a family, a preference is often expressed for certain vegetables, and not more than three to five vegetables may be included in subsequent shipments. The aim, however, is to supply city consumers with an assortment of vegetables just as good, clean and fresh as country people enjoy. Early in the spring the hampers are packed with lettuce, radishes, spinach, rhubarb and root crops held over winter. Later, many other vegetables are available, and a full and varied assortment is furnished as the season advances. The hampers are loaded on express trains in the morning and reach the city home in time for dinner. The uniform price the year round is $1.50 a hamper delivered.
There are four methods of supplying retailers. (1) To sell to stores or marketmen; (2) to ship to city retailers; (3) to sell in a wholesale market and (4) to sell at the farm. By selling to retailers it is possible to operate on a large scale, because there is more time for production and more vegetables can be marketed in the time available. The cost of production is much less than when retailing, and the grower can afford to sell for less money.
When driving to local markets it is important to go every day, if possible, and to establish a regular trade with the most extensive retailers. It is also imperative to reach the market early in the morning, in order that the retailers will have ample time to make deliveries for the noon meal. A good wholesale market is the most satisfactory means of supplying retailers, whether merchants or hucksters.
When living too far from the market to drive, a satisfactory shipping business is often built up. Specializing is most profitable when this is attempted. That is, grow one or a few crops of the highest quality and send them to market in such attractive and perfect condition that dealers will consider them indispensable.
This method of selling makes it possible to operate on the largest scale. The vegetables are hauled to market on big wagons, or liberal consignments are made by train or boat. The grower may cultivate several hundred acres, and ship in car lots, the volume of the business amounting to many thousands of dollars a year. Over 100 cars of cucurbits are produced and shipped annually by a grower on the eastern shore of Maryland.
Vegetables are consigned on commission or sold outright to wholesale dealers. It is sometimes said that all commission dealers are rogues, but this is necessarily far from the truth, although there are rascals among commission men. Rascals have been known to exist also among vegetable growers, judging from the dishonest, packs sometimes put up. Many of the most successful gardeners sell entirely on commission, and they stand ready to defend the honesty and integrity of their dealers. Before making a consignment it is important, of course, to investigate thoroughly the reliability of a dealer. Selling for a definite figure is more satisfactory, although it is often impossible to do so without making a sacrifice in price. When shipping to commission dealers the grower should insist upon daily reports by telephone, or when this is not possible, by telegraph. It is a great advantage to converse daily with the dealer, although this is not practicable in many instances, especially if the grower live hundreds of miles away.
A very satisfactory way is to sell to agents at the shipping station. This method has been developed at many points in various parts of the country. It really amounts to an auction without an auctioneer. Agents representing city dealers are authorized to buy as directed. The grower receives cash or a check for the goods sold and goes home without any anxiety concerning returns for the shipment.
The question of distribution is one of the most important and most difficult problems in commercial vegetable gardening. The main cause of market slumps is uneven distribution. The supply of a given vegetable may be meager in one city and plentiful in another. Were the crops of the country as a whole evenly distributed, slumps and extremely low prices would seldom occur. The individual should do all in his power to prevent crowding the market, but he is practically helpless in most instances. It is a question for organizations to deal with, and it is considered more fully in the next chapter on co-operative associations.