Looking for a place to sell your food, but have no community farmers market? Are the closest farmers markets too far away or too time-consuming to take part in? Need an extra avenue or income stream for your products? Want to sell your food face-to-face to your neighbors and community members as well as all your other customers? Well, the answer for your garden or farm might be a roadside stand, also known as a farm stand!
It’s both a longstanding tradition in food sales and a growing fad in the farm-to-table movement. For some it’s selling out of their truck’s tailgate, for others it’s a fully constructed stand, like this one at High Rocks. In Kentucky, there’s even a way to get your roadside market officially certified! There are many benefits for being a part of a roadside stand enterprise, and just a few potential drawbacks to think about.
First off, a roadside stand isn’t at a difficult location for you to reach—it’s wherever you want it to be! Keep in mind however, that in order to have good sales, you want it to be in a location that will receive a good amount of traffic. The location of your farm stand should also be in an area where it is both convenient and safe to park and shop. This may take some location scouting (and make sure you have permission to sell where you’re selling!) but it still may be more convenient and hassle-free than your nearest community market. You can even set up the farm stand with a few of your neighbors to share the labor, costs, and rewards.
One of the benefits of a roadside stand is that you can set your own hours and day(s) of operation. You don’t even have to be there! Many roadside stands operate on the honor system, though there is always the possibility of theft. Another drawback of that option is that it is missing the face-to-face interaction with the customer, but it all depends on your needs as a farmer or gardener. It could work out great for you either way! Whatever you decide to do, though, one of the most important things you can do to ensure your farm stand’s success is to keep consistent hours. That will help you build a loyal and reliable customer base. At first, you may just want to open one day a week, just to test it all out.
If this seems like a good and viable option to you, start doing some research about what it might take to open a roadside stand in your area. You might need a business license, or if you are selling off your own property, you might be good to go (though it never hurts to check). Needed supplies might include construction materials with which to build your stand, containers for your food, signage for advertising and pricing, a cash box or some other way to handle your money, and some sort of security mechanism (like a padlock) if you plan to leave any supplies at your farm stand for an extended period of time. One thing to consider investing in would be a device that can read and accept electronic payments for you, for debit and credit cards. This is often shown to increase sales.
The best thing you can bring to your roadside stand, however, is a positive and neighborly disposition! Building relationships with both local producers and consumers is a sure-fire way to build or expand a customer base. Most people look for the most affordable and convenient food options (and your stand might even become that option in your area), but many will go the extra mile and spend the extra dollar for a better product and a positive interaction with their local producers. It’s a good way for small communities to stand together!