For thousands of years, farmers worldwide have used some variation of the roadside stand to sell their surplus crops and related products to others. Today, the slow-moving oxcart has been replaced with a fast-moving car or truck, but the humble roadside stand still attracts customers and helps growers market their crops.
Why bother? First and foremost is better prices. Growers can charge retail prices for the goods and get paid immediately. In addition, growers meet consumers and have a chance to gain important feedback about their goods, such as: Are my prices competitive? Is the quality as good as buyers can find elsewhere? Can I buy in bulk to save even more? How long will your stand be open? and so on.
Yes, there is a downside as well, as anyone who’s baked in the hot sun or shivered on a drizzly day can assure you. Then there’s the paperwork, permits, regulations, liability insurance and a list of requirements as long as a bureaucrat’s arm. But, in most instances, a roadside stand can bring in enough profits to justify the hassle.
If you’re just getting started, or don’t feel you have the time or inventory to justify a stand, arrange for a cooperative venture with the owner of an existing stand to sell your goods for a share of the profits. Many new growers have also done well selling out of the back of their pickup truck.
Your roadside stand can be as simple as you want, or as fancy. Many growers have started with just a folding table and an inexpensive pop-up canopy. A simple, shed-type stand, clean and tidy, together with a few well-placed signs to alert them well in advance, will encourage passing motorists to stop and shop. You’ll find free plans for a roadside stand available from several sources online by doing a web search for “roadside stand plans.”
A recent survey of roadside stand customers found that quality and freshness were the main reason for buying at the stands. Price ranked below convenience and friendliness! The importance of quality, freshness and friendliness is clear when you learn that most of the customers at roadside stand are repeat customers, shopping at stands an average of once a week.
Roadside Stand Pricing Tips
- pricing just slightly below supermarket prices will keep customers coming back for more.
- If you’re an organic grower, you can get slightly higher prices, but remember, most customers will only spend 10% to 20% more to buy organic.
- Customers are reluctant to ask prices, so be sure to clearly price everything.
- Pricing in fives, such as 65 cents, 85 cents, or $1.25, is more “farm like” than standard retail pricing in 7s and 9s, like $1.99, and encourages customers to spend more.