Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
At some point in your beekeeping career, you may find yourself in the position of having more honey than you can possibly use or give to friends, but not enough to begin selling at a weekly farmers market. There are many ways to sell your extra honey, beeswax candles, or other products of the hive that do not require you to commit to a weekly schedule.
Fairs and Festivals
In a previous blog, I discussed selling products at a fair or festival in detail. The nice thing about this is that you get to decide how many fairs you want to attend. You could do just one festival a year or do several, depending on how much surplus honey you have. One word of caution – if you attend a festival one year, but cannot make it the next year, you may find yourself replaced by another honey vendor. So, if you find festival you really like attending, it is a good idea to try to participate in that event every year.
Local stores, especially those interested in carrying locally produced products, may be interested in carrying your products. It is a good idea to set up a meeting ahead of time with the owner or manager to discuss the possibility of them carrying your products. Be sure to bring a price list, and remember, they may be looking for wholesale prices. Bringing samples of your products is also a good idea. If larger stores need to carry more product than you can provide, try smaller or seasonal stores. We do not produce enough honey for our local supermarkets, but we found a small local store that is open from May to November. It works out perfectly for us!
You could also consider creating a roadside stand. The stand itself could be as simple or elaborate as you like. Many stands utilize the honor system of payment. Whether you feel comfortable doing this will depend on the area you live in, how well you know your neighbors, and if your house is close enough to the road to keep an eye on the stand. You could also operate a stand that is only open during certain times of the year, or certain hours.
Selling from your Home
A more secure alternative to the roadside stand is to sell directly from your home. Before we began beekeeping we bought honey from a beekeeper who did this. When they were home and available, they would put out a “Honey for Sale” sign in front of the driveway. They had set up shelves in the front porch/entryway to the house that displayed all of the items for sale. You could then pick out what you wanted, and pay them directly.
Selling at Work
If your employer is agreeable, selling your products at work is very simple! Just before the holidays, we hang up flyers in all of the breakrooms, advertising our products. We have many people purchase items as gifts for the holidays, and for themselves. Many of these coworkers have then gone on to become regular customers. Again, be sure that it is OK with your employer!
Word of Mouth
Once you have been selling honey for a while, many of your customers may come to you by word of mouth. One way to help this along is to have business cards, brochures, or flyers that advertise your product and have your contact information printed up. Whenever someone purchases your honey, give them a few of these handouts to pass along to friends and neighbors. Also, bring a few of these when you are out at social gatherings. It is amazing – as soon as we mention that we are beekeepers, people ask us if they can purchase honey from us, and how to contact us. The product really sells itself.
Another way to sell your honey is online. These days it is fairly easy to set up a website or Facebook page advertising your products. You may get customers from a larger geographic area using this method, so be prepared to ship products.
There are many ways to sell your surplus honey or other products of the hive. The trick is to give it some thought, and try out the ones that you think will work for you.
Jennifer Ford owns and operates Bees of the Woods Apiary with her husband Keith Freeman. You can visit them at Bees of the Woods
Photo credit: Keith Freeman
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