Guide to Selling Locally Grown Produce

This guide to selling locally grown produce door-to-door gives you tips on presenting your produce for sale to providing great customer service to your customers.

| July/August 1971

If you've been using natural methods to rebuild run-down land—as so many folks are nowadays—sooner or later your orchard and garden will begin to produce steady bumper crops of locally grown produce. And, once you have more produce than you have dollars, you'll begin thinking about trading some of the first for a supply of the latter.

But just how do you make that trade happens? Is there a law in your state that can keep you from selling home-grown fruits and vegetables door-to-door? Will you need a tax number? Do you have to mark and package your produce in any particular manner? What's the best way to approach potential customers . . . and where do you find them? How should you dress?

Well, our back-to-the-land family has been peddling produce door-to-door organic produce in Washington state for several seasons now and we have a few field-tested answers to the questions that can seem so terrifying in the beginning. Perhaps our experiences will help you tap the ready market we've found for naturally-grown fruits and vegetables . . . and turn you on to a welcome source of homestead income.

In our opinion, no greenthumber should ever set out to sell excess vegetables, fruits, nuts or berries without first checking with the Department of Agriculture or Fruit Commission of the state in which he lives. Just drop `em a note . . . that's all it takes. The folks who receive your letter will route it to the proper agency (and that can take weeks, so start making your contacts a long time before harvest) and the agency will advise you of all the ground rules that apply in your case.

Here in Washington state, several laws quite obviously protect the big orchards at the expense of both the little growers and the consumer. For example, to haul another gardener's produce with our own, we must purchase something called a cash-buyer's license. If we sell more than a specified number of boxes of fruit or vegetables to one customer, we're required to pay a state inspector to examine the load. We must also buy a peddler's license for the appropriate area if we wish to make sales within the incorporated limits of a city . . . or else run the risk of a heavy fine. If your state imposes a retail sales tax, you'll find that it's also vitally important for you to obtain a tax number in order to make retail sales (and collect the tax commission's loot).

There are ways around most of these restrictions, however. If your state is really heavy on the red tape, for instance, you might even consider selling out of state. We once wrote Montana's Department of Horticulture. The agency helpfully mailed back explicit instructions for marketing produce in that state and we found that it definitely is worth our time to sell fruit in Montana.

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