How to Start and Run a Produce Stand

A roadside stand is a good way to sell the produce from your garden or small farm. These suggestions will help you choose a location, set up an attractive stand, set prices, and make sales.

| April/May 1992

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    The fruit-and-vegetable stand is a branch of farm life and nature with the air of a country store.
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    With a little imagination, you can place bushels of fruit in front of piles of melons or pumpkins to lend a bit of showmanship. And always remember to smile!
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    Place signs far enough down the highway, on both sides of the road, so that fast-moving traffic will have enough time to slow down to a safe stop.
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    The roadside stand is one of the last bastions of free enterprise. It can be started up with relatively little capital,and is one of the last true family businesses left that has not been swallowed up into a conglomerate.
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    Making your stand family-friendly—by tethering a goat kid nearby for children to pet, for example—may boost your sales.

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If you're selling the fruits of a natural lifestyle but finding your talents rotting in the fields, a roadside produce stand may be the answer to your marketing problems. It's a direct link to your customers without the bargain-hunting middleman reaching into your pocket. People are not averse to driving into the country to look for fruits and vegetables—but you must make it worth their while to stop.

The location of your produce stand is of utmost importance. Don't try to place it on turnpikes; people are not on these roads to shop and are too anxious to slow down for fear of being struck from the rear. Pick a quieter road with sufficient traffic moving along at a slower pace.

Then be an observer. You know when your particular crops will bear the heaviest, so find out in which direction traffic is heaviest at that time of year: It helps if drivers don't have to cross the road into an oncoming lane of traffic to reach your stand. Then try to place signs far enough down the highway, on both sides of the road, so that fast-moving traffic will see your stand and have enough time to slow down to a safe stop. Curves where people are forced to slow down are also a good place to show your signs.

Once you've picked a corner or a place on the road that faces into the traffic during your prime season—a place where approaching traffic can not only see your produce stand but look directly onto your displays—allow a wide area for pull-off so that cars can slow down before driving in. Obtain the necessary permits, and start building.

Tips for Setting Up Your Produce Stand

Make the stand attractive to prospective customers. Several long planks mounted on two sawhorses can serve your needs and be portable enough to be packed away in your barn when the season ends. With a little imagination you can place bushel baskets of fruit in front of piles of watermelons or pumpkins at each end of your "table" to lend a bit of showmanship. But such a stand is unlikely to be seen by passing motorists. If you're there to stay, make your stand a place that people will see and remember. Eye-catchers are needed (as a wood carver, I put in a totem pole). If possible, locate your produce stand under a large shade tree—you couldn't find a more natural way to display it, and it will give the stand a more rustic setting.

Strive for uniqueness in your display. Nail kegs sawed in half, polished and waxed, make nice display containers. Commercial-type glass-fronted refrigerators can be bought used, and the more perishable items stored in them. Even small stands use them. In areas where they will not get trampled on, flowers can be grown to add to the attractiveness of the place, and customers should be encouraged to pick a small bouquet free for the stopping. Or stand operators can sell flowers, offering half-price if the customer wants to pick them him- or herself.  

4/1/2019 10:42:48 AM

“clean shirts and trousers for men and clean blouses for women (we've found that aprons on the girls denote country living, and with it, an atmosphere of wholesome life” Are you actually serious? Editors, remove this nonsense already - it is antediluvian- sexist and out of date for sure. This ain’t ‘Little House on the Freakin’ Prairie’!! 🙄

4/19/2018 7:29:11 PM

I was just looking at a vegetable stand not a commercial building...refrigerator, sink and a loading dock?! Who has this space or money.

4/19/2018 7:29:09 PM

Hummm...having a refrigerator, sink and a loading dock?! I just want a stand in my front yard, not a commercial building.


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