Selling Produce to Summer Campers

If you're working in the right market, you don't have to "grow your own" to make a tidy part-time profit from selling produce.

| May/June 1981

My friend Carol Lea and I didn't go near a garden all last summer, yet we netted nearly $35 a day selling produce. Our source of fresh fruits and vegetables was a farmers' market in Knoxville, Tennessee. We'd simply make a 40-minute "produce run" from our home base in Pigeon Forge each day, carefully select our purchases, load up our just-the-right-size mini-pickup, and head back to the mountains.  

An Occasional Enterprise

We operated our peddling  venture in an on-again-off-again manner for most of the summer, since heavy rains frequently put a damper on our business for days at a time. However, the fact that our enterprise allowed us to work at our own convenience—and still do fairly well—far overshadowed the occasional uncertainty of the operation.

The longest period during which we were able to "run the roads" on a daily basis was a 20 day rainless stretch during the month of July. In the course of that dry spell—while we were peddling only one not-really-full truckload each trip—our average net per day came to $34.31, adding up to a total 20-day profit of $686.20. We actually brought in $1,633.85, but spent $808.23 for merchandise to resell, $66.80 for gasoline for the truck, and $72.62 for miscellaneous expenses, including ice and paper bags. Furthermore, our earnings would have been greater if we hadn't taken a long weekend off over the 4th of July, which would certainly have been the most productive four days of the whole summer.

The amount of fresh food we procured varied: Our smallest daily load cost $32, and the largest set us back $85.75. Of course, some items didn't have to be sold on the first or even on the second day. Jars of honey, for instance, were slow movers but good keepers, since we didn't have to worry about spoilage. 

A Typical Day's Purchase

On an average day, our shopping list might look something like this: 

15 watermelons @$1 ea          $15.00
30 cantaloupes @35¢ ea         $10.50
1 bushel of peaches             $5.00
1 bushel of tomatoes           $10.00
5 dozen ears of corn $1/dozen   $5.00

Another day, of course, we might want to try plums instead of peaches (on occasion we couldn't find any peaches, but plums would be plentiful), or we might decide to buy white seedless grapes or nectarines instead, especially if we had some peaches or plums left over from the previous day's sales. Whatever items we bought, though, we always tried to keep an interesting variety on hand and aimed to stock only food that would make people want to yank the yummies right off our truck and pop them into their mouths!

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!