Hey Folks. We are going to be expanding our on-farm sales this year due to popular demand but we are divided about what is best: self-serve stand vs staffed farm store with limited hours. We are hoping to have our on-farm sales match that of a standard market day. Do any of you have experience or an opinion?
We launched a self serve farm stand in 2020 and it was a great success. We didn’t keep close track of the inventory vs. cash flow (i.e. we didn’t try to calculate if everyone was paying correctly) but I think it was worth it because it was so easy to operate. However, there are always some customers that require assistant and have questions but in my experience if they can’t see any staff around they figure it out themselves!
I did a self serve stand this year too. I didn’t have any interest in sitting down waiting for customers to come up, I’d rather use that time to keep working on something else. We have always done the sweet corn like that and never had any problems with it. It was the honour system of course, with just a washed out peanut butter jar for the cash/ float to go into. Our stand is next to the driveshed pretty close to the house. I might have put a secured box if it was at the end of a laneway. At the very least make sure your cash box is taken in by sundown and reset daily. The money at the end of the day almost always tallied up for me. maybe a couple cents or a buck off. I left my phone # and email at the stand for question/ e-transfer. This year I’ll have a whiteboard with a schedule of available produce & any extra notes. That should cover most peoples questions. Always nice to pop in too if you see people there if you can afford the time.
The biggest thing that will probably help you with on farm sales is have nice clear signage directing to the farm, and a nice inviting stand. I found weekends had the best traffic as you might guess. Lastly, I chose to have my produce in a fridge with a glass door so it would last longer and the quality would be better, which was easy to have beside our driveshed. I looked at the stand differently than I would having to go to market because there is so much less labour involved, no set up/ take down/ driving or vending costs.
Before we sold our farm a few years back, we were on the verge of doing a self-serve stand. We had good traffic on the road but we just couldn’t afford spending time sitting there and waiting for customers. I think the savings in person-hours will almost always make up for any shortage in money from people miscalculating or being dishonest (which is rare). However, use a lock box that is bolted down if you’re taking cash, or you could skip that entirely and just do e-transfer, in which case the worse that can happen is a poor soul stealing all of your veggies.