Honor System Stands
One of the challenges that many homesteaders face is that they are not self sufficient enough to quit their day job. This can make it difficult if you have a product to sell at your farm location.
You can’t be two places at once unfortunately. I know…I’ve tried. For many homesteaders, their day job is nestled between the hours spent tending to the farm. For many, before the 9-5 work day begins, they’ve already milked a goat, fed chickens, cleaned stalls and collected eggs. When the work day ends it’s time to begin longer shores like mending fences, haying fields, weeding crops and putting animals to bed for the night. With all that demands from a homestead, it can be difficult to run a roadside stand even if you are at home.
When we decided to sell chicken eggs from our surplus of laying hens, I tried to set up hours so people could come when we were home. Some days I would pass up opportunities to do things so I could sit at home and sell eggs. More often than not, we wouldn’t sell a thing. And if we did, it was a $3 dozen eggs. $3 was hardly worth the missed opportunity.
The other tough thing about set hours is that if you work, you will have to work those hours around your work schedule. The downside to this is that we have to make things easy for our customers. A stop at your farm stand is another stop on your customer’s errand list. They might initially enjoy visiting your farm, the dirt road drive, the quaint ambiance of that colorful dozen eggs or the baskets of fresh tomatoes. But week after week, life happens for your customers. And in the end, convenience is important. You don’t want customers to have to re-arrange their schedules to get to your farm by a certain time. This will only tempt them to pick up that dozen eggs at the grocery store, rather than your farm.
Convenience to your customers equals more sale turn over for your product. This is especially true if you have perishable items for sale. If you pick a basket of tomatoes, you want those tomatoes to sell that day. It won’t do them any favors by sitting outside in a bucket waiting for the stand to open again.
The solution? Try a Self Service/Honor System Stand.
In my experience this has been one of the best ways to sell farm products both as a seller and as a customer.
As a buyer, it gives a pleasant down-home sense of laid back- we don’t take ourselves too seriously-our house is your house kind of feel. It’s neighborly, casual, nostalgic and friendly.
It’s also fast
Sometimes you just want to pick up a peck of tomatoes without having a ten minute conversation about the weather. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some of the nicest people in the world and I treasure the time I’ve spent learning from other farmers. But sometimes life happens and you just need to make a quick stop, especially if I’ve already been to the grocery store and am making a special, additional stop for a particular item at the stand.
It can be awkward…
Let’s be honest fellow introverts of the world, there’s a difference between walking into a public store, and entering onto someone’s personal property. I’m a shy person, so maybe I’m more sensitive to this sort of thing, but I feel awkward driving down someone’s driveway, knocking on their home door and asking to buy something, even if there is a “For Sale” sign at the end of the driveway. I’m much more likely to make a stop if the stand is roadside.
What if I am Robbed!!!?
When we sold eggs in the stand out in front of our home I had a lot of people ask me “What if vandals steal your money or your eggs?” The way I look at it is if someone cleans us out. The most I would be out is 5 dozen eggs and $15.
If someone needs it that much, then they’re welcome to it.
Ask yourself; are the products in your stand worth your time to sell them?
The honor system is not just for small stands.
We have a local feedlot that is completely honor system run. They have a large pole barn that is heavily stocked with 50lb bags of cracked corn, whole corn, sun-oilier seeds, hay, straw, fresh eggs, and a all purpose stock feed. There’s wooden box chained to the table and a price list. They’ve been doing it for years so it must be a successful system.
What makes a good self service stand?
-Anticipate what your customers might need. Change? Bags for multiple items? “Pretend shop” your own stand to see if you’ve got everything covered.
-Easy parking/road side access. Have a place for your customers to stop so that they’re not blocking traffic, parking on your neighbors lawn etc.
-Sell things that are un-complicated and need no explanation.
-Have clear- to the point signs and pricing.
-Mark your stand if you sell out. When our chickens stop laying for the season we put a sign that says “sold out”. People will stop coming if they have to keep stopping at an empty stand.
-Check your stand at least once a day. Tidy up, replenish sold goods, and collect your profits.
-Leave a handful of business cards or a leaflet with your contact information in case someone does have a question.
-Make the transaction easy for your customer. In a forever paperless world where most people use debit or credit cards to buy goods, asking for cash sales is already a problem. You can do a couple things to make this an ease for your customers.
-Allow people to make change from the till. This takes a little more trust on the seller’s part, but people appreciate it.
-If you have a sealed/locked money box. Think about putting up a sing that says something to this effect: “Don’t have the right change? Feel free to take our product and square up with us next time.” Again, it takes trust, but it also will get you return customers.
Items that work well in an honor system stand:
Started garden seedlings
Hay and straw