Do you struggle with the thought of swimming in unused eggs or extra produce going to waste? This happens to all of us homesteaders at one point or another.
With the increase in current food shortages and just general-crazy-times these last few years, Christian and I have been amping up our food production, partly for ourselves and partly to help support our community with more local food options.
Of course, this means that now I’m left trying to figure out how to get my extra food TO my community (NOTE: yes, I also support friends and family and donate, too, but in this article, I’m focusing on something that many of my readers have asked for information on: how to open a farm stand).
Fortunately, farmers and homesteaders have been using roadside stands to sell extras and help finance their farms for generations.
Opening a roadside stand doesn’t have to be complicated or a big investment, but it does require a bit of planning. This age-old tradition of selling via a farm stand might be exactly the answer you’ve been looking for if you are like me and you’re trying to learn ways to start selling your farm-fresh goods to neighbors and community members.
Unfortunately, especially these days, you can’t just set up a table and start selling. There are different requirements you should know about and they can be different for everyone. Before setting up shop at the end of your driveway, let’s make sure you get off to a great start.
What is a Roadside Stand?
A roadside stand can be as simple as a pallet of pumpkins or as elaborate as a walk-in building. A roadside stand is a place where people can sell products directly to consumers passing by. In most places, a roadside farm stand is considered a seasonal temporary marketing site.
A permanent structure that is open all year round can also be a roadside stand, but some states will classify that as a Farm Market. It is a good idea to find out if your roadside stand is classified as a Farm Stand or Farm Market. In some areas, you need special permits for a permanent structure that you do not need for a seasonal roadside stand.
Reasons Why You Should Start a Roadside Stand
There are a lot of reasons why people want to start a roadside stand, but a few common reasons include:
- Extra Funds
Starting a roadside stand can be an opportunity to raise extra funds for your homestead. The great thing is you are probably doing a lot of the work already. -> A roadside stand is one way that your homestead can help provide you with extra income to support your homesteading dream. If you are interested in learning more about how your homestead can work for you, take a look at my course the Self-Fund Homestead. <-
A roadside stand can be used to sell all your extras; it adds to the no-waste lifestyle that we call homesteading.
Learning how to cultivate community while homesteading can be a difficult task. Opening a roadside stand can be a great way to get to know your neighbors and provide your community with local products.
Opening a roadside stand can be a great addition and one of many ways to make money on your homestead. Keep in mind that it is more than collecting money from a cash box. It can be a time-consuming process, that will require a daily commitment to become a success.
What Type of Roadside Stand Will You Start?
The Roadside Stand Structure
As I mentioned before, a farm stand can be as simple or elaborate as you like. There are so many different structures and ideas out there.
Roadside Stand Structure Ideas:
- Large Boxes
- Old Refrigerator
- Walk-In Shed
- Mobile Cart
- Old Truck
No matter what type of structure you decide to start off with, remember a good presentation will help with its success. A roadside stand that is easy on the eyes is more likely to get attention than a pile of random vegetables on a table.
An organized, well-displayed roadside stand doesn’t have to be a huge investment and it can be a great side project to help build a debt-free homestead (read Tips for Building a Debt-Free Homestead to learn more). Get creative with containers and organization; and if you are opening a roadside stand for the first time, it might be a good idea to begin on the simpler side of things.
Starting simple will give you the opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t. As your customer understanding grows, so can your roadside stand.
Hours Open, Self-Service or Manned?
Many homesteaders and small farmers still rely on their day-to-day jobs. This can make setting hours for a roadside stand tough. For example, you probably want your stand to be open when it is convenient for passing traffic to stop by. The hours you set will depend on the type of roadside stand you will be running.
There are two main ways to run a roadside stand: you can have a manned roadside stand or it can be a self-service.
- Manned – When you are running a manned roadside stand, you will have someone there during the hours you are open collecting money and offering customer service.
- Self-Service – This type of roadside stand is more convenient for those that can’t be in their stand all the time. A self-service roadside stand is run on the honor system where customers take their goods and leave money in a cash box.
A third option is to mix a little bit of both styles when running your roadside stand. Maybe during the week, you can’t be in your stand, but on weekends you can be there to add a little customer service. It is your roadside stand and you want the hours to work with you as much as possible.
Where Will Your Roadside Stand be Located?
The location of your stand should be simple, right? For example, oftentimes, you’ll find them located near the end of your driveway. Yes, it can be at the end of your driveway, but before you make that decision, there are a few things you should consider before choosing your location.
The placement of a roadside stand is an important aspect that will contribute to its success. Two important factors to consider when determining where your stand should be located are the amount of passing traffic and how easy your stand is to access.
1. Potential Customer Traffic
The intention of opening a roadside stand is to cut out the middleman by selling directly to passing traffic, so if there is no traffic, then there are no sales. Having your roadside stand at the end of your driveway is great and convenient if you live on a well-traveled road.
If you live off the beaten path with one or two neighbors passing by, you might want to consider other options. Other options for your roadside stand can include: a busy corner, your local grocery store parking lot, or a friend’s driveway. Keep in mind permission from a landowner or a permit from the township may be needed for these other options.
2. Access to Your Roadside Stand
When you are looking for the perfect location, you will want to make sure passing traffic can see your roadside stand and also access it easily. Things to think about while choosing an easily accessible site should include:
- Number of Customers at a Time – How many people are able to browse your roadside stand at a time?
- Parking – Is there going to be enough room for one or two cars to park safely?
- Customer Safety – Is your stand safely located far enough away from passing traffic?
- Distance from Car to Stand – Are customers able to make a convenient quick stop?
A roadside stand should be safe for your customers to easily stop and get the things they need. It should accommodate the neighbors that are making a quick stop after work, but also the browsing weekend customers.
Rules, Permits, and Insurance
Depending on your State, County, and Township, there may be rules that need to be followed, and either permits that need to be acquired or maybe just permission granted. Every area has different requirements and before starting your roadside stand, you will want to be sure you are setting everything up correctly.
A great place to find answers about setting up a roadside stand in your area is the local extension office. If they don’t have the answers you need, they will probably be able to point you in the right direction.
Liability insurance is an important consideration; we would like to believe that everything will run smoothly all the time, but the reality is “accidents happen.” It is better to be prepared, than not have it when you need it. Start by talking to your homeowner’s insurance agent, because many policies have different home business options.
What Do You Plan on Selling?
When you are planning to open a roadside stand, the most important thing to consider is what you are going to sell. One question to consider is “Will you be selling extra or planning extra to sell?”.
What is the difference?
Selling Extra is not necessarily planned; it is when you sell the things that would go to waste or you don’t have room for in your own food storage system. Cucumbers are a great example of extra produce, because you may only have room for so many jars of pickles or relish.
Chickens like to kick their egg-laying into overdrive during the spring and summer months. You may have more eggs than you need, even after trying different ways to use your eggs or water glassing eggs for later use.
Planning Extra is when you intentionally create or grow extra items to sell in your roadside stand. You could intentionally grow extra tomatoes or make more syrup. There are so many different items that you may already be using on your homestead for your roadside stand.
Extra Item Ideas for Selling :
- Extra Produce
- Maple Syrup
- Baked Goods
- Cut Flowers
- Homemade Soap
- Poultry Chicks
Whatever your extra items might be, you will need to plan ahead so that you have a good amount when it is time to open your roadside stand.
Note: When you open a roadside stand the first year, you may want to sell extras you have on hand. It is hard to plan extra items when you are not familiar with what sells well in your area.
Pricing and Selling Your Goods
Like any other retail store or business, when you are selling goods you must decide on the price they will sell for. You do not want to just make up a price and stick with it. You should do research in your area and consider the following things:
- The quality of the goods you are selling. Ex: Organically grown produce should be priced accordingly, this means slightly higher than standard produce.
- Your Expenses – Consider what it takes to grow extra vegetables or what it takes to make those DIY Crafts.
- Average Customer in Your Area – How many people in your area are willing to pay higher prices for local quality goods? Think of the average income in your area and try to price fairly for your customers and yourself.
- Other Roadside Stands – If there are other roadside stands take a look at what their selling prices are.
- Product Demand – What products are flying off the shelves, can you create bundle pricing or deals?
When deciding on the exact prices, you will want to price your items so that making change isn’t always necessary. This could mean pricing in exact bill amounts or increments of five. This is important especially if you are opening a self-service roadside stand.
Now that you have decided on the prices your customers will pay, you will want to make sure every item is marked and have signs that clearly state the price. It is important that all of your prices are known and that your signs are easy to understand.
If you need help figuring out how to price things, my Self-Funded Homestead course comes with fill-in spreadsheets for small-business costs, budgets, profits, etc. and they may be helpful for you as your set up your farm stand business.
Ways to Pay at Your Roadside Stand
A traditional roadside stand uses the cash exchange system, where cash is given to the vendor for local produce and other goods. Today, technology has made it possible for customers to pay even when they don’t have physical cash in hand.
Your farm stand can contain a cash box where bills can be deposited to pay for your roadside stand items. Cash apps like Paypal and Venmo can now be utilized to accept payment from those that don’t usually carry money. No matter which method of payment you choose, you will want to make sure that you have visible easy-to-understand instructions.
Another thing to have alongside your cash box or payment instructions is an inventory sheet. Ask that your customers write down what they purchased and how much. This is a way for you to keep track of your inventory and a great way for you to understand what your local customer’s needs are.
Marketing and Advertising Your Roadside Stand
You have worked so hard to get everything ready for the opening of your roadside stand, the last (and super important) thing that you need to do is advertise that you are open and what you are selling. This doesn’t have to be a huge marketing campaign, but people need to know that your roadside stand exists.
We have all seen those signs along the road telling you fresh eggs or produce for sale at the next right. These signs are the traditional way of advertising roadside stands. Social Media and the internet have created more modern ways to advertise your local goods.
Ways to Advertise:
- Roadside Signs
Roadside signs should have large lettering and not too many words. You want to give information but make it easy for passing traffic to see and understand. You will also want a sign telling potential customers that they have found your stand so that there is no confusion.
- Social Media
Facebook, Instagram Etc. are great ways to keep people posted weekly on what you are offering. Social media also allows you to add pictures to create a visual advertisement as well.
There are now websites where you can register your roadside stand like Local Harvest and Local Farmer’s Market. This allows potential customers to search for local roadside stands near them. You can also register your roadside stand with google so that it can be located on google maps.
You can create a simple flyer explaining where you are located and what goods you will be providing. Most small businesses have a bulletin board for local advertising, but if they don’t you can ask to hang one.
These are all great ways to get the word out that your roadside stand is open for business. A few additional marketing tools you can include at your roadside stand are business cards or pamphlets.
- Business Cards
If you are going to set business cards out, you should make sure they include an email and your social media information.
These allow you to add more information than a business card. You can include your contact information, social media accounts, and different information about your homestead and products. This allows you to give your customers a look into your homestead.
Want more info on how to advertise your products? Check out Season Five of my Old-Fashioned on Purpose Podcast. It’s all about small business opportunities for homesteaders.
Some helpful podcast episodes include:
- How to Grow a Thriving Business in a Small Town
- Outside-of-the-Box Ways to Monetize a Homestead
- What’s Working for Social Media Right Now
- How to Sell Products Online (and Deal with Competitors)
- How to Confidently Bring Your Product to Market
Are You Ready to Open a Roadside Stand?
A roadside stand is one way to help afford your dream homestead, the great thing is you were probably doing most of the work anyway. If you are planning on opening a roadside stand, remember: it should be an easy and convenient way for passing traffic to buy locally.
Opening a roadside can be a small step to help you build your dream homestead and provide a small amount of financial freedom.