Selling Direct on the Farm

Farm Stands

Selling your products direct from your farm can be a good way to engage your customers and show them where their food comes from. Depending on your location, selling at a farm stand could be more economical than selling at farmers markets, depending on your labor situation and a variety of other considerations. Direct from the farm sales can encompass a variety of scenarios, from a simple honor system stand with a jar to hold money, to an elaborate roadside farm stand that sells your products and a variety of other locally-grown or bought-in items to round out the selection.

Some considerations before you begin selling from the farm:

  • Check your town zoning – does your town allow permanent farm stands? What are the local regulations on signage?
  • Licenses – check to make sure you have the required licenses at the town and state level to make retail sales.
  • Parking - Is there a place for customers to park or pull over?
  • Labor and staffing – will you have staff on hand at all times, or will it be an honor system? How many hours can you dedicate to staffing an on-farm store? Some farm stands choose to have limited hours to concentrate their selling on one or two days of the week if labor (that means you!) is in short supply and you feel that your product is best sold in person so you can explain the benefits or why it is special. Others decide an honor system maximizes sales without requiring additional labor.
  • Storage and refrigeration – do you have power available and meet the regulations for storing your product at the right temperatures?
  • Visibility & local traffic – do you have enough people passing by to make your farm stand viable?

Some great examples of farm stands:

Pick Your Own Operations

Pick your own operations are most often beneficial for farms with berries, orchards, or pumpkins in production. These types of operations can be a wonderful draw for customers, especially for families looking to entertain young children in the summer and fall. If you offer a pick your own operation, consider adding new and fun elements to the experience for customers: hayrides, musical entertainment, petting zoo, or having extra food and beverages available for purchase or sampling are just some of the options.

Other considerations:

  • Insurance: customers will be wandering around your farm, likely unsupervised – make sure your insurance policy is updated to cover you for this.
  • Parking – will customers be able to park right near the fields or orchards or will you need to transport them?
  • Restrooms – not a necessary element, but they might make it easier for families to stay a while on your property – even port-a-potties can be a good investment for the season.

A useful resource for farmers from the University of Wisconsin Extension program on Pick Your Own operations.

Some local examples of thriving Pick Your Own operations:

Agritourism and Events

Some farmers and producers choose to bring the public to their farm in other ways, for special events, tours or education. You might consider renting space at your farm for events or putting on your own that can tie into your production season and help you sell more product direct from the farm.

New England Farmways is a local organization that was established to help make local farms more accessible to visitors. In addition, they provide a variety of service to help farmers grow and run successful on-farm businesses.

Examples of farms with events:

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