A roadside fruit stand may have a certain rustic, makeshift charm to it, but it is still a business. As such, starting a fruit stand necessitates thoughtful planning. To launch a successful fruit or produce stand business, you must not only grow or outsource your goods but also develop strategies for maximizing the appeal of your fruit products and staying profitable amid competing ventures.
Cultivate Your Wares
Before your fruit stand becomes a reality, plan for the types of fruit you will grow and sell at the stand. Factor in your own abilities, regional tastes and preferences, and which fruits can be cultivated to give customers the value and quality they're looking for. According to the Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences, you should develop a crop production schedule, including estimated costs, yields and time horizons. To expand your offerings, supplement your own crops with produce from other farms for resale. Boost the charm and appeal of your stand by selling value-added products such as jam, pickles, crafts and local milk and honey.
Fruit stands come in a variety of formats, so determine which one suits you. For a pick-your-own operation, location is especially paramount. Cathy Heidenreich of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences notes that an acre of PYO berries requires a population of 1,000 within a 30-mile radius. For a roadside stand, the farther your stand is from a well-traveled road, the more imperative it is to offer a variety of fruits and engage customer interest. If you choose to open your fruit stand at a farmer's market, take into account any membership fees, rules for sales and space assignments.
Pricing your farm stand products fairly is key to the ongoing success of your business, according to the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. Particularly in a farmer's market context, consistently undercutting the competition can lead to disruptions in the pricing system, so "pricing wars" are discouraged by farmer's market managers. To set fair prices, set up accurate record keeping systems to keep track of inputs, labor and exact production costs. Prices should take into account numerous factors, including costs, prevailing market and competitors' prices, as well as perceived value by the customer.
Advertise and Market Your Stand
Signage is one of the most important forms of advertising for a farm stand. Use trailblazing signs to give directions to the stand, or chalkboards and magnetic lettering signs to alert passing traffic of your specials. Provide recipes at the fruit stand to encourage people to try unfamiliar products. Establish a website for your farm stand providing background on your crops and hours of operation. Give customers the option to preorder fruit, pay online or order in bulk by mail. Generate a weekly or monthly newsletter to email subscribers about seasonal produce and special events.
- University of Minnesota Extension: Commercial Fruit and Vegetable Production
- Penn State University Extension: Developing a Roadside Farm Market
- Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Marketing Small Fruit
- Gaebler: How to Start a Farm Produce Business
- University of California Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems: Farmers’ Markets and Roadside Farm Stands
- Photo Credit Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images
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