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on farm store - honor system

 
master steward
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I read an article recently about a woman that has a small shack near the road on her property.  She puts stuff in the shack with prices and there is a container for money.  The idea is that you come there, pick out what you want, pay for it all by putting money in the container.  She comes out once or twice a day to put more stuff in the shack and to take out the money.

She says that she has never had any theft.

My impression is that she has eggs, fruits and veggies that she puts in the store.  And, about once or twice a month she thinks of some cool craft item and she makes a bunch of that one thing and puts those in the shack.  The craft items usually last a few years. 

It sounded damn smart to me. 

 
                    
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Seemed to be a pretty common way of selling fresh food on the south island in New Zealand.  But the ridiculously low, nearly non-existent crime rate there makes it work.  The cash box was regularly just left open so that people could make their own change. 

We've talked about trying something similar in the parking lot of our town's only store next summer.  Probably can't expect no theft at all....but the time savings of not having to man the store all day would make up for it.  Bolting an unopenable cash box to something no one can carry away is an idea, but then there's the problem of people needing exact change to buy anything. 

Kind of related and a possible solution to the no change available senario: What about a flexible pricing scale?  Could there be suggested prices within a two or three dollar range and people could decide how much they wanted to spend? 

You'd think no one would want to take money from a farmer who presumably isn't making that much to begin with.  But just a few days ago in our tiny town the full cash box containing several hundred dollars for a school fundraiser was lifted by an unknown someone....and returned the next day.  Desperate times?
 
steward
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I encountered an honor system farm stand with some of the guys at work.  I have no idea what town it was in, we were out of town on some job a few years ago.

The stand was a covered space 10-12' square with tables, an assortment of produce, a cash box and instructions.  Nobody around, we could have helped ourselves to everything, including the booth.

If the structure and tables are difficult to haul off, the investment is time and produce.  I can see this being an acceptable risk.  Set up a few booths, get back to work, check them at the end of the day. 

 
pollinator
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Honor systems don't work around management types:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/06/magazine/what-the-bagel-man-saw.html?pagewanted=all
 
                    
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I've read about that guy, probably that article.  I liked this quote:  "A broad swath of psychological and economic research has argued that people will pay different amounts for the same item depending on who is providing it. The economist Richard Thaler, in his 1985 ''Beer on the Beach'' study, showed that a thirsty sunbather would pay $2.65 for a beer delivered from a resort hotel but only $1.50 for the same beer if it came from a shabby grocery store."

So given the fact that a lot of people don't think of food as a valuable item...more theft?  But if that food item were more special than some industrially made bagel on a card table....less theft?  Maybe the designer behind Mary Jane's Farm (MJ herself?) could come up with an especially appealing looking farm stand that would make people want to pay $3 an apple.

I helped a friend in philly run his saturday morning farmer's market stand a few times.  We had way higher sales on the day I convinced him to put the cut flowers in several smaller buckets on top of our tables.  He used to have them in two white plastic buckets on the floor.  No one even looked at them!  When they were part of the aesthetic appeal of the whole table, both the flowers and more of the edible stuff sold.  It was a pretty neat (and for me, satisfying) experiment. 
 
paul wheaton
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I found the article in countryside magazine.

Her little shack has a fridge where she puts "fresh eggs from happy chickens"

Later, she added goat milk soap, jellies, dried herbs, veggies, stuff made from angora rabbit fur ...

She scored a truckload of fabric scraps for free and made all sorts of quilts.  She made over $2000 the first year in quilts.

She cruises estate sales and picks up stuff.  One thing is that she buys heaps of picture frames.  She has pictures of interesting stuff all over the county - apparently, folks buy lots of the framed pics.

She's been doing it for seven years and has not lost a cent.

A lot of her customers bring back the jelly jars and the like!



 
steward
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we do a flower stand this way.  works pretty well.  for time invested to money earned, it beats just about everything else on the farm but our donut machine.

we started up an e-mail list for our produce.  send out an e-mail on Sunday listing what we have available, get return e-mails with orders by Monday, pick orders Tuesday morning and leave them in bags in our cooler.  customers pick them up whenever they want and leave a check or cash.  there's nobody standing behind a cash register, and we only pick what is ordered so there's less waste trying to guess what might sell.  just started this e-mailing last summer, so we're still working out the kinks, but it seems to work well.  details that make it work: we're close to town (just across the river), the farm has operated for a long time and is well-known, and we're very attractive people...
 
                      
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We are not on a busy road but we are able sell eggs from our place. I just spread the word and folks were happy to buy from us. We have never put up a sign but have been thinking about it. We average 7-8 dozen a week. It's not much but it helps especially since we are not doing anything different than what we would be doing just for our family's eggs. The only draw back is that everyone wants to drop their egg crates at our place. If I find a marketable use for them I'll be on to something! 

I have been thinking about having some cut flowers and herbs but I haven't gotten around to it yet. Last year we had loads of cut flowers like dahlias. We could have and should have sold a bunch. I am planning on putting more in this year. Years back when I volunteered on a CSA, the flower patches were always a big draw for members. I spent six years on that farm and have fond memories and photos of my children among the flowers. Growing them would bring me pleasure and money. I think that's a winning deal.

We don't try to sell our goat milk or honey. We never have enough honey since we try to steer away from processed sugar and raw milk products get all of the agencies in an uproar. We prefer not to go there.

We did have a barter faire here and were able to barter for a faire amount of things that were useful to us. It was really fun since we had a cider pressing and fiddle band too!

I would like to hear more about what people are doing. This is an interesting thread.




 
Joel Hollingsworth
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permie mama wrote:If I find a marketable use for them I'll be on to something! 



From the paper ones, you could make a product something like this one:

http://www.kabloom.co.uk/

And there's the classic "flat of seedlings" use for them, as well.
 
                      
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Well, I like your idea for the bombs. I might make some up for some friends and test a few for the heck of it.

So far I have smashing them and using them as part of some sheetmulching I am doing. I did have a friend cover a wall with them to sound proof. That was pretty cool.

Thanks!
 
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Last fall we had a roadside veggie and fruit stand that we left to the honour system sometimes. We never had any problem with theft, though the length of our experience with this has been admittedly minimal.
 
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Stealing from an honor box thats the lowest of the low. Most thieves want flat screens, I pods. If your honor box is stolen its more than likely random. If its broken into you know the person. if its food missing then you just helped some very hungry person )
 
paul wheaton
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tel wrote:
and we're very attractive people...





I think there is a significant conversation to be had here, and yet ....  I feel the topic is loaded with truths that should never be uttered.  Especially in a permaculture forum.



 
tel jetson
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paul wheaton wrote:


I think there is a significant conversation to be had here, and yet ....  I feel the topic is loaded with truths that should never be uttered.  Especially in a permaculture forum.



very cryptic, paul.

I'm going to use the defense that we're using an ambiguous medium here, and it isn't always obvious what is intended as humor.  I was joking, but I do think we are generally attractive folks personality-wise, but only because we're pretty happy and feel good about the choices we've made and what we do for a living.  that inevitably comes across in our interactions with customers.  my mom does tell me I'm very handsome, though.
 
charles c. johnson
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wait a minute my mom says the same thing
 
paul wheaton
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Well, we are talking about farm income and ...  well ... I think it is a standard sitcom joke to have a young woman selling stuff and a hoard of young fellas will want to buy. 

It seems like a topic that is appropriate for a farm income forum, and, at the same time, it seems that if men were to talk about this, we would be shamed for being letches and therefore no longer allowed to talk about this.  But if a women chooses to exercise her feminine wiles while selling something, then that is, of course, perfectly acceptable. 

I once knew a woman who told me that her profession was "booth babe" (her words).  She worked two weekends a month going to one convention or another and representing a product in a booth.  She really didn't know much about the products or really care to know. 

So!  It is an interesting topic, but ... too challenging to talk about. 
 
tel jetson
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well, I guess we do tend to shed clothing when it gets hot (not all of it, don't worry), but that also comes with a corresponding increase in body odor.  I don't know how either of those would influence our main customer demographic: middle-aged suburban women.
 
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We are on a quiet backroad in the West of Ireland. I've been selling our surplus eggs out of an honor box by the roadside and must say it works very well. 3 Euro change went missing once, and the odd time a box or two might vanish. At the same time, some people pay more than I'm asking and on balance it all evens out. I've increased the number of chickens over the years and last year sold 1500 eggs out of the honor box (in addition to giving away quite a lot to family/friends and selling 600 hatching eggs through other channels). I find it's mostly the neighbours that buy the eggs, people passing by on a walk and the odd tourist staying in a holiday cottage down the road. Funny enough, three of our neighbours, local farmers, decided to get their own chickens again, they loved the fresh free-range eggs so much, so I've lost them now as customers ...
At some point I put some surplus lemon curd and crabapple jelly into the box but they didn't shift well. Having said that, I did not put up a separate sign for those, so visibility was low. Might try some of my goats' milk soap and Halloween pumpkins when that time comes around again.
 
paul wheaton
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Cynthia sandberg from love apple farm tells the story of how when she started out she would set her produce out on a stand and use the honor system to get paid. Apparently people weren't quite honorable enough because she stopped experiment after a while and went for more reliable methods of payments.
 
steward
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While I have heard several success stories with this system, I am certain that there have been failures as well.  I guess it boils down to who your neighbor are.

I once saw a sign "Take what you need.  Pay what you want."  The farmer claimed that it worked well.  On his way home from the Farmer's Market, he'd stop at the driveway and pick up an extra $50 or so.
 
                  
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This works well for some in some areas and not so good for some in other areas. For me I found my answer early this spring. I was driving in from going somewhere and when I got close enough to see my mailbox there was a guy going through my mail of all things. This is the same guy who collects cans and other things he can sell at the scrap place along this same long stretch of road. As I pulled up he ran off into the woods and while ticked I did not give chase not that I could have caught him anyway. Not knowing his name I reported the incident but could not press any charges however there were a couple reports of mail on the ground and someone was missing things down the road. Now I never get anything important in the mail I don't expect and look for and to my knowledge I have not had anything go missing. I have direct deposit, pay my bills online and get my meds at the pharmacy (which is what was suspected he was looking for was checks and medicines and I have heard he was caught doing it and arrested). I now have a locking mailbox mounted on a cemented in post that it would take a bulldozer to get out. Perhaps it's overkill but then again in my book better safe than sorry. I said all of this to make a point. The veggies and other items may be of no interest to anyone and as such they could be left alone or someone could smash them just for kicks. What would draw attention is the money box. Even if it was empty there is someone out there who would take it to get the money out.
 
paul wheaton
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Today's podcast talks a lot about honor system on-farm stores:

http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/

 
pollinator
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Just watched the honor system front yard market.  What a fantastic video and what a really great garden.  I will watch it again and again as I start incorporating more of those ideas in my own space.
 
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I've read about this several times in the newspaper over the decades. In each case stories were related about how they got ripped off and stopped doing the honor system. People who use that method don't last long if they try.
 
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pubwvj wrote:
I've read about this several times in the newspaper over the decades. In each case stories were related about how they got ripped off and stopped doing the honor system. People who use that method don't last long if they try.



nonsense my grandpa put an honor booth on the side of a busy country highway every summer for 20 years or so use a coffee can for a cash box and never lost more than a days monies and that not often enough to make it worth paying for gas to go to the farmers market in town.

I remember asking him once if he was worried about them stealing  the money ( I was pretty young) he said "Only a thief cares if someone robs them honest men only care if they have lost something that matters"

that stuck in my head because it took me a year to figure out what he meant.
 
                                        
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Brice, your grandfather sounds like a man Iwoould like to know.  So few people on our road here.  Might be able to sell some eggs.  When the pullets start laying this year I might give it a try.
 
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The "Take what you need. Pay what you want." brings to mind the permaculture ethic of fairshare.
 
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In Floyd, Virginia, there is the legendary Green's Garage, near some farms and run by Good Food, Good People, who organize a CSA with numerous local growers and value added producers. (www.goodfoodgoodpeople.net).

You can shop for local fruits, veggies, meats, dairy, et al, as well as products usually found in other stores, such as Braggs' stuff, Annies Dressings, and much much more.

To pay, you write out your own ticket, put it into an envelope with your payment and Slip the envelope through a slot in the wall.

Greens Garage used to be open very late/maybe all night until...this past winter someone would go in and steal the sweets! Yes, the local baked goods were too much temptation for someone.

Yet, the Honor System works great for this area.
 
paul wheaton
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three more honor system farmstores:



 
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I love this video so much! I'm so inspired to (eventually) have my own honor farm stand!

Thank you, Paul!

 
pollinator
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Paul, I've been Planning an honor farm stand for a long while, and some of the things I saw on this video were very very helpful..I love the blackboard Idea as I have a large piece of broken slate chalkboard that I can incorporate..wonderful..love the fact that the one stand was just made of salvage, I can do that..

I have a small frig that I had thought of incorporating, and I can see how that might work well for me..son is a welder so he can rig me up a box..but I also like the tennis ball/tube idea..could run that into the garage into a larger lock box..in a locked garage..cool beans.

got lots of ideas and will probably come back and check this out from time to time to see what else I can pick up from it..this should be my year for a farmstand
 
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I've purchased produce and eggs from little stands with a slot. One old guy in Victoria can no longer harvest all of his apples so he provides grocery bags on a hook by the yogurt container cash box $1 per bag, pick your own.

When I was a kid one neighbour allowed others to dip milk from his huge vat. The milk police put an end to that.

Many times I've returned to my demolition sales to find something missing and naturally I believe I've been robbed. Later, I find hidden envelopes in the mailbox, under my windshield wipers or on the seat of the truck. When moving piles of brick, I've discovered money left in my absence. I wonder how often my helpers have found my money?

On several occasions people have stopped by to pay weeks after they helped themselves. Helmut, a brick layer, called me from Germany to let me know that he had grabbed bricks the day before his trip.
 
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Great video. I put it on my facebook page and will post it to Premaculture Activists when I log in this evening.
 
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Wow, loved the video! I never thought to have a stand like that. I even have a business on my home property in a separate building with a really large porch (I sell homeschool books). That porch would make a great area for produce and I already have a clientele filing by! Thanks for the inspiration. Now I just have to figure out if there are laws to worry about here.
 
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paul wheaton wrote:three more honor system farmstores:





Love the tennis ball idea. Super clever! Thanks for posting that, Paul...and all the other vids you do.
 
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I hope to have a farm stand. Our ideal one would be used in conjunction with the local Farmer's Market. I suppose we would put out whatever we had extra through out the week. We'll see what happens though.
 
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I have really been thinking about this -- even before this topic came up -- and wondering whether it would work for us. I have no problem with trusting folks to be honest, (with one caveat -- see #3 below) but I'm wondering if there would be sufficient business to warrant setting anything up. Here is the scenario...

On the down side:
1 -- We live 12 miles from the nearest town (and it is small); more than 30 miles to the nearest town with any sort of population and around 50 miles from the nearest big city.
2 -- Our place sets 1/4 mile up and back into the property off a state highway that dead-ends at a lake (unless you have 4-wheel drive to take a dirt road across country to a U.S. highway that parallels it at a distance of a few miles) so there is very little traffic, and that is almost entirely local residents. The stretch of road where we live has only 4 other houses visible (in the distance) from our driveway, and you can't see anything of our place at all -- not even a barn. I mention that because a stand there might look as if it was perched out in the middle of nowhere. Not at all like a backyard setup.
3 -- This area is full of meth addicts and meth labs!!! (I believe we are #1 in the country for that sort of thing. Makes you proud.) I wonder if this will have an impact on the chances of keeping money in an unattended stand.

On the plus side:
1 -- We have plenty of parking space because the state and county road crews routinely use our driveway and road easement as a place to park their biq equipment (packing the soil there to concrete-like consistency!) when they do road repairs in the area because it is up on a hill and offers good visibility for turning around.
2 -- We get lots of summer traffic from tourists coming down to the lake and national forest for fishing, boating and hiking -- even a few houseboats and lots of big RVs that head to some of the campgrounds further down the road near the lake. There used to be a bridge on the other end so that traffic was one-way, but a few decades ago, they flooded the river to create the lake and now there is no way out except to come back the way you went in -- meaning we would get two-way traffic by the same people.
3 -- We live very close to Branson, MO and get a lot of lost people -- usually in RVs -- and overflow from all that. (I NEVER thought I would be listing proximity to Branson as a plus. )
4 We also live within walking distance of Hercules Glade Wilderness and adjacent to Mark Twain National Forest. (I'm thinking hiker/camper traffic here.)


At this point, I am not exactly sure what we would be selling -- beyond the obvious fresh vegetables and eggs, flowers and so on. All of that we could afford to lose once in awhile without shedding tears. I did consider stocking a few items of interest to campers and hikers -- like homemade walking sticks, maps, matches, tarps, space blankets, rain ponchos, flashlights and batteries, etc. The kind of stuff people mean to pack but forget, you know? Or... for the blue-haired touristy crowd, maybe some artsy-crafty souvenirs made from red cedar, vines and other woodsy stuff, or quilts and the like. I worry about that sort of stuff though, because it would be harder to lose things in which you have an actual monetary investment or a lot of time.

Anyway, what do you think? Crazy? Workable? How would you do it -- or would you?
 
steward
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I think that homemade crafts, food, produce, flowers and seeds might be a good way to go. Items that you re-sell are tough to justify though. With addicts in the area, keep in mind that some items could draw them to your stand. I personally wouldn't sell anything that makes it easier for somebody to be homeless (ponchos, matches, etc). It's sad but once drug addicts find a resource like that, you'll have to give it all up. They're likely to clean you out of everything so they can sell it themselves to buy drugs. Who knows, you might wake up to people sleeping in your stand or worse.

I would like to sell veggies and seeds at a stand like this. If people like the veggies that I sell, maybe they'll like to buy some seeds and grow their own. This may be a goo way to pass on seeds that you don't need or ones that just don't do well for you.

Example: I have a gallon size bag FULL of spaghetti squash seeds. If I sold a small pack of seeds with every squash that I sold last year I could have doubled my income (from squash) and helped a bunch of people become more food independent.

I could have done the same thing will tons of other veggies.

Imagine being able to taste a freshly picked cucumber, still warm from the summer heat and at the same time purchase the seeds so that you could grow the same cucumbers yourself next season.

It's like having a seed catalog that you can eat.

 
paul wheaton
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comment on the video from a person on youtube:

A local potter in Spring City Utah does this with all of his pottery. One weekend he went on a trip and he forgot to close up shop. When he came back, almost every piece in his entire shop had been taken (several months to a year worth of work). When he went to the back of his shop and found his money pot was literally overflowing with cash. Not one piece was unpaid for.
Turns out a tourist bus came by the shop and they snatched up everything.
Good to know there are decent people in the world.

 
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