It’s amazing how quickly you go from a state of awe when your first zucchini issues forth to a state of panic; OMG, we’re overrun with elongated green giants! You can only make so much zucchini bread in the dog days of summer. And those dogs are getting hotter each year.
That transition from wonder to panic happens prodigiously with tomatoes, green beans, and just everything you’ve planted.
Considering that many people don’t grow their own food (but probably should start), you’ll be doing your community a great favor by opening a small market stand.
Roadside marketing needs some planning and consideration, but it’s an endeavor whose time has arrived (along with those zucchini) to nourish, know, and educate your neighbors.
Who’s going to stop at your stand?
Roadside market development doesn’t just begin with a few green whoppers. Like any new endeavor, it takes a little research and cunning.
Consider what attracts potential customers to actually stop. We know consumers prefer local products that are freshly harvested and filled with nutrients.
An attractive market stand may woo your first customer in, but quality, service, and value will bring them back and foster loyalty.
Try to understand who your potential clients are; are they local or just passersby? Perhaps they want something basic that’s in season, like succulent ears of bi-color corn. Demographic data can aid in consumer research.
Can they even stop?
Your location is crucial to success. Observe traffic around your prospective market. Are you on a big highway or a slow county road? Will drivers have time to slow down and stop or just whizz by wondering what those big green things were? Is it safe for automobiles to enter and exit, and is traffic visible?
Placing a few signs well ahead of your stand will encourage drivers to slow down and think about fresh strawberries instead of the next traffic jam.
Will a flamboyant display reel them in?
Tap into your artistic prowess to create displays using contrasting colors, shapes, and sizes. Aromatic plants and fruits will entice shoppers to get out of the car—soon, they will touch and sniff. Have some tempting samples on hand, so they can relish that musk melon.
Mixing soft, hard, smooth, and fuzzy things that stimulate customers’ senses will have them loading their bags/purchases.
Roadside market stands should conjure up days gone by. Summertime and the living is easy—when the honor system of paying was the norm, and the produce was always organic.
Treat yours like a movie set by placing some old tools, containers, or scales about to strengthen your nostalgic scene. Farm-themed exhibits. Wooden crates, cartons, and baskets tied with baling twine work.
Bring your identity to the table.
One of the most fantastic things about local farm stands is the likelihood of developing a strong relationship with your community.
Tell your story. Who are you? Why do you grow so much zucchini? Did your grandparents garden here too? Was there a flood or heatwave you survived? Hang some farm photos that might help “sell the story” of your place and history on the land.
Conversely, find out who your customers are. Where do they live, and what do they do? Why did they stop, why aren’t they buying more zucchini? What would they like to see next year?
Perhaps, a friendship arises around food and place, which is one of the greatest bonds we can nurture.
Educate and communicate the organic way.
Once you’ve got their attention and menu planning, consider educating them about what organic farming and gardening really mean.
It doesn’t mean you do nothing but harvest. You feed the soil with nutrients that create healthy living organic matter that hold more air and water and produce higher yields.
The Organic Center digs deep into the benefits of organic soil in this video.
Food and Calamity, Hope and Gratitude
I am increasingly concerned about the convergence of current world crises and communicating their relationship to food and agriculture.
Climate Change, Food Insecurity, War, Pandemics, and Political and Social Upheaval are all coming to a crescendo in time. All deeply connected to errant food systems.
Organic practices not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but get carbon back into the soil to help slow climate change. And organic soil helps farmers adapt to drought, flooding, and severe storms that increase every day.
How we farm can mitigate Climate Change, and that’s something to look at as we monitor the heat index.
When I see the temperatures in the EU, the Mid and Southwest US, India, and Pakistan, I think about the farmer’s crops that aren’t going to get harvested.
Consider your bountiful zucchini as a blessing.
One that you can eat and share with those of us lucky enough to be growing organic food today.
Perhaps a stand for food is in your future?