I miss our Farm Store. I want to share with you today how we set it up–what we included, what we learned, and what made it successful.
Start with a Cozy Space
This might be difficult to come-by on a farm. We used a room that was part of our home that had an outside door. We locked the door between our home and the Farm Store and put an alarm on the door. Other ideas are to:
- Convert a shed
- Use a room that is attached to a barn (though there might be laws about storing food in such a space…and even if there aren’t, some customers may not enjoy the smell of chickens or cows or goats when they’re picking up food…It may be a little too real and close to the source for some people).
- Get a railroad storage container. The people we most recently purchased raw milk from used a railroad storage container. They had a fridge set up in there, and they made the place look cute. The only downfall to this idea is the big, heavy metal door. It’s hard to maneuver on a windy day and seems like it might be a little dangerous, especially if little kids are near it when it slams shut.
Whatever you choose, make it homey. Make it comfortable, so that people will want to stay there.
A comfortable space:
- Smells nice
- Looks nice
- Feels clean
- Is warm (on cold days) or cool (on hot days)
- Is well-prepared, not an “after-thought”
Get a Fridge and/or Freezer
If you are selling anything cold, you will need a freezer and/or a refrigerator. We got licensed to sell meat out of our farm store. This simply meant that we paid for the license and had an inspector check the temperature of our freezers. It was easy-peesy and it made it perfectly legal for us to sell our meat, straight off the farm.
We started with used, free fridge/freezer combos in a shed, just for meat storage (customers never went in there). They were ugly, and guess what? Our electricity bill was crazy. I do not recommend getting old freezers or refrigerators, no matter how cheap they are. It is not that expensive to get a new fridge or small chest freezer, and they look so much cleaner. Presentation matters.
Get a Heater and/or a Fan
You want your space to be comfortable. We owned a little space heater like this and would set it in the farm store when it was cold out. This kept the honey we sold from crystalizing and kept our customers comfortable. It’s important! It’s equally important to have some kind of fan or air conditioning for hot days. It protects your food and your customers.
Add Some Shelving
Our room had built-in shelving. It was all brown, rustic, 1970’s-ugly when we moved in. My hubby sprayed the whole room white, which made it look brighter and cleaner. I really liked it. You can buy some cheap shelves, or add some built-in ones. Whatever you choose, just make sure they are sturdy enough for canned foods and large jars of raw honey (if you plan to sell this).
Make Your Signage Clear
We had signs like this hanging up in our farm store:
poultryprices (click on the link to see a sample)
I taped signs with meat pricing on the chest freezer. I taped egg and milk pricing on the fridge. Other products had individual price tags on them.
Get a Cash Box
Unless you want to man your store at all times, you will want some place for people to leave their money. We also kept change in it, so that people could make change. A little cash box like this works. Just make sure you go into your Farm Store to take out the bigger bills fairly often. You don’t want them “walking away.”
Get a Camera
If you’re nervous about people stealing your money (if you have a lot of strangers coming in and out of your Farm Store), you may want a camera in place. We considered getting one of these inexpensive mock cameras. 😉 Then people would feel like they were being watched, even if it wasn’t the case. It’s not too expensive to get a real Surveillance System if you need one, though.
Get Products for Your Shelves
I would purchase cases of organic foods from Azure Standard, mark them up a bit, and put them on the shelves. We also found a local raw honey supplier and purchased gallon-size jars of honey at wholesale pricing. We would send out e-mails about the honey, and we’d always order at least a few extra jars to keep in the Farm Store for sale.
I made up baggies of Ranch Dip Mix and a Taco Seasoning Mix and Homemade Seasoning Salt and sold those packages. People seemed to like these.
In hind sight, I wish I would have displayed some Essential Oils on the shelves. I think they would have sold well. I always had my diffuser going in the store, with some kind of oil that smells nice (I personally love the combo of Lemon and OnGuard. It smells SO nice.).
Yes, sell eggs! There is so little profit in eggs, but sell them! They keep people coming back to your Farm Store on a regular basis. While they are there, they might buy some bacon from you, and a jar of tomato paste, and some dip mix, and all of the sudden they’ve spent $30. It’s good for the farm business to keep customers coming back! Even if you don’t produce the eggs and you have to buy them from another farmer and just be the pick up spot (let your customers know this), that’s fine–just make sure you’re selling eggs in your farm store.
Set out Educational Information
It’s a good idea to set out paperwork that teaches people about how to safely store your products. I would sometimes keep print-outs of recipes in our Farm Store, especially for hard-to-sell items.
Keep a Lending Library
Do you have a bunch of health and real-food related books on hand? Keep them in your farm store, on a bookshelf. Set up a piece of paper where people can write down their name, the title of the book, the date they checked it out, and their contact information. This encourages people to read more about real-food and the health benefits, and they will be more likely to come back to your farm to purchase good food. 🙂
Create an Order Form
If you know what you have on hand in your farm store, type up an order form, to make the math easy for your customers. Set it up with columns like this: Product Name, Quantity, Cost, Total Cost (Quantity x Cost), and then a place to add up all of the items at the bottom.
Keep a Calculator, and Pens, and Paper in the Farm Store
We kept a cup full of pens (with our farm name, of course!), some paper, a calculator, business cards, and flyers about our farm in the Farm Store. We kept envelopes in there for people to put their money in an envelope. We also had a phone numbers up on a cork board (as well as any new information) for our customers. If they had any problems or questions, they could call our phones. If we were home, we’d go meet them and answer their questions.
Maybe Keep a Scale in the Farm Store
I say maybe, because the math gets (a little) more complicated when you have your customers weigh their own meat or produce. I usually weighed the meat myself and wrote the weight on the package with a sharpie. If you do keep a scale in your Farm Store, it will have to meet the laws of your state. In our state, if we sold a certain amount of volume per year, we needed a certain kind of scale. Check your state’s laws. Some of these scales get pretty complicated for the average user, so I suggest just weighing and labeling your meat. 🙂 As for veggies, I suggest the same–or just pricing them per unit vs. pricing them by weight.
Greet Your Customers
You can’t leave your daily life every time someone drives up your driveway (which reminds me–get a driveway alarm…or a dog.. 🙂 ). If you can greet your customers often, though, they will feel more welcome, more connected to you and they will want to come back. It can feel a little awkward driving up somebody’s long, rock driveway, and walking into their building, without any point of connection. Just pop in and say “hi!” That was the nice thing about having our Farm Store connected to our home. I was able to stop in and say hi to customers many times, and build relationships that way. It is important for people to get to know their farmer, to be able to ask questions, and to feel confident that they are buying from a good source.
Collect Contact Information
You’ll want to be able to e-mail or call your customers if you find out something is wrong with one of your products, or if they forgot to pay you for the $200 worth of meat they picked up (ouch!) or if you’re offering something new for sale. Set out a clip board with a form with columns for: Name, E-mail Address and Phone Number.
Keep a Few Free-Range Chickens
Cleaning up poop on your walk ways might be enough to stop you from doing this, but really, customers love seeing free-range chickens. Ours were totally free-range–all over our yard, driveway, back deck, front door rug–oh yes. They were free-range. 😉 I don’t recommend letting 200 chickens
poop on your door step roam around your front yard, but I do recommend keeping a few free-rangers out in the open. Where else will your customers literally get to “play chicken” with actual chickens than when they drive up your driveway? It makes for good conversation, and an authentic “I visited a farm” experience. (No chickens were ever harmed by a car in our driveway, thankfully!). 😉
I think that is all.