On-farm stands have gained in popularity in popularity in southwest Washington as growers have found that customers are readily attracted to fresh produce on their way to and from work or home. The most successful stands are typically found on well traveled county roads where shoppers don’t feel as threatened in slowing down in order to exit the road traffic. With a clean attractive appearance and plenty of parking, roadside stand can help ensure that farmers maintain a more even income stream during a greater number of months of the year.
Clark county direct market farmers have had the best success selling a diversity of fresh fruits and vegetables including:
- Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries
- Locally grown apples, pears, cherries, and peaches
- Fresh sweet corn picked daily
- Green beans, tomatoes, and squash
- Pumpkins and corn stalks
- Filberts (hazelnuts) and walnuts
- Dried prunes
- Cut flowers including tulips, daffodils, and dahlias
- Honey and preserves
Farm stands generally open with the first strawberries of season (late May) and end with pumpkins or Christmas trees. Given the challenges in growing many of the tree fruits in parts of Clark County growers will often source these crops from either the Yakima or Hood River Valleys. Seasonally sold tree fruit retain excellent sweetness and flavor as they have not been kept in cold storage.
Many growers will purchase additional amounts of produce if they don’t have enough of their own or choose not to grow a particular crop. From the standpoint of having a well stocked roadside stand this makes good business sense as it can offer the shopper a much greater of products to select from. It also frees up the grower during the summer when there are simply not enough hours in the day to keep up with all the farm tasks. Washington growers who sell a large quantity of produce from another farm are required to have a Commission Merchant’s License as issued by the Washington State Department of Agriculture Inspection Services. The Commission Merchant’s License basically is designed to protect both the seller and purchaser of agricultural goods against un-scrupulous business practices. A Commission Merchant’s License currently costs $450 and must be renewed annually. If growers choose to purchase produce from one another and deal only in cash the Merchant’s License is not required. For further information read the Washington State Department of Agriculture Inspection Services Commission Merchants page.
Farms that gross more than $12,000 per year must also possess a Business License as issued by the Washington State Department of Licensing. Further information is available at Washington’s Department of Licensing.
Advertising and Promotion
Roadside marketers need to be proficient at designing signs and locating them on well-traveled roads. A durable sign needs to be left up all year long. To review Clark Counties standards for roadside signs read their sign standards page. Other commonly used advertisements include flyers, e-mail postings, and newspaper ads.
Direct marketers are generally extroverts who have no qualms of contacting a local newspaper reporter for human interest stories on their operations. The Columbian Newspaper generally prints up a directory, with a road map, of those ag producers that sell fresh produce and prints it in June. When combined with a few good photographs, a farm marketing story can be one of the best free ways of free promotion.
On of the most popular forms of urban-fringe farming is agri-entertainment. As the population of the Pacific Northwest becomes more urbanized the countryside and rural life become more appealing to city dwellers. A small farm owner can capitalize on this interest by providing a family orientated activity that provides:
- Something to do
- Something to see, and
- Something to buy.
Farm tourism can become a very popular and potentially lucrative enterprise for such activities as tulip flower viewing, strawberry festivals, harvest celebrations, and pumpkin harvesting. Farmers can offer their attractions to all age groups by featuring tours, corn mazes, weekend workshops, and on-farm demonstrations.
Clark County’s Community Development Department permits the following types of roadside stands on Resource and Rural land:
- Roadside stands shall not exceed 300 square feet in size for AG 20 parcels (20 acre parcels).
- Such stands are allowed to sell agricultural products exclusively grown in the affected area, and
- There must be a set back of at least twenty (20’) feet from the abutting right-of-way or property line
While the roadside stand limitation of 300 sq. ft. may seem limiting, it is permitted to use poly-greenhouses for both production and shopping for diverse agricultural products. For Rural lands of less than 20 acres (R-20, R-10, and R-5) roadside stands are not to exceed 200 sq. ft. Once again though, commercial nurseries and greenhouses are permitted as long as locally produced plants and associated landscaping materials are offered for sale. The Community Development Department is located at 1300 Franklin Street in the Public Services Center. Their phone number is 360/ 397-2375 ext. 4997.
There are industry associations which help cater to the needs of the direct marketer. The North American Farm Direct Marketing Association hosts the premier farm direct marketing convention in North America. The convention moves to a different region of North America each year. Members get the opportunity to see new markets and hear new marketing ideas in a professional, noncompetitive environment.
Here in the Northwest there exists a regional organization known as the Pacific Northwest Farm Direct Marketing Association. It holds regional farm tours which alternate between British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. There is not currently one central we address that lists where the next tour shall be held. In Washington state check with Small Farms Program in Puyallup, the Agri-Business Council of Oregon, and in British Columbia contact the Association of Farmers Markets.
Direct marketers will find monthly magazine called Growing for Market very useful for their enterprise. This publication covers marketing fruit, produce, and floral products. It lists numerous suppliers for packaging, equipment, and machinery all of which is geared to the smaller operation. Here is the contact: Growing for Market, Fairplan Publications, Inc., P.O. Box 3747, Lawrence, Kansas, 66046. Phone 800/ 307-8949. Web site: http://www.growingformarket.com.
Another useful magazine is called Small Farm Today, which covers crops, livestock, and direct marketing. This bi-monthly magazine is most useful for exploring a number of different farming options. Contact information: Small Farm Today, 3903 W. Ridge Trail Road, Clark MO, 65243-9525, 800/ 633-2535. Web address: http://www.smallfarmtoday.com
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Small Farms Topics
- Farming Resources
- Christmas Trees
- Roadside Stands
- Farmers Markets
- COVID-19 Resources