Veggie Outpost 2

Produce shelf in convenience store cooler

Last year, a little experiment with veggie sales in a town 12 miles (19km) away didn’t go so well. I guess you could sum it up as No Quality Control. This year, in line with the tiny farming trick of thinking SMALLER, I had the sudden idea to put some veggies in at the convenience store three minutes down the road in the village. This is now the only store for quite a ways around, and it has the post office where everyone in the village picks up their mail. Since I’m always meaning to get the farm stand fully open, putting veggies out a couple of minutes away hadn’t quite made sense, but the way it came to mind now was a little different. If I could get a single shelf in one of the coolers, this would be an interesting, easy way to learn about veggies and refrigeration, and even be able to watch a mini version of the supermarket, convenience-shopping experience, by seeing what sells, the effects of labels and pricing, and…whatnot. All on the most casual level. Refrigeration is, of course, yet another of those many worrisome topics that come up along with Peak Oil and the generally somewhat alarming state of the world, BUT, fridges will likely be around as long as any number of other taken-for-granted things, I figure, so whatever’s learned from a little, low-impact experiment like this should be worth it. It’s an extremely simple set-up, with a small sign taped to the inside of the cooler door, hand-labeled bags, and an honor-system account book for inventory. I also like the idea of super-fresh garden veggies popping up in this most unlikely place, just below the shelf where a few supermarket-purchased veggies are kept for resale. Outpost 2, the Shelf, has been open for around three weeks now, stocked with ones and twos of mesclun and spinach, a few radishes, some herbs. I’m by there every day anyway, so I check the veggie condition often…and things are selling… Interesting enough…!

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4 Responses to “Veggie Outpost 2”

  1. willing hands organic farm says:

    Mike,
    Very happy to see you posting again……..need my tinyfarm fix!

  2. Nick says:

    Great idea! Sometimes the most difficult thing about eating local and organic is just finding the farmer to give your money to!!

  3. Christina says:

    Hi, I am very curious about your Outpost experiment, if you care to share! I have been wanting to figure out a way to have access to a shelf in a cooler for my bagged greens at a general goods store (that also houses the post office and is the only thing around for miles) so that the produce can be available to the public, but so that I don’t have to stand there and wait for customers to approach, or wholesale it to the store for resale. Did the honor system work for you? Did you pay “rent” to the store for the cooler space? Is the store getting something (a percentage) out of your sales (to make it worth its while)? Any info will be appreciated!
    Also, I love your blog! I learn so much and it’s very inspiring! Keep up all the great work!

  4. Mike (tfb) says:

    Christina: All things considered, the experiment went well. On our end, though, our restocking efforts were uneven. The idea was to keep small amounts but very fresh, at most three days in the cooler. Sometimes we did, sometimes we went for several days without replenishing (no good reason, the routine never quite took hold). So, this hurt the experiment, because it was hard to see whether we’d develop a following (like, cottagers stocking up on Friday evenings, or even getting more stuff to head back to the city on Sundays). Also, some veggies sold quickly, others not so, and a part of the experiment was to keep the variety moving, and even play with labeling a bit. We didn’t end up trying too much of that out, not consistently. But overall, we sold through maybe 80%, which was good, although a small volume, like, one or two units of each veggie at a time. And there was good feedback, including promo for the farm (like, “I live just down the road and didn’t know I could get organic veggies from you”).

    The deal was simple. I offered a 70-30 farm-store split. For the store, the promotional value was probably as attractive as the revenue. If people starting making regular optional stops because they could pick up fresh, local, organic veg, they’d probably buy other stuff as well. Just like in a supermarket, produce as a kind of loss leader… ;) The store handled sales like any other item.

    Accounting was a ledger book kept behind the counter, that we maintained on trust. We’d drop off stuff and enter it in the book, unit price and quantity. When we removed something that hadn’t sold, we’d enter that, too. To get a total, add deliveries, and subtract returns.

    All in all, if it’s convenient to get to the store daily or every couple of days, I’d say it’s definitely worth a try. Just keep up a good selection, keep it really fresh, and keep it supplied so regulars aren’t let down!!!

    Hope that’s useful!

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