Markets for Homegrown Produce

How to earn a financial harvest from your garden

roadside farmer's standMore customers than you might imagine are eager to buy that wonderful organic produce growing in your back yard. You don’t need to be a full-time farmer to find buyers who will pay enough to make selling worthwhile. Here are some ways for home gardeners to sell their extra harvest.

Farmers’ markets. At the Palafox Market in Pensacola, Florida, vendors range from those who sell every week to others who appear only once a year, and they are all different sizes, from the backyard gardener to commercial farmers.

Farmers’ markets vary in the fees they collect from sellers; fees may be reduced for low-volume sellers. Alternatively, markets may encourage individual gardeners to share space and costs with other sellers.

“Some farmers’ markets have community tables or tents where you don’t have to pay a booth fee to sell,” says Weston Miller, community and urban horticulturist for the Oregon State University Extension. “That would be the easiest for a very small-scale gardener.” To find out if a particular market is a cost-effective venue for selling your produce, talk to the market’s manager.

Markets may require vendors to have insurance. Timothy A. Woods, Ph.D., agricultural economics extension professor at the University of Kentucky, says that some markets have an umbrella policy that covers all sellers. Smaller farmers’ markets are less likely to have insurance and fee requirements, Woods says. For those that do, homeowner insurance policies may provide the needed coverage. In some circumstances, a food handler certificate may also be required.

Roadside stands. In some communities, you can start selling as quickly as it takes to move a few baskets of vegetables to the front yard. Other cities have regulations that prohibit selling in residential neighborhoods. Rules may allow selling only on private property or in commercial zones. Churches, businesses, or shopping centers may permit individuals to sell vegetables from a vehicle at the far edge of a parking lot.

With the increasing demand for locally grown food, many communities are reconsidering their zoning laws. “Portland, Oregon, just changed its zoning to make it easier for people to sell produce at roadside stands,” Miller says. Before setting up a roadside stand, ask about pertinent ordinances in your community.

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