A hobby of sorts: driving along the country roads of the Vancouver Island Lower Peninsula, stopping and checking out many of the small farm stands we passed by. But not just Vancouver Island. I did it in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver, the country roads of upstate Washington, and along the back roads of Oregon too.
Many — far too many — were debilitated and neglected. But occasionally, you’d come across a tiny little farm stand that was well stocked, lovingly maintained and full of vibrant colours, popping off the produce and the stand’s design. Those were always my favourites, and no matter what the prices asked (they were often nicely reasonable), I’d buy something. I bought for two reasons: I wanted to pay honour and homage to the efforts of the food stand owner; but I also wanted to enjoy the fruits of their labour, as it were.
When I started growing food in our own garden, I had dreams of having my own little farm stand where I could share and sell the excess from the gardens I spent so much time tending. I couldn’t do it in Vancouver because of condo living, but it was something I could do in Victoria, as a house owner.
Still, we owned and lived in this house for five years, without a food stand becoming reality. Each year I’d think about it. Each year I’d plan it out in my head. Each year, I said “okay, maybe this year”. And it didn’t happen.
Until this year. I finally decided it was time. Five plus years of planning the stand in my head. Knowing the “look” I wanted it to have. And finally, I took the plunge.
The Basics of the Farm Stand
I knew I wanted the stand to be very small, but also with warm summer like colours and an appealing look. I didn’t want to build one from scratch, but thought I could buy a pre made gardening bench or table and build around that. Eventually, I found something that was almost perfect for my needs: a garden and potting table sold by a company back in Ontario. I ordered it, and when it arrived, got to work.
Once I had the garden potting table assembled, I drew up the things I needed to do to the stand to make it worthy of a proper Urban Farm Stand.
- A slot for money to be paid for the produce (going into the built in drawer)
- A lock on the built in drawer to protect the money.
- structure improvements to make the stand more sturdy
- a slanted roof over the stand to keep rain away
- a painted sign on the stand advertising it’s purpose as a farm stand.
- painting parts of the stand to match my colour scheme
My plan was to take a week to do all of this, and also to keep the entire stand’s cost to under $300. The potting bench itself cost about $145, which left me with $155 for a budget.
First, some initial modifications to the potting stand.
Next, I moved the stand outdoors, and set about building the slanted roof for it, from a large piece of thin wood and 2″ by 1″ strips of wood.
The design of the stand is such that it can hold a cooler on the bottom portion (I have a cooler and a bicycle chain for it, for items that should stay cold); a wet bin for putting plant starts, an upper tiny shelf for preserves and herbs, and a main table area for whatever produce I have for sale that day.
The stand also has a built in blackboard, which I planned to use to put daily sales information onto.
All told, the extra wood, the paint, and the hardware for the stand was about $175, putting me slightly over my $300 budget for this stand. I ended up using an existing cooler, and found hooks to use on the slotted backboard, for holding herbs and other hangable items we might sell.
First Days for the Stand
I had the Urban Farm Stand in place and in operation on July 8, 2022. The first items for sale were some of my early potato crop, some carrots, snap peas, herbs, and garlic scapes.
I had no sales for 3 days.
But then… someone bought some potatoes and carrots. My first sale! I know it sounds silly, but I was beyond excited by this. Someone actually thought the produce I grew was good enough to buy!
As the summer went along, I learned a few things here and there about running a small urban farm stand. You have to face the fact that some people are thieves and think nothing of stealing the fruit of your hard labour. But still others are even more kind, paying more than the asking price.
Also, what appeals to you and the things you think you want to see in a farm stand don’t necessarily jive with what others want. And lastly, you have to take your neighbours into account. For me, I’d love it if one of my neighbours started up a farm stand – I’d visit almost every day. I found out not all people in the neighbourhood feel that way.
More in Part 2 about lessons learned. Coming Soon!