How Well I Did Selling Strawberries Out By The Road.
First off, just a few notes. Generally, you can expect to harvest about one quart of strawberries for each plant that you have. Based on these calculations, I expected to earn about $1000.00 gross income. Unfortunately, we only harvested half that amount, whether by my error or because of something out of my control, like the weather. I'm doing my best to increase next year's harvest.
Total quarts picked: 155
Last year we planted 300 strawberry plants. Some of them died. Deer also defoliated quite a bit of the patch, which cut down on strawberries production.
Gross income: $573.50
Total expenses: $64.76
(Note: I also spent $75.00 on weedkiller and $52.00 on plants last year. I used hobby farm money and income from picking at another patch to cover those costs. Hubs made the roadside stand last year for almost free. We repainted old signs, so those were free as well.)
Net income: $508.74
What I Liked About Selling Strawberries
What I really liked about having a strawberry stand was the fact that it was possible to do all of the work with Baby. I can plop her on a blanket right beside me with some toys, and she is (mostly) happy to be out in the patch while I pick and weed. Then I put her in a backpack, and we both carried flats out to the road and put up the signs every day. She also came with me to clean out the money box and take the signs down.
The second thing I liked about selling strawberries was that I could sell every single quart that I had. I could have sold two or three times as much if I would've had it. I didn't waste time and money like I did, sometimes, selling baked goods or produce at a farmers market. Regarding hourly wage, I probably spent just as many hours to earn the same amount ($500.00) on either enterprise.
The third thing I liked was... I am not a people person. So I was thrilled not to spend all morning talking to customers like I had at the farmers market. I did speak to a few customers, but most were people I knew. Toward the end of the season, a lot more people started wanting to make orders (for berries I didn't have), which was a bit of a hassle. I think next year I will have an order system (payment and pickup) set up beforehand, so people don't wait until the last minute to order.
What I Didn't Like About Selling Strawberries
While it was possible to do every single task with Baby, I didn't actually DO every single task with Baby. During the picking season, I needed to be out there for an hour and a half straight- twice that if my pickers weren't there. Because of her napping, feeding and mood schedule, this was a challenge. At the time of picking, she was about eight months old- old enough to enjoy playing with toys, but not old enough to play with them for an hour and a half straight. I ended up using Hubs as a babysitter some of the days. Other days I had to pick in 20-minute increments and put berries on the stand quart by quart, which wasn't very efficient. But every additional $3.75 added to the bottom line!
We used the honor system for payment. This worked... mostly. Toward the end of the two-week picking season, I noticed that not all of the money was showing up in the cash box at the end of the day. Sometimes the money would mysteriously show up on a different day; other times it didn't. I thought maybe this was because people were having a hard time doing the math for multiple quarts of berries, so I put out a price sheet. Another possibility was that people were taking the berries as soon as they saw them (because of the high demand) and putting what cash they had in the cash box and meaning to pay the rest later (but forgetting to do so). My second theory would explain the random amounts of cash we found. On the last day of selling, we only got half the money. This was kind of depressing, on top of the fact that our harvest was small to begin with. But thankfully we didn't lose more than $30.00 altogether (BIL was also selling some berries). Also, some people overpaid by a quarter here and there, which also offset losses. The small loss was worth not having to "man the stand" every day.
As I mentioned before, though, taking prepaid orders would solve a lot of the money box confusion.
After a few weeks away from the patch (or at least, away from the stand), I'm looking forward to selling again next year. Unfortunately, the income in 2018 was not enough to cover the cost for my honeybees, but it is more than enough to cover the cost of gardening supplies and chicken feed ($18.00 per month, for my flock of 14 chickens). In the past, I've tried to make the hobby farm pay for itself by selling items from each animal/garden project. I had mixed success with this because some products were a lot more valuable than others. Some plants or animals saved more money than others. By selling the most valuable item (fruit) and using the other products (eggs, beans, lettuce) just for us, I can cover all of my costs plus have a little bit of pocket money left over. Not only does this make more sense financially, but I can focus all of my marketing/customer work on just one product, for a small window of time. That's a lot easier than trying to find customers for ten different products and spending 10 hours every week trying to sell those products.
Well, that's all for now! I haven't been doing regular hobby farm updates because there's not a whole lot to report on, with just the bees, chickens and garden. I've had chickens for years, so it's just the same old humdrum boring stuff. I don't feel entirely qualified to tell you about my beekeeping experiences, because I make new massive mistakes every time I go out there. I guess I could be doing garden updates, but I should really be WORKING in the garden instead of writing about working in the garden. So... yeah.
Til next time,