SInstitute of Food and Agricultural Sciences / University of Florida / John T. Woeste, dean
MANAGEMENT OF ROADSIDE MARKETS
Forrest Stegelin and George Bryan Wall*
Direct selling of farm produce through pick-your-
own fields, roadside stands or farmers' markets has
become more popular with consumers and produc-
ers. Some reasons for this seem to be inflation,
quality and price of "farm-fresh" produce, and the
selection and quantities of fruits and vegetables
available at these outlets.
Managing each roadside market or other direct-
sales outlet is unique. There is no set format for
you to follow. To be successful, you must under-
stand the basics needed to plan, develop and main-
tain a direct-market outlet. This fact sheet will not
guarantee your success, but should be used as a
general guide. Your success will depend on sound
business and marketing practices and on that in-
tangible factor called good will-based on your
honesty, reliability, courtesy and on your satisfy-
ing your customers' wants and needs. If you have
specific questions on fruit and vegetable produc-
tion, you should ask your county Extension agent
for advice. For questions about required permits,
highway right-of-way, certification of scales, or
similar problems, call or visit the appropriate
Direct-marketing produce is simply a business in
which you, the grower become the store manager
as well. To develop the right market personality for
you and your customers, think of the following as
guidelines rather than as specific "how-to-do-it"
Who Are the Customers?
Here are the six basic factors for you to consider
when you evaluate and estimate your market
potential. These factors are based on the results of
a state-wide survey of customers of direct-market
1. Distance traveled. About 25 percent of all
Florida vegetable market customers travel less than
15 miles to roadside markets. Another 25 percent
*Forrest Stegelin is Assistant Professor, Extension Marketing Economist and George Bryan Wall was formerly Adjunct Assist-
ant Professor, Food and Resource Economics Department, IFAS, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.
Florida Cooperative Extension Service
IE/^ij r fnlxT^ n n ni\
^ CD/ 2
of all customers at roadside markets, not even
counting citrus outlets, are tourists. These facts
indicate that an excellent market site would be on
a highway that is an urban artery and is also heavily
used for tourist travel. There are minor differences
among community farmers' markets, roadside
markets and pick-your-own markets as to the
distances customers will travel to shop there. Also,
customers for specialty commodities may be willing
to travel greater distances to buy things such as
blueberries or grapes which may not be grown near
2. Frequency of shopping trips. Approximately
30 percent of roadside market customers shop there
weekly. One half of the shoppers visit the market
at least twice a month.
3. Dollar expenditures. More than 90 percent of
all roadside customers spend less than $10 per trip.
Note: a large number of frequent or repeat shop-
pers can purchase a great amount of produce, even
with an average purchase of $5 or less.
4. Reasons for shopping at direct markets. Al-
most 80 percent of the customers surveyed said
quality of produce was an important factor, one-
half mentioned convenience, and 20 percent cited
price. Recreation or enjoyment outranked volume
or purchases as a reason for shopping at direct-
5. Demographic factors. The average roadside
market customer surveyed was between 40 and 59
years of age with an annual income over $15,000
and belonged to a two-member household. Those
customers over 20 years old, having incomes over
$10,000, and belonging to families of four or fewer
members made up most of the respondents.
6. Advertising medium. Three out of four cus-
tomers said they knew about the market simply
because they drove by it, which indicates how
important having a clean and attractive market
can be. Word-of-mouth recommendations account
for 15 percent of the customers, indicating that
courteous treatment pays dividends in good will.
Facilities, Equipment and Legal Concerns.
You don't need elaborate facilities for a road-
side market, but you should be able to handle the
maximum number of customers you anticipate.
There are several things which are essential, includ-
ing a sales area, roadside advertising, parking space
and room for smooth traffic flow. Optional facili-
ties would be restrooms, a playground and picnic
area and water fountains and vending machines.
Roadside signs are important for informing your
customers and letting them know you're in business,
but the use of signs is restricted by federal law and
local ordinance. You should contact local author-
ities for any zoning restrictions or other regulations.
Your signs may be exempt from the federal law.
If a sign is posted within 100 feet of a place of
business and located on land owned or leased by
the businessman, and the sign relates only to
merchandise sold and/or produced on the premises,
it is exempt. Also, as an agricultural producer, you
may put up signs that advertise merchandise and/or
services sold, produced, manufactured, or furnished
on your farm, if the signs are on your own land or
land you lease. Federal restrictions always require
that signs must be at least 15 feet from the highway
right-of-way and that each sign along a primary
road must be at least 500 feet from any existing
sign facing the same direction.
Tests made of the visibility from a moving car
of signs of various colors have shown that the
following 20 combinations, in order of desirability,
are the most appropriate:
The relationship among letter size, vehicle speed,
and the distance of legibility is important in getting
the message to the passing motorist. Letters should
be at least one-fifth as wide as they are high. The fol-
lowing chart gives suggestions for letter height and
width at various speeds, with distance of legibility.
It is best to use posted speed limits as guides to
the speed that motorists travel. The distance the
signs should precede the market are shown below.
1. Health Permits. Restrictions of the Florida
State Board of Health require that any permanent
structure must provide one restroom for use by
the general public. A $25 Health Permit from the
local Board of Health is required for any stand
selling milk and/or eggs. No permit is required for
a temporary produce marketing stand.
2. Licenses. License requirements vary in diff-
erent counties and urban areas, but basically the
licenses depend on whether the stand is permanent
or temporary. If the stand is temporary, a renew-
able peddler's license is usually required, with
approval of the local Police Department and Farm-
ing and Road Restriction Office. A license for a
permanent stand can usually be obtained from the
Occupational Licenses Department in an urban
areas. The producer-marketer should contact the
local authorities or Cooperative Extension Office
for assistance in understanding and complying with
3. Sales Tax. Basically, all food items sold at
retail in Florida but not sold for consumption on
the premises are tax exempt. Any non-food item
sold is subject to the sales tax. Registration and
compliance of tax collection is through the De-
partment of Revenue.
4. Weights and Measures. If direct sales are priced
on a weight basis, the scales must be inspected and
certified by the Department of Agriculture, Bureau
of Weights and Measures. The service is free and
available by requesting an inspector to certify a
scale. The telephone number in Tallahassee is
(904) 488-9140. The Bureau of Weights and
Measures offers several recommendations and
suggestions as to types and manufacturers of scales
that are acceptable.
5. Insurance. A standard farm liability package
that has been expanded to cover retail sales opera-
tions is strongly recommended for insurance
coverage. Additionally, some form of medical
Table 1. Speed, letter height, and distance of legibility
Number of words
at various speeds
Table 2. Advance sign locations for various speeds
Distance from advance
sign to market*
30 350 .20
40 440 .25
50 528 .30
60 704 .40
*Based on a decision time of 20 seconds plus reaction times and good braking distances of a car in good condition on a dry, paved highway.
coverage is suggested to cover any personal injuries
a customer may incur.
6. Roadside Right-of-Ways. The state of Florida
maintains all primary roads, and counties are re-
sponsible for maintenance of secondary roads. The
size of the state road right-of-way is different for
each road, so contact the local maintenance office
to be sure what is necessary on your road. Most
counties have a state maintenance office listed in
the telephone directory under "State of Florida,
Department of Transportation". The rule to follow
is that no parking by you, your employees, or your
customers is permitted on the highway right-of-way.
The number of entry and exit points to the road-
side stand depends on the length of roadside front-
age surrounding the stand.
Pricing Basis: Weight or Volume?
People buy from roadside markets laregly because
they believe the produce is better than supermarket
retail produce, not because of prices. Customers
expect to pay a reasonable price for quality pro-
duce. You can't expect to always charge as high
as retail prices, but neither are you expected to
sell at a low break-even price. The owner should
charge a price which covers all production and
management expenses and an appropriate profit
allowance. Prices should not be out of line with
prices charged by other area producers, but neither
do they have to be the same, as the quality may be
different. Prices must be competitive for the quality
and service provided.
Selling by volume or count is usually better for
such items as peaches, tomatoes, berries, potatoes,
squash, beans, watermelon and sweet corn. For
some of these products, selling by volume means
providing standard containers, which represents
an additional cost. For a pick-you-own operation,
selling by volume allows the customers to know
the approximate value of their labor before leaving
the vineyard or field.
Selling by weight requires the use and inspection
of accurate scales, as previously described. Most
items sold in small or medium volume lots are
marketed by weight. Selling by weight assures
giving the customer full value for the price and
avoids the controversy in pick-your-own sales of
Anticipating the amount of produce needed for
one day and making it available as fresh-picked,
vine-ripened produce is the greatest attribute of a
roadside market. The extra flavor and eating en-
joyment of farm-fresh produce is the best selling
point of Florida fruit and vegetables and should
be capitalized on. Always keep leafy vegetables,
such as various greens, cabbage, lettuce, etc., moist.
A fine spray of water several times a day helps, as
does a bed of crushed ice for some produce.
General rules to follow in handling produce are
to keep all produce out of direct sunlight and to
avoid excessive air movement over the produce
displays. Direct sunlight can result in extremely
high temperatures, while excess air circulation
shortens product shelf-life through drying. If
refrigeration is available, use it intelligently. Of
utmost importance is the realization that de-
creased quality translates directly into decreased
Table 3.--Handling and Care of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
life turn bolts
and stand in
ice or shallow
water, shake up
Table 3 (cont.)--Handling and Care of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables--Continued
to keep sweet.
Do not bruise,
keep off ice.
Do not bruise,
keep off ice.
Keep best in pods.
Keep out of
sun to avoid
Keep water off
tops; do not
Do not bruise.
Do not bruise.
Table 3 (cont.)--Handling and Care of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables--Continued
necessary to hold.
A friendly touch is to provide customers with
information pertaining to canning, freezing, fresh
storage, and processing of the produce they buy.
Recipes and cooking ideas provided as a good will
gesture are also appreciated. Such information
encourages consumption of the produce being sold.
This information is available in brochures and bul-
letins from home economics extension personnel
and the cooperative extension office.
Having a voluntary customer registration book
helps identify repeat customers. Such a listing can
be used to advertise specials or to notify special
customers of expected season openings for different
vegetables or types of produce. Such individuality
and "down-on-the-farm" atmosphere rewards the
manager with an interesting, challenging, and hope-
fully profitable roadside market having the right
market personality for the customer and the pro-
This publication was promulgated at a cost of $499.63, or 16.6 cents per copy, to assist Florida farmers in operating
roadside produce markets. 10-3M-80
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL
SCIENCES, K. R. Tefertiller, director, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, publishes this Infor-
mation to further the purpose of the May 8 and June 30, 1914 Acts of Congress; and is authorized to provide research, educa-
tional Information and other services only to Individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex or
national origin. Single copies of Extension publications (excluding 4-H and Youth publications) are available free to Florida
residents from County Extension Offices. Information on bulk rates or copies for out-of-state purchasers is available from
C. M. Hinton, Publications Distribution Center, IFAS Building 664, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611. Before publicizing this
publication, editors should contact this address to determine availability.