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Table of Contents
Introduction -------------------------------------- 5
Management of Pick-Your-Own Markets-------------------- 6
Market Characteristics ----------------------------------- 8
Production and Design of Pick-Your-Own Markets -------------12
Facilities and Equipment ---------------------------------14
Pricing of Pick-Your-Own Products -----------------------17
Miscellaneous Factors -----------------------------------19
Control of Money -----------------------------------19
Roadside Advertising ----------------------------------20
Legal Restrictions -------------------------------------21
Sales Tax------------------------------------- 21
Insurance -------------------------------------- 22
Roadside Right-of-Ways --------------------------------22
Customer Information ----------------------------------23
Customer Listing -----------------------------------23
Additional Sources of Information-------------------------23
References --------------------------------------- 25
List of Tables
Table 1: Mileage traveled by consumers to various markets ------ 26
Table 2: Frequency of shopping trips to direct-market outlets ---- 27
Table 3: Dollar purchases per shopping trip -----------------27
Table 4: Reasons given for shopping at direct-market outlets----- 28
Table 5: Age distribution of direct-market consumers ---------29
Table 6: Income distribution of direct-market consumers -------29
Table 7: Family size of direct-market consumers --------------- 30
Table 8: Source of information pertaining to direct-market
outlets ------------------------------------- 31
Table 9: Response to telephone survey indicating direct-
market shopping preference --------------------- 32
Table 10: Letter size, vehicle speed, and distance of legibility ----- 33
Table 11: Advance sign location for various speeds-------------- 34
Management of Pick-Your-Own
Direct Market Outlets
G. B. Wall, F. E. Stegelin, and T. E. Crocker*
The management of a pick-your-own operation is unique. Successful
management involves coordinating production of the crop with the
management of large numbers of customers in order to protect both crop
and customer. A manager must also be able to estimate accurately his
production costs to be used as a basis for pricing his product. Since the
purpose of a pick-your-own operation is to eliminate a large portion of the
marketing costs, a producer cannot use retail prices as a benchmark for
setting his selling price. Accurate records are a must.
The recent increase in pick-your-own operations indicates that the proc-
ess benefits both producer and consumer. It enables the producer to
avoid a large portion of the marketing costs at the same time it provides
the customer with a cost savings and recreational task or project. The
recreational value of pick-your-own markets to the consumer should not
be underestimated; but pick-your-own operations are not, however, a
panacea for all farm marketing problems. Similarly, not every producer is
suited to run a pick-your-own operation. The successful management of
people, sometimes large numbers of people, includes all the problems of
dealing with the public at large.
The purpose of this circular is simply to present a "how-to" approach
on planning, developing, and maintaining a direct-market outlet. This cir-
cular is intended to be a complete source of general information necessary
for a successful market. It is not possible to develop a circular that will
ensure success. Success in any business depends on a variety of factors
not the least of which is good will. Good will is an intangible factor that a
consumer weighs when making purchasing decisions and is developed
through honest transactions and fair trade policies on the part of the pro-
*G. B. Wall and F. E. Stegelin formerly were Assistant Professors Extension
Marketing Economists, Department of Food and Resource Economics; T. E.
Crocker is Professor Extension Horticulturist, Department of Fruit Crops; Insti-
tute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), University of Florida, Gainesville
For additional information about production, consult your county ex-
tension agent. For information about required permits, highway right-of-
ways, certification of scales, or other regulations, consult the appropriate
Of several sections which follow, the first deals with a state-wide
survey of producers and consumers at various direct-market outlets. The
purpose of the survey is to identify characteristics of both consumers and
successful markets. Such information is useful in planning the location,
operating hours, means of advertising, and variety or varieties of produce
to be sold. Following the survey information there is a section dealing
with recommended production practices aimed toward maximizing yields
and therefore reducing per-unit costs. A third and final section is con-
cerned with practical aspects of running a direct-outlet, such as advertis-
ing, legal requirements, insurance coverage, market location, and
It is hoped that this circular will be both informative and instructional.
By considering all aspects of market operation as presented here, a pro-
spective market owner-operator can reduce the amount of trial-and-error
learning associated with developing a new direct-market outlet.
Management of Pick-Your-Own Markets
The one item that most often differentiates a truly successful business
operation from a mediocre or poor one is management. Direct marketing
of produce is simply a business where the grower assumes primary
responsibility for the success of the business and becomes by default, the
"management". There are many theories on what constitutes successful
management, but all agree that management must concern itself with
specific functions. These functions require that the manager plan,
organize, direct, coordinate, and control the business to accomplish
stated objectives of the business. The process of proper management re-
quires that each of the five categories mentioned above be part of an
overall management scheme. Examples of how each of these pertain to
roadside markets are presented below.
Each market must exist for some objective and each business must
have some goal to strive toward. An objective is simply what the
business is supposed to achieve. Objectives can include such things as
higher prices, part-time employment for family members, or increased in-
come for the farm family. Business growth is another objective. An ex-
ample would be doubling the volume of business in five years. All
management decisions should be directed toward achieving objectives of
Planning is often the most difficult task for managers, but developing a
sound plan of operation will improve chances of success. The planning
process should include both short- and long-range objectives. Short-range
plans usually deal with objectives which can be accomplished in less than
two years, while long-range plans are concerned with time spans greater
than two years. Choice of crop and number of acres to plant are examples
of short-range plans while location of stand, or business growth and ex-
pansion are examples of long-range plans. Planning should be consistent
with the stated objectives of the business. Plans should account for re-
quired labor, risk involved, costs, and market area.
The importance of good organization cannot be over-emphasized. Prop-
er organization requires that all aspects of sales and/or production be
coordinated. Employees should be aware of their responsibilities and
duties both in production and sales, while the physical requirements such
as equipment and farm inputs must be available when needed. Un-
necessary confusion during the production period can greatly increase
costs of production.
Directing is the phase of management that most people immediately
recognize as the role of a manager. Directing involves accomplishing the
goals of the market through actions or work of other people. A manager
alone cannot perform all tasks associated with the market. A manager
must direct others to correctly accomplish those tasks.
In the operation of a roadside market, the coordinating function will
match crop-planting with estimated maturity dates and expected
customer volume. Since the commodities are perishable, coordinated ef-
forts must be made to ensure that sufficient customers are available at
peak harvesting periods. A coordinated planting schedule will aid in
lengthening the market period and thus serve to increase total sales. Ef-
fective coordination will avoid serious marketing problems.
Control is defined as steady progress toward goals or objectives set
forth by the manager or owner-operator. In order to evaluate progress,
establish standards by which to judge performance. These standards can
deal with both production and market growth.
Examples of control measures in the area of production are:
Yield per acre.
Production costs per unit.
Examples of control measures in marketing are:
Number of units sold.
Number of customers.
Number of times the market is over or under-supplied.
It is not meant that each owner-operator necessarily follow each of
these steps exactly. However, it is imperative that the manager have a
clear and concise view of his objectives and how they are to be ac-
complished. Each of the five items listed above is a tool to be used in iden-
tifying and accomplishing those objectives.
Control measures as listed above can also provide information useful
for future planning as well as for identifying trends and possible problem
areas that can be corrected.
One of the first steps in planning is to estimate market potential.
Without such an estimate the owner-operator has no guideline on which
to base his planting decision. Estimating market potential is a very dif-
ficult task, but if the direct market is to compete with other produce
outlets successfully it should attempt to satisfy as many of the
customers' wants and needs as possible. The following section sum-
marizes results of a state-wide survey conducted to determine
characteristics of direct-market customers. Items such as crop
preference, travel distance, age, family income, and frequency of trips are
included. The information presented is intended as a guide for planning
and operating the pick-your-own market. The same information is also
presented about customers of roadside and community markets to per-
mit comparisons between types of market customers. Data for the pick-
your-own are separated by crop in order to show the different market
characteristics for u-pick vegetables, strawberries, blueberries, peaches,
One of the most critical decisions is where to locate the market. Usually
this is decided in advance because the u-pick market must be where the
farm is. In such situations, the question becomes one of whether
customers will drive to the u-pick market. Table 1 illustrates that for an
average u-pick market 41 percent of the customers drive less than 15
miles to the market. It is important to note that this represents an
average over all u-pick markets sampled and that the distances vary by
commodity. For example, 36 percent of customers surveyed at u-pick
peach markets had traveled between 16 and 30 miles to the market while
33 percent of the blueberry customers had traveled between 6 and 15
miles. It appears that u-pick peaches attract customers from the greatest
distance compared with all the markets included in this survey. Peach
markets attract 56 percent of their customers from less than 30 miles
away, while vegetables attract 79 percent from the same distance,
strawberries 73 percent, and blueberries and grapes both attract 76 per-
cent of their customers from the same distance. It requires a distance of
50 miles for the peach market to include 77 percent of its customers.
In planning a pick-your-own market, two factors other than travel
distance are important. They are frequency of marketing trips and
amount of dollar purchases per market visit. In general, pick-your-own
customers visit the market less often than their counterparts who shop at
community or roadside markets. From Table 2, it can be seen that while
20 percent of the pick-your-own vegetable customers and 16 percent of
pick-your-own strawberry customers visit the market weekly, the largest
percentage of customers in each of the five pick-your-own markets visit
the market less than once every two months. In the case of peaches, 63
percent of the customers fall in this frequency-of-shopping category. For
pick-your-own markets surveyed as a whole, approximately one half of
total customer numbers are in this frequency-of-shopping category.
In terms of dollar volume spent on purchases, the majority of all pick-
your-own customers sampled spent between 5 and 10 dollars per visit.
This is true for each of the individual commodities surveyed as well.
Fully 95 percent of the customers spend less than 15 dollars on each trip.
It is interesting to note that this does not differ significantly from that
spent by customers at other direct-market outlets. The difference in
spending patterns is that the pick-your-own markets record a much
smaller percentage of their dollar sales in the five-dollar-or-less category.
In response to the question of why they shop at pick-your-own
markets, the majority of customers cited prices and quality as reasons.
This is not materially different from the responses recorded at other
direct-market outlets with the exception that the price level is more im-
portant to pick-your-own customers. This is shown in Table 4 where 74
percent of pick-your-own customers stated prices were an important fac-
tor but only 54 and 21 percent of community market customers and road-
side market customers respectively did so. In the case of peaches, 95 per-
cent of the customers rated price as an important consideration.
Another interesting factor from Table 4 is the importance that recrea-
tion plays in the different market types. Blueberries and grapes appear to
be the most fun to pick with peaches enjoying similar, although lesser,
response. It appears from Table 4 that harvesting either vegetables or
strawberries involves more effort on the part of the picker and is less of a
recreational outing. The importance of the recreational aspect which
pick-your-own markets provide should not be underestimated.
Customers do not view pick-your-own markets as a convenient means of
shopping, as shown by Table 4, but they are interested in the trip to the
farm for recreation, price benefits, and quality produce.
Food consumption patterns in the United States are determined in part
by the characteristics of age, income, and family size of the consumer.
Tables 5, 6, and 7 illustrate the range of age, income, and family size ex-
hibited by pick-your-own customers. The largest single age category for
pick-your-own shoppers is between 40 and 59 years of age. Peaches,
blueberries, and grapes appear to attract more elderly customers, with at
least 25 percent of customers over 60 years of age. Strawberries and
vegetables attract more customers in the 20 to 39 age bracket.
For pick-your-own markets as a whole, the majority of customers are in
the income category of greater than $15,000 per year. For the individual
crops, strawberries has the largest percentage of shoppers in this income
category, 51 percent, while peaches have the least, 28 percent. Peaches
are the only crop for which most buyers comprise an income category
other than the $15,000 or over. Approximately 46 percent of pick-your-
own peach customers fall in the $10,000 to $14,999 category. In addition,
fully 22 percent of pick-your-own peach customers are in the $5,000 to
$9,000 bracket. This crop represents the largest percentage of buyers for
that income bracket. In comparison with the direct-market outlets, in-
come distribution falls between those of the community and roadside
markets. Income statistics are shown in Table 6.
Information pertaining to family size shows a rather even distribution
of customers. The largest single category for all pick-your-own markets
as a whole and for the individual markets is a family size of two. The
number of families of size three, four, and five are rather evenly divided
throughout the markets although there are fewer customers with a five-
member family. For the pick-your-own markets as a whole, 91 percent of
customers come from a family of five or fewer member. The breakdown of
family size distribution is shown in Table 7.
In summary, the average pick-your-own customer is between 40 and 59
years of age, is a member of a two-person family, and has an earned in-
come of over $15,000 per year. Attempts to increase customer volume
should be designed with these characteristics in mind because shoppers
of different crops exhibit different characteristics. An example is that the
income distribution of peach customers is concentrated more heavily in
the $10,000 to $14,999 bracket than in the over $15,000 one. Tables 5, 6,
and 7, provide information to aid in designing advertising to reach the
Table 8 shows the manner in which pick-your-own customers become
aware of the various markets. The single most important means of adver-
tising is by "word-of-mouth." While this method is not under the direct
control of the owner, it is nonetheless a very powerful advertising force
and points to the importance of maintaining good customer relations. In
the peach market, "word-of-mouth" accounts for 79 percent of the
The most effective means of grower-controlled advertising is
newspaper advertising. Blueberries appear to sell most successfully as a
result of newspaper advertising, while on the other extreme no one was
attracted to the peach operations as a result of newspaper advertising.
Roadside signs appear to be rather successful, especially for the grape
markets. Grape markets have also made successful use of television
advertising but the use of radio has met with indifferent success.
One word of caution is in order. Do not discount the use of some means
of advertising simply because the survey found little support for its use.
While the survey does identify those advertising media that are suc-
cessful in comparison with other media, it does not state whether the lack
of success in generating customers is due to the lack of such advertising
or whether the advertising is ineffective.
A final note is that almost 10 percent of total pick-your-own customers
found the market by accident: they were simply driving by the market.
For the individual crops, 24 percent of total pick-your-own vegetable
customers found the market by accident. While this is the largest single
percentage, strawberry and peach markets had 16 and 10 percent of their
respective customers find the market by accident. A clean and attractive
entrance to the market can have very positive benefits.
A question of interest to prospective pick-your-own market owners is,
What volume of business can I expect to attract? Estimating total
market potential is very difficult. An accurate estimate is, however, the
first step toward a successful market. In an attempt to estimate total,
potential, market strength, a telephone survey was conducted in the
Miami-Dade County area. Respondents were asked whether they fre-
quented direct-market outlets and if so, how often. To the extent that the
questions cover all types of direct-market outlets (roadside markets, com-
munity markets, and u-picks), the survey data presented in Table 9
overestimate the size of the potential u-pick vegetable market.
Information presented in Table 9 indicates that approximately 39 per-
cent of families contacted frequent direct-market outlets. Of the total,
only seven percent visit a direct-market outlet monthly and another
seven percent visit one 3 to 10 times a year. Another 4.4 percent visit
such a market-outlet twice yearly. Assuming the survey sample of
Miami-Dade County area consumers is indicative of overall consumer
visits, the seven percent of that population represents, in absolute
numbers, a substantial volume of customers. For that matter, seven per-
cent of the population of a city of 10,000 families is a substantial volume
of customers. In competing among themselves for customers, area direct-
market outlets should make maximum use of those market factors that
are to their advantage, such as location, crop choice, and customer ser-
This section has attempted to identify those factors important to the
successful operation of a roadside market. There are many such factors,
and the ability of the owner-operator to determine the relative weight of
each factor and arrive at a successful combination for his market is often
the difference between success and failure of the market operation.
Skillful management and adherence to the stated objectives are
necessary if the market is to be successful in attracting customers from
other vegetable outlets; and to do so one needs an added factor, whether
better quality, convenient location, "farm" atmosphere, better prices, or
excellent service. For a shopper to forego the convenience of purchasing
vegetables at the same time other food shopping is done and to make a
separate market visit, there must be some enticement. The ability to pro-
vide the right enticement is what characterizes a successful roadside
Production and Design of Pick-Your-Own Markets
Blueberries, grapes, and peaches, as well as some other perennial crops,
are long-lived (15-20 years). Because of the longevity of these plants, the
site of the pick-your-own operation must be chosen carefully and the ac-
tual layout of the orchard should be well planned.
It is natural to assume that the better the location of a pick-your-own
operation, the more produce can be sold. The planting site for a pick-your-
own should be accessible and located near a large market area. The closer
the pick-your-own is to a large urban area, the greater the potential sales.
Also, if the location is easy to find, it probably will yield greater sales
than one that is out of the way and difficult to locate. The problem of site
selection was discussed in the first section of this circular, where detailed
information was presented regarding travel distance and other factors.
These factors should be considered carefully when selecting a site.
After the site has been selected, the next decision focuses on which
types of fruit are most suitable for the site. For example, grapes should
be planted on well-drained soils and blueberries on low-acid soils. The or-
chard should be planted in rows of solid varieties because they will ripen
at different times; the rows can be numbered to direct pickers to the cor-
rect row. Rows should be spaced well and provide room for traffic flow
through the planting. Always keep the planting as free of weeds as possi-
ble and keep the area between the rows mowed. This will make the plant-
ing look more attractive and reduce the likelihood of other hazards, such
Specific information about production, such as characteristics of dif-
ferent varieties, can be obtained through the county extension offices.
State and area specialists also are available through the extension serv-
ice, in addition to the county personnel. In any event it is easiest to plan
the orchard or field layout when systematic steps are followed:
Item I. The first step is to divide the land to be used into major
blocks. Most farms are naturally divided by such obstacles as fences,
trees, streams, or roads. These represent major constraints in planning
field layouts and must be accounted for in production planning.
Item II. The major blocks of land should be measured to give the
grower some indication of the total amount of planting area available. If
the farm has had a recent soil test, then it will be possible to cross
reference fields by size and soil characteristics. A field that has a suitable
pH for fruits, for example, may not be large enough to justify planting an
Item III. The choice of market crops should be decided with the
market characteristics, presented earlier, in mind. Many crops, especially
those which require judgement on the part of the picker as to ripeness,
are not well suited for pick-your-own operations. Examples of such crops
are watermelons, cantaloupes, sweet corn, and some of the tropical fruits.
In addition, crops that require the use of ladders, such as peaches and
citrus, or that involve expensive or easily-damaged plants, such as
mangos and avocados, require increased levels of management. This ex-
tra supervision represents an additional cost which must be recaptured in
the selling price.
Item IV. Space requirements can be obtained from extension service
production guides or from local nurseries and/or seed dealers. When
designing orchards and plantings for other perennial crops, remember
that the layout will be permanent and decisions made now will have to be
lived with for the life of the operation. Several examples of points to con-
sider were given in the introduction to Orchard Layout.
Item V. Timing of production is an important part of pick-your-own
markets. The length of each crop's season can be extended: those crops
with short picking lives, such as vegetables, can undergo staggered
plantings; tree crops or fruits which have late and early maturity dates
can be planted by varieties. Again, specific information as to maturity
characteristics can be obtained from the county extension agent as well
as from nursery and seed dealers.
In addition to the five items listed above, several other factors have
been identified as helping the pick-your-own operation run smoothly:
1. Allow plenty of room for access to the plots, and be sure to include
gaps in the rows so that customers can move from one row to another
without having to cross over or through a row.
2. Whenever staggered plantings are used it is best to place the later
maturing varieties or late plantings to the rear of earlier plantings.
Pickers are less likely to damage immature crops or to wander mistaken-
ly into other areas.
3. Space alternate picking areas for a given crop so that customers
cannot readily see them and thus will be less likely to enter fields re-
served for the next day's picking.
4. Avoid placing plots for customer picking close to hazardous areas.
Hazardous areas can include such things as ponds, lakes, streams, farm
buildings, and cattle fields. Do not underestimate the public's ability to
5. Separate crops that must be sprayed frequently. This helps the
grower's image and prevents the accidental spraying of customers.
Natural windbreaks such as trees and woods can be used to advantage.
6. Consider the insecticide, herbicide, and fungicide programs for
various crops when designing plots. If at all possible, place crops of
similar needs close to one another.
7. Plant crops which require the greatest amount of supervision
and/or attract the greatest number of customers closest to the checkout
area. This aids both the customers, who will not have to travel as far, and
the management, who can reduce customer confusion in finding the cor-
rect field or plot.
Facilities and Equipment
A pick-your-own operation does not require elaborate facilities, but
facilities should be adequate to handle the maximum number of
customers anticipated. Both production and sales equipment will be
necessary. It is not always possible to use equipment that is suitable for
general farm production on pick-your-own plots, because the plots are
usually much smaller than commercial plots and there is often more than
one variety or crop within close proximity to another.
There are a number of items essential to pick-your-own operations.
Some examples of the minimum requirements for a successful market are
The sales area should be attractive and well marked with signs. It is ad-
visable that after customers enter they be supplied with picking con-
tainers. This cuts down on the amount of labor required to weigh fruit
that has been picked and it gives control over containers that go into and
come out of the field.
It goes without saying that if one has a sign that explains how the fruit
is to be picked, where it is to be picked, and how payment is to be made,
this will be extremely helpful to both operator and customer. Well
marked and well placed signs should begin in the parking area and con-
tinue straight into the sales area. Signs should be employed to depict how
to go about procuring a picking container and then where to pick, how to
pick, and how to weigh out. This frees your employees from answering
the same questions many times during the day.
Traffic Flow in the Orchard
There is always a problem with traffic flow in the orchard because cer-
tain varieties ripen before others. Patrons of pick-your-own operations
are not always able to distinguish between fruit which has ripened and
fruit not yet ready for picking. Then too, some people like to jump around
and pick a little bit here and there. Assigning pickers to certain rows or
spaces in the orchard is one solution to these problems. This will reduce
possible overcrowding due to erratic picking and can insure that pickers
are guided away from varieties that have not yet ripened.
Parking always poses a problem for a pick-your-own. It is illegal to
park along the road right-of-way, therefore in the planning stage of any
layout, ample space should be allotted to parking. In laying out parking
spaces always make these spaces slightly larger than would normally be
found in a supermarket area because customers will need additional room
for loading produce. One good reason to have a fenced parking area, away
from the actual orchard, is to facilitate control of the people and vehicles.
Crowd control is always important and one way is to control the parking
of the cars to allow access only through limited areas. This will also
reduce the problem of fruit theft. Such theft has always been a problem if
cars are allowed into the orchards.
The amount of effort expended on handling the parking at a pick-your-
own is dependent on the total customer volume. Some operators provide
little more than an open area within which to park, while others lay out
rows and individual spaces. If parking areas are to be laid out, any vari-
ety of marking devices may be used. Railroad ties and/or precast concrete
bumpers may be used in those areas where it is important to prevent cars
from moving past a specified point.
Individual spaces may be marked with hydrate lime or preferably a
non-caustic material similar to that used on athletic fields. Basically, cars
can be parked at 900 angles perpendicular to access lanes or at 600 angles
to the access lanes. One-way traffic lanes are best for 600 angle parking
whereas the two-way traffic lanes can be used for perpendicular parking.
There is no firm consensus as to which parking method is best. The
following is a listing of advantages for each type of parking.
Right-Angle (900) Parking Advantages
1. Greater parking capacity and more effi-
cient space utilization.
2. Two-way traffic movement in the lanes
with less confusion than alternating one-
3. No barriers needed between aisles.
4. Less effort required to find a space.
Angle (600) Parking Advantages
1. Easier to enter space.
2. More clearance for opening and closing
3. Safer for pedestrians walking to and from
4. One-way lanes offer less potential for
In addition to those items mentioned above there are optional facilities
that provide an attractive setting and indicate thoughtfulness on the
part of the owner. They are:
1. Restroom facilities and/or wash basins, appreciated by both
customers and employees.
2. A playground area for children. This does not need to be elaborate;
a simple open space will suffice, but it does help to keep to a
minimum the number of children in the fields.
3. Picnic tables for those customers who would like to bring a lunch.
4. Soft drink machines can provide both refreshments and profits.
5. Water fountains.
6. Shaded area at the checkout or sales counter so that customers
who are standing in line do not have to do so in the sun and heat.
Pricing of Pick-Your-Own Products
The price that is charged for pick-your-own produce is an important
factor for customers but prices are rated by many shoppers as less impor-
tant than quality. This means that customers expect to pay a reasonable
price for good quality products. One cannot expect to charge retail prices
because the customer is assuming some of the marketing costs, such as
picking and transportation, but neither is the owner expected to sell at
break-even prices. The owner should charge a price that covers all produc-
tion expenses, management costs, and that provides a profit. Some
guidelines for price-setting are as follow:
1 Prices should not be out of line with prices charged by other area
producers. The price does not have to be the same quality may well be
different but one cannot expect to attract sufficient customers if his
prices are not competitive.
2 The price should also be at a level that allows for a continuous flow
of the product. Since most pick-your-own products are perishable, the
price must be at such a level that unsold products do not accumulate. By
the same token a price that is too low will attract too many potential
customers. The ideal is a price which moves the product at a steady pace.
3 The keeping of accurate production records and the development
of budgets for each crop provide an excellent basis for deciding on ap-
propriate price levels. Accurate records allow for "cost-plus" pricing.
Such a policy ensures good returns provided the price is not out of line
with area competitors. Quantity discounts can also be used to reflect
costs because small purchases cost the grower more in time and trouble
than large ones.
4 Regardless of the pricing policy followed, it is best to post prices
where they are clearly visible to customers before picking begins.
Misunderstandings about prices can result in bitter and protracted
arguments and places the grower in a no-win situation. A second positive
reason for posting prices is that the grower can offer "free units" incen-
tives. For a certain number of units picked, a free unit is added. Such a
policy has the same effect as a price reduction but does not require the
owner to change his price structure. It also serves to increase quantities
sold in times of abundant supplies as pickers attempt to acquire the free
Pricing Basis Weight or Volume?
The decision to use weight or volume measures as a basis for pricing is
a difficult one. Each has its advantages and disadvantages and in some
cases the crop itself dictates which system to use. A third method would
be individual unit pricing for such items as cantaloupes.
When using volume measures it is necessary to provide standard con-
tainers. This also involves transferring the product from the picking con-
tainer to the sale container. If the sale is made in the volume container
this represents an additional cost and if not it is necessary to retransfer
the product to the picker's container for transport home. The grower can
offer incentives for customers to bring their own standard containers but
this requires some decision on how to accept container exchanges.
Volume sales are often the traditional means of sale for many crops
such as peaches, strawberries, and beans; it eliminates the necessity of
weighing the produce. Customers also know the approximate value of
their labor before they leave the fields.
When sales are based on weight, it is necessary and required by law
that an accurate scale be available. The state of Florida inspects
agricultural scales free of charge and all that is required for inspection is
a request to the Bureau of Weights and Measures, Florida Department of
Agriculture, Tallahassee, Florida (telephone number 904/488-9140).
The Bureau offers several recommendations and suggestions:
1. Any scale which has a zero adjustment that can be finger-tightened
is not certifiable.
2. Any scale marked "Not Legal For Trade" is not certifiable.
3. The Hanson Scale model number 842 is not certifiable.
4. Any scale that is purchased should be purchased subject to the
scale passing inspection. This offers the buyers protection from the
purchase of a faulty scale.
5. Scale manufacturers which have a reputation for dependable scales
are Baktillon, Deteco, and Penn.*
Note that it is not permissible to use the scale until an inspector has
had an opportunity to inspect it.
In using the weight method it is best to weigh both the product and the
empty container in full view of the customer. This helps to eliminate
questions as to improper weighing procedures. Advantages of the weight
method and scales are that there is no question as to overfilling a con-
tainer and weighing also eliminates the need for providing standardized
containers. Weight is generally considered a fair basis for pricing
agricultural products, and there is no problem involving the pricing of
different sizes of product such as large versus small ears of corn.
One additional point is that customers will probably be more satisfied
with the products if they are transported in correctly designed con-
tainers. Transporting strawberries or grapes in deep volume containers
such as picking buckets can result in a large percentage of damaged fruit.
The sale of produce containers is a service that customers may find of
All too often the adage, "It's the little things which count," is found to
be the best rule of thumb to follow. Listed below are a number of factors
that each operator should carefully consider when setting up his market.
Control of Money
In a pick-your-own market the grower becomes a retail manager and
thus is required to oversee cash flow transactions. A variety of methods
are available for handling cash transactions but the most acceptable
system is the one involving a cash register and tape. This enables the
owner to check the transactions against the cash receipts. Such a record
is also valuable for tax purposes, although sales tax is not applied to sales
of food products to be consumed off the premises, and can also provide a
good record for planning purposes. The cash register tape can yield such
data as average dollar sales and average number of customers by days as
well as by weekdays versus weekends.
*The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing
specific Information. It is not a guarantee, warranty, or endorsement of the prod-
ucts named and does not signify that they are approved to the exclusion of
Roadside signs to be used for advertising are important as a source of
information for pick-your-own customers. The use of such signs is,
however, restricted by federal law and local county ordinances. Local con-
trol is generally exerted through zoning restrictions although other con-
trol measures may be applied. Each owner-operator should contact local
authorities to see which, if any, restrictions apply.
Federal restrictions apply to both temporary and permanent signs and
(1) Along primary roads, each sign must be at least 500 feet from an
existing sign, 1,000 feet along interstates, which is facing the same
(2) Signs may be located only on property zoned as commercial and/or
(3) Signs must be at least 15 feet from highway right-of-ways.
There are several exemptions from the federal law, two of which are im-
portant for pick-your-own operators. The first applies to signs posted
within 100 feet of a place of business and located on land owned or leased
by the businessman. The sign must relate solely to merchandise sold
and/or produced on the premises. The second exemption concerns
agricultural producers and permits the construction of signs that adver-
tise merchandise and/or services sold, produced, manufactured, or fur-
nished on the farm. The signs must be placed on the land owned or leased
by the advertiser.
Tests made, from a moving vehicle, on the legibility of signs in various
colors show that the following color combinations are the most ap-
propriate. Listed from most to least legible, they are:
1. Black on yellow
2. Black on orange
3. Yellow-orange on navy blue
4. Bottle green on white
5. Scarlet-red on white
6. Black on white
7. Navy blue on white
8. White on navy blue
9. Yellow-orange on black
10. White on black
11. White on bottle green
12. White on scarlet-red
13. White on purple
14. Purple on white
15. Navy blue on yellow
16. Navy blue on orange
17. Yellow on black
18. Scarlet-red on yellow
19. Yellow on navy blue
20. Purple on yellow 
The relationship between letter size (width and height), vehicle speed,
and the distance of legibility is shown in Table 10, while sign location in
advance of the market is shown in Table 11. Letters should be at least 1/5
as wide as they are tall. This is based on the assumption that the reader is
giving full attention to the sign, has normal eyesight (20/20), and is'
capable of reading at least 200 words per minute.
Health Permits General state-wide restrictions by the State Board
of Health require that any permanent structure must provide one
restroom for use by the general public. This restriction also applies if one
sells milk and/or eggs. To begin operations with either a permanent stand
or a stand that sells milk and/or eggs, a $25.00 Health Permit is required.
The permit may be acquired from the local Board of Health. There is no
permit required for a temporary stand that sells produce. In order to en-
sure compliance, it would be best to contact the local Board of Health in
the county within which the pick-your-own will be located.
Licenses Most county governments require agricultural producers
who retail their own products to purchase and display a solicitor's per-
mit. The cost of the permit is usually quite low and acquiring a permit
before the season opens will prevent frustration and also lost business if
one is required to cease operations until a permit is obtained.
It is very simple to comply with the sales tax law. The law stipulates,
basically, that all food items sold at retail and not sold for consumption
on the premises are tax exempt. If food is sold to be consumed on the
premises or if you sell any non-food items, they are subject to the sales
tax. Soft drinks sold by the operator are subject to sales tax. To register
with the Department of Revenue, it is necessary to go to an area or local
office and acquire a registration number. There is a charge of $5.00 to
register. Every month the Department of Revenue will send a form which
you must fill out and return, along with all taxes which you have col-
lected, to the Department.
Insurance coverage is strongly recommended since the pick-your-own
market deals with the public at large. In effect, all that is needed is a
standard farm liability insurance package that is expanded to cover retail
sales operations. The premium cost is determined by total square footage
of the stand site or the total amount of area over which the public travels
as well as total cash flow of the stand. The cash flow is used by the in-
surance company as an indication of the amount of customer volume and
to provide some estimate of total net worth. In addition to the liability
coverage, it is also recommended that some form of medical coverage be
included to cover instances such as a customer receiving a personal in-
jury. Personal injury can include any and everything from a bee sting,
which can be very dangerous in some instances, to broken limbs and
lacerations. Do not underestimate the public's ability to injure itself. The
additional security which personal injury coverage provides is well worth
the additional cost.
Meeting right-of-way restrictions is a very simple procedure. The state
of Florida maintains all primary roads, basically those roads that are
marked by state roadsigns, while the counties are responsible for secon-
dary road maintenance. The rule to follow, basically, is that no parking,
either by you or your customers, is permitted on the highway right-of-
way. In addition, the number of entry and exit points to a pick-your-own
operation is dependent on the amount of roadside frontage associated
with the market.
The size of the state's right-of-way is different for each road and it will
be necessary to contact the local maintenance office to be sure of com-
pliance. Most counties have a state maintenance office which is listed in
the telephone directory under State of Florida, Department of Transpor-
tation. The following is a list of area offices which have a right-of-way
department. If you live in the vicinity of one of these offices, check with
them for more detailed information. Most of the questions concerning
local right-of-ways should, however, be directed to the local county of-
Fort Lauderdale 764-0200
Fort Myers 694-7108
Lake City 752-3000
St. Petersburg 893-2706
Winter Park 647-4405
A nice touch is to provide customers with information pertaining to
canning, freezing, and processing the produce they have just purchased.
Recipes and cooking ideas are also interesting bits of information that
are appreciated by the general public as a goodwill gesture. It benefits
the producer by encouraging consumption of the product he is selling.
Such information is usually available from the state extension office in
the form of printed brochures and may be obtained through the local
county extension office. Home economics extension personnel can be
quite helpful in pointing out the most appropriate bulletins and informa-
It is a simple matter to provide a customer registration book in order to
identify repeat customers. Such a listing can be used to advertise specials
or to notify select clientele as to expected season openings. If at all possi-
ble, a separate listing of customers who purchase large volumes may
prove useful in moving large volumes of produce and managing supplies.
Additional Sources of Information
Information listed below is available from the Florida Cooperative Ex-
tension Service, unless another address is listed.
I. Vegetable Crops Production Guides
Bean Production Guide, Circ. 100.
Cabbage Production Guide, Circ. 117.
Cucumber Production Guide, Circ. 101.
Eggplant Production Guide, Circ. 109.
Lettuce & Endive Production Guide, Circ. 123.
Growing Okra for Profit, Circ. 175.
Onion Production Guide, Circ. 196.
Growing Southern Peas for Profit, Circ. 478.
Pepper Production Guide, Circ. 102.
Potato Production Guide, Circ. 118.
Growing Sweet Potatoes for Profit, Circ. 440.
Sweet Corn Production Guide, Circ. 99.
Strawberry Production Guide, Circ. 142.
Squash Production Guide, Circ. 103.
Tomato Production Guide, Circ. 98.
Watermelon Production Guide, Circ. 96.
II. Other Production Information
1. Fruit Crops Fact Sheet
The Blueberry, FC Fact Sheet 46.
The Bunch Grape, FC Fact Sheet 17.
The Muscadine Grape, FC Fact Sheet 16.
2. General Pest Control:
Florida Insect Control Guide (Looseleaf); Cost: $10.00.
Florida Plant Disease Control Guide (Looseleaf); Cost: $10.00
Florida Nematode Control Guide (Looseleaf); Cost: $10.00.
Florida Weed Control Guide (Looseleaf); Cost: $15.00.
Weed Control Guide for Commercial Vegetable Production in
Florida, Circ. 196.
Nutsedge Suppression in Commercial Vegetables, VC Fact Sheet 12.
Weed Control in Market Vegetable Gardens, VC Fact Sheet 16.
3. Soils and Fertilizers.
Fertilizers and Fertilization, Bull. 183.
Commercial Vegetable Fertilization Guide, Circ. 225.
Irrigation Systems for Crop Production in Florida, WRC Fact
Water and Nutrient Application by Drip Irrigation for Vegetables,
Beg, Crops Mimeo Series.
III. Harvesting and Handling Information:
The Commercial Storage of Fruits, Vegetables, and Florist and
Nursery Stocks, USDA Agriculture Handbook No. 66.
(Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Gov't., Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402). Cost: $1.25.
How to Buy Fresh Vegetables, USDA Consumer & Marketing
Service Bull. No. 143. (Address same as above). Cost: $0.15.
Harvesting Vegetables in Florida, Vegetable Crops Extension
IV. Economic and Marketing Information:
Florida Agricultural Statistics Vegetable Summary. (Florida Crop
& Livestock Reporting Service, 1222 Woodward St., Orlando, FL
Costs & Returns from Vegetable Crops in Florida, Econ. Infor.
Annual Farm Income and Expense Record, Circ. 438.
Ten-year Inventory and Depreciation Record, Circ. 439.
Management of Roadside Markets, Circ. 484.
1. Antle, G. G., 1978, Roadside Marketing for Beginners. Cooperative
Service, Michigan State University. Extension Bulletin E-1145
2. Ginder, R. G. and H. H. Hoecker, 1975, Management of Pick-Your-
Own Marketing Operation. Northeast Extension Marketing Com-
mittee Publication, Cooperative Extension Service, University of
Delaware, Newark, Delaware.
3. Lingstron, H. R., 1978, Farmer-to-Consumer Marketing E.S.C.S.,
USDA, ESCS-01, Washington, D.C.
4. Mizelle, W. O. Jr., 1978, Marketing Alternatives for Georgia Fruit
and Vegetable Growers. Bulletin 05, Cooperative Extension Ser-
vice, University of Georgia, Athens, GA.
Table 1. Mileage traveled by consumers to various markets.
Commu- Road- Pick Your Own
All nity side All Vege- Straw- Blue-
Mileage Markets Markets Markets PYO tables berries berries Peaches Grapes
------------------------------------------------------- ---- -
24 42 26 16 26 20 13 3 16
22 19 14 25 28 22 33 17 26
29 28 12 31 25 31 30 36 34
9 4 6 11 13 13 8 22 5
4 2 3 6 3 9 2 13 2
8 1 13 10 2 3 14 9 16
4 4 25 1 3 2 0 0 0
Table 2. Frequency of shopping trips to direct-market outlets.
Number Commu- Road- Pick Your Own
of All nity side All Vege- Straw- Blue-
Trips Markets Markets Markets PYO tables berries berries Peaches Grapes
Daily 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
Weekly 20 38 29 11 20 16 9 5 7
Biweekly 16 21 20 14 21 19 13 5 10
Monthly 24 21 18 26 27 31 23 27 23
Less 1 every
2 months 39 20 31 49 32 34 54 63 60
Table 3. Dollar purchases per shopping trip.
Commu- Road- Pick Your Own
All nity side All Vege- Straw- Blue-
Dollars Markets Markets Markets PYO tables berries berries Peaches Grapes
Less $5.00 37 41 50 33 26 19 39 16 51
5.00- 9.99 49 45 41 52 54 59 50 53 45
10.0014.99 10 10 6 11 15 15 8 23 1
15.00- 20.00 2 1 2 3 3 5 2 6 1
Greater 20.00 2 3 1 1 2 2 1 2 1
Table 4. Reasons given for shopping at direct-market outlets.
Commu- Road- Pick Your Own
All nity side All Vege- Straw- Blue-
Reasons Markets Markets Markets PYO tables berries berries Peaches Grapes
Prices 63 54 21 74 76 80 78 95 54
0 Quality 84 78 79 88 83 87 89 92 90
Volume 10 4 1 14 21 19 6 39 4
Convenience 24 29 53 17 14 10 22 14 24
Recreation 47 24 8 64 46 38 81 77 82
Other 3 8 1 1 0 0 0 1 4
'Percent of response given for each reason.
Table 5. Age distribution of direct-market consumers.
Commu- Road- Pick Your Own
All nity side All Vege- Straw- Blue-
Age Markets Markets Markets PYO tables berries berries Peaches Grapes
Less 20 1 0 1 1 0 0 2 0 2
20-39 27 21 31 29 34 34 28 19 28
40-59 46 44 52 46 48 46 41 53 45
Over 60 26 34 15 24 18 19 28 27 25
Table 6. Income distribution of direct-market consumers.
Commu- Road- Pick Your Own
Yearly All nity side All Vege- Straw- Blue-
Income Markets Markets Markets PYO tables berries berries Peaches Grapes
Less 5,000 8 11 9 6 7 8 5 4 3
5,000- 9,999 15 18 8 15 17 7 18 22 17
10,000- 14,999 33 31 30 34 33 34 36 46 35
Greater 15,000 44 40 53 44 43 51 41 28 46
Table 7. Family size of direct-market con
Number Commu- Road-
of All nity side
Persons Markets Markets Markets
1 6 4 5
o 2 44 54 50
3 16 15 18
4 19 17 17
5 9 6 7
6 4 2 2
7 2 1 0
8 1 1 0
Pick Your Own
All Vege- Straw- Blue-
PYO tables berries berries Peaches Grapes
7 2 3 11 8 9
38 39 36 43 34 35
16 15 17 16 18 17
19 24 24 16 17 18
10 10 11 10 13 9
5 7 6 2 5 6
2 2 3 2.06 3 3
1 1 1 0 2 3
Table 8. Source of information pertaining to direct-market outlets.
Commu- Road- Pick Your Own
All nity side All Vege- Straw- Blue-
Media Markets Markets Markets PYO tables berries berries Peaches Grapes
Newspaper 18 11 0 23 22 20 33 0 23
Radio 2 3 0 1 0 0 3 1 0
Roadsigns 7 5 0 9 7 4 4 0 24
Television 3 0 0 5 0 0 2 0 16
Word-of-Mouth 49 47 16 55 47 59 66 80 40
Drive-by 21 28 75 9 24 16 3 10 2
Always Known 6 8 9 5 5 5 3 9 6
Table 9. Response to telephone survey indicating direct-market shopping preference.
ENGLISH SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING AGGREGATE
ITEM TOTAL %1 TOTAL % TOTAL %
Never Shop 269 60.0 41 76.0 310 61.0
Shop More Than Once Weekly 15 3 1 2 16 3
Once Week 42 9 3 6 45 9
Once Every Two Weeks 27 6 3 6 30 6
Monthly 32 7 5 9 37 7
3-10 Times Year 36 8 1 2 37 7
t Twice Yearly 22 5 0 0 22 4
Once Year or Less 8 2 0 0 8 2
SUBTOTAL 451 100.02 54 100.0 505 100.0
No Answer 206 34 240
Refuse to Answer 56 0 56
Disconnect 99 1 100
SUBTOTAL 361 35 396
TOTAL 812 89 896
1. Percentages are based on total number of respondents.
2. Does not sum to 100.0% due to rounding error.
Table 10. Letter size, vehicle speed, and distance of legibility.
Letter Size Various Speeds (MPH) Distance of
width height and Legibility
(Inches) (inches) No. of Words (feet)
30 40 50 60
3/8 13/4 4 2 1 0 50
3/4 31/2 8 5 4 3 100
13/8 7 15 11 8 6 200
23/16 11 22 16 13 10 300
2 14 30 22 17 14 400
31/2 17 1/2 38 28 22 18 500
It is best to use posted speed limits as guides to the speed that motorists travel. The distances the signs should
precede the market are shown in Table 11.
Table 11. Advance sign locations for various speeds.
(MPH) Distance from Advance Sign to Market'
30 .20 350
40 .25 440
50 .30 528
60 .40 704
'Based on a decision time of 20 seconds plus reaction times and good braking distances for a car in good condition on
a dry, paved highway.
The direct-marketing survey reported in this publi-
cation was supported by the Farmer-to-Consumer
Direct Marketing Act of 1976.
This public document was promulgated at a cost of $631.00, or
.315 per copy, to inform the public about management of pick-
your-own direct market outlets in Florida. 10-2M-82.
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLOR-
IDA, INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES,
K. R. Tefertlller, director, In cooperation with the United States
Department of Agriculture, publishes this Information to further the
purpose of the May 8 and June 30, 1914 Acts of Congress; and is
authorized to provide research, educational 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,
Gainesvllle, Florida 32611. Before publicizing this publication, editors should contact
this address to determine availability.