In the March issue of Smallholder magazine Ann Chilcott, Scottish Expert Beemaster, advises on how to sell honey and other produce at the gate.

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The founding of the Slow Food Movement in 1986 by Carlo Petrini from Italy paved the way for small producers of top quality foods to market them at realistic prices thus reflecting the exclusiveness of the product. The movement’s goals are to preserve traditional and regional cuisine by encouraging farmers to grow plants, seeds and animals with the characteristics adapted to the local ecosystems making them locally adapted and sustainable.

The Slow Food Movement spread across the world into many countries with branches now in 150 of them, and with offices in several countries including the UK. The BBC Food and Farming awards continue since their inception in 2000 and the two are inextricably linked through the sharing of fundamental core values.

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Now is a great time for smallholders to showcase their painstakingly produced comestibles at farmer’s markets or on their own doorsteps because of the high demand for such high end food. If you haven’t tried selling from home before don’t be afraid to give it a go. Customers like to buy from people whom they like and once your produce is known and appreciated for its high quality and appealing presentation, word of mouth will do the advertising and bring more custom.

You might not want the inconvenience of having customers knocking on your door so perhaps you will choose to sell produce from the garden gate or front door. You need to do a risk assessment if you use an honesty box system of payment. You can then decide where to place the stall and goods. If your product is unique, like saffron, you will probably grow to order or have regular chef customers so that selling at the gate may not be appropriate for you.

What are the chances that the cash will get stolen or that customers won’t pay the correct amount? Unfortunately this is really hard to control. I know of someone living near a main road having her egg money stolen but this was likely a one off-off. She still has her produce out on sale at the end of her driveway so that speaks for itself I think.

If you live on a quiet road in a hamlet like I do then the chances of losing produce are slim. However, I take a belt and braces approach whilst also trying to be friendly and trusting. I only put around six jars of honey out at any one time and I collect the money daily except when I’m on holiday. I came back from few days away over Halloween to find all the honey gone but all the payment was sitting in the jar inside the wicker basket at the front door.

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I do cover the jars with a bee patterned tea towel since a garden songbird’s audacious visit once tainted my display. I’ve started using tamper proof labels too since a potential customer opened a lid for a sniff. In the future I will consider having taster samples so customers can try before they buy.

Consumer goods produced on a small scale are usually tastier but more expensive to produce so it is really important not to under-price goods. Discerning people who recognise and appreciate good quality are usually willing to pay for it. At 50p/ounce, my honey is neither too cheap, not greedily expensive either and I have sold nearly all of the surplus 100 pounds that my bees produced this season. It sells well in 12oz jars.

Adhering to legal labelling requirements means that my address is on the jar but I also leave my business cards on display should anyone want to communicate with me by email.

Customers need very clear instructions on how to find the produce, and how to pay for it. I have another sign with arrow directing my customers to my doorstep. Leaving a few pounds change in your money box is helpful if you don’t have a locked money box.

I like to bring a personal touch to my sales because I don’t often meet my customers so I leave a laminated descriptor –see description below--in large bold print on top of the basket.

“This soft-set local honey has not been heated to a greater temperature than it was kept at by the bees inside their hive. It has been filtered-- but not finely enough to have lost much pollen.

Honey has natural antibacterial properties which means it can last for a long time in an airtight container. It is more flavoursome if not kept in the fridge.

The average worker bee lives for six weeks in summer, and three of these are spent foraging in fields and gardens collecting nectar and pollen. One bee produces about 1/12 teaspoon honey (0.5g) in her lifetime.

Honey is a premium food, and its production depends on keeping healthy bees and having favourable weather. The bees that produced this honey will go into winter well stocked with their own supplies and only the surplus is sold.

Price: £6 per 12oz jar

40p refunded on return of this jar.”

It is illegal to reuse metal honey jar lids which may have been attacked by acids but jars properly sterilised may be reused.

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If you would like to enjoy more of Ann's articles on beekeeping subscribe to the magazine here or pick up a copy at your local newsagent.