Making a Stand — How Our Honey Sells Itself

Honey Stand & SignI wrote this article back in 2006 – a few weeks after we opened our brand new honey stand for the season. Nothing has happened since to shake our belief in selling honey on the honour system. — RKA

I jokingly refer to it as a “honey U-pick”. In reality it’s a roadside honey stand that operates on the good old-fashioned honour system. We’ve had it open for a few weeks and so far it’s been working like a charm…we’ve sold dozens of jars of honey and every one of them paid for. In fact, we’re ahead $4.00!

This isn’t a new idea of course. Actually it’s a very old concept based on trust that some skeptics feel may be a bit risky in this day and age. I’m an eternal optimist and have faith in the nature of rural communities. As a friend says, “90% of people are honest 90% of the time”. That’s good enough for us.

Necessity — the Mother of Invention

The inspiration for this project came from a variety of sources.

First, after keeping bees as a hobby for about five years we finally had some surplus honey last year that we knew we wanted to sell but really didn’t have a convenient way to sell it on such a small scale. We liked the idea of selling from home (since we work here) but didn’t want to be constantly interrupted by people coming to the door in search of a jar of honey.

Secondly, after 9 years of frustration dealing with wayward customers (usually, also frustrated) generated by a very “casually” run blueberry u-pick next door, we decided to turn lemons into lemonade… or in our case, “honey into money“. The honey stand has allowed us to change our attitude in coping with the inevitable parade of “looky-loos” that start a few weeks before blueberry season (which began a few weeks ago. Coincidence?) When folks arrive in our yard looking for someone to pay for the blueberries they just picked, we’ll be able to smile and say “no they’re not our blueberries… but we do have honey. You can pick some up as you leave.” The U-pick is about to open for the season. This year, we’re ready.

Thirdly, I ran across an article in the archives of the Bee Culture Magazine website written by beekeeper Richard Taylor called “My Honey Stand” and I was absolutely charmed by both his article and the picture of the stand made from an old home-made bus shelter. I knew right then and there that I had to design a honey stand that would pay homage to such an inspirational story. In my mind, this was what honey stands were supposed to look like.

my brand new honey-stand

Designed for the Times

While trying to replicate the look of Richard Taylor’s stand, I wanted to incorporate a few practical improvements in keeping with the times, how we intended to use it and the weather. Even an optimist like me figures there are limits the honour system. I wouldn’t set this stand on the side of some road in the middle of nowhere. At the same time leaving a can of money out in plain view could be tempting to someone running a little short of cash.

So there’s a coin slot in the shelf and the money goes out of sight into a container below. There’s no lock on it, but someone would have to be down on their knees with their head under the box long enough for a passing neighbour to jot down their license plate number.

weighted-base on honey stand

Practical and Portable

It also needed to be portable. I wanted to be able to move it back from the road in the off-season as well as possibly use it for a display unit at craft shows or markets. It’s made of cedar so it’s quite light and easy to move. It can be tipped back onto a utility trailer or half-ton pick-up and moved in a matter of minutes.

I knew right off that it would be top heavy so the base had to have some counter weight to prevent it from catching the wind and tipping over backwards. The base is designed like a pallet and the front section of deck lifts out. Two concrete patio blocks in the front of the base offset the weight of the display cabinet, which is towards the back.

The other consideration was weather. Here in Keswick Ridge it can be windy, rainy, hot, sunny, cold… sometimes all of those within a short space of time. The display area needed to be protected from the wind and rain so it has doors with Plexiglas panels that we can close when the weather turns. The stand faces south and the overhang of the roof keeps the sun out in summer. As the days get shorter and cooler we’ll keep the doors closed and hopefully the lower arc of the sun will provide a little solar heating during the day.

interior-products in honey stand

Cashing In

At night we take down the open sign, count the inventory, put the protective panel over the doors, and open the cash box (making sure no one is driving by when we do). We can’t help smiling every time we count the money and compare it to the honey that’s gone. We also have a few CBA cookbooks (full of local honey recipes of course) and some small wood crafts that we’ve made for sale along with a note pad and pencil. Some people make comments on the honey stand, some people write down what they’ve bought. We’ll add new things once in a while and see what unfolds as the word gets around.

We plan to keep the stand open until the end of October (or until we run out of honey), and then move it out back to it’s “winter quarters” where it will help protect the beeyard from the winter winds.

construction-stainedConstruction plans for the Stonehaven Roadside Honey Stand complete with drawings and colour photos are available here.

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