Running Very Profitable Self-Serve Farmstands (FSFS234)

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When you’re farming, getting creative with your choice of produce and your marketing strategy is one of the things you might have to think about.

In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart, we’re talking to Joel Konrad of Konrad Farm Markets who primarily sells pumpkins. Their pumpkin business initially began as a summer job with the goal of raising enough funds for his sister to travel abroad. Because of the success, their pumpkin business has seen, they’ve since continued growing pumpkins to this day where they now farm on 11 acres of land and selling it for six weeks from September to October 31st.

Joel’s business model is both interesting and simple: he rents out spaces on busy streets and sets up self-service farm stands made of repurposed metal trailers. Despite the model’s simplicity, a few things go into the planning: choosing a well-populated street, choosing a property with good visibility, enough space for multiple cars to park at a time, and a safe spot to turn around.  When it comes to pricing, their method is equally as simple: eyeballing—largely dependent on the sizes rather than the weight.  

His farm stands being self-service, there are a few drawbacks such as having some pumpkins stolen, which can’t be avoided. Joel doesn’t mind too much about the occasional, stolen pumpkins especially since the number of honest customers greatly offsets the ones who steal. Another setback was the stolen cashboxes in their first few farm stands, which they learned to improve over time until they decided to weld the cashboxes to the metal trailers.

With 11 acres that yield a hefty amount of pumpkins, Joel would occasionally worry that they might not sell everything, but year after year, they manage to sell the majority of their pumpkins in the last 3-4 days leading up to October 31st, which accounts to roughly a third of their sales for the entire season.

Joel also says that since growing pumpkins require minimal input and effort, they’re definitely worth considering as a market garden crop to help extend your season.

Apart from his multiple farm stands, Joel admits that he also considered opening his pumpkin farm as an attraction, but since he found that at least three other farms in his area are already doing the same thing, he figured that it wasn’t worth it to try and compete when his current business model works very well for him.


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FSFS 234 - Joel Konrad

Diego: [00:00:00] So Joel, how did you first get interested in growing pumpkins?

Joel Konrad: [00:00:04] It wasn't so much that I got interested in growing pumpkins, but when I was actually eight years old and my sister who's a few years older than me was going on a trip to Romania to work in an orphanage over the Christmas break.

So she had to raise $2,000 before she was able to go. And since we lived on a back road and we had access to land. My parents have a farm, so we decided, let's try growing some pumpkins and just selling them at the side of the road and see if we could raise some money. So that first year we sold about, or we planted about a quarter of an acre, planted them by hand, did everything by hand. That was our summer job.

And then came come the fall time we sold them. And at two little roadside stands that year. One at our farm and one just outside a little town nearby. We sold $2,000 worth of pumpkins pretty easily. So then, after that, the next year she went on the trip and that was great. Everything was covered.

And then the next year we started, it worked pretty good. Last year. Let's start adding a little bit more. So we planted a little bit more than a quarter of an acre and the same thing. We sold little pumpkins easily. So every year after that, we continued to grow bumpkins and sell bumpkins.

And since we live on a back road, And there's not a whole lot nearby us. It's hard to have a summer job or something like you can't go and work at the Tim Horton's or the grocery store. So when we were growing up, my sisters and I were growing up, we just grew pumpkins and that was our summer job. And then the fall time we sold them and that was what kept us busy.

it started that way. And then over the past, I guess that's. Almost 15 years ago now in 23 and then probably in the past three or four years, we've really expanded and put up more stands and made it a bit of a bigger business now. So that was how it began. And so far we keep on selling out. So we're going to add a little bit more again this year and see what happens.

Diego: [00:01:42] So starting with a quarter acre, where are you now in terms of just how much land you have in production for straight up pumpkins?

Joel Konrad: [00:01:48] Yeah. So now we do about, just under 11 acres of pumpkins and that includes, so that's a lot of just the regular orange pumpkins, but then there's also some white bumpkins and pies and gourds and, a few of those other little random, similar, like vine crops like that, but just under 11 acres is what we're doing right now.

Diego: [00:02:05] So that's pretty big growth over the past 10 plus years. And it's been sustained as a business, which is cool to see, some people try it a few years. They go through high school or whatever this, I don't want to do this. What has attracted you to this? Is it the idea of the business? Is it growing? Do you just love pumpkins at this point?

Joel Konrad: [00:02:28] Yeah. Through high school, What attracted me to this business? Through high school, it was definitely the fact that it was a good job. And, like I said, I couldn't work other places. It was a long bike ride to get anywhere else. So it just made sense.

Let's keep on growing pumpkins, but then around grade 12, where my first year after post-secondary school, I took a year off and. That's where we started to really expand. So we weren't very big for many years just going with the status quo. And then after I took a year off and that was about the year that we really started to sell a lot.

And I think at that point I was like, we've got more stands now. We've got good locations. It would be bad to go away to school. Why would I want to go away to school and get some degree in something that I don't know if I'm going to ever get a job in it when I love farming and I love pumpkins and I'm going to lose all my customers, lose all my location.

So at that point I decided, okay, I'm going to stay nearby and keep doing pumpkins. And, I didn't really necessarily know what I wanted to do, but I loved farming and parrot and quota. there's nothing, there's no easy access for me to get into large scale farming in our area. The land is expensive, just everything is expensive.

So this pumpkin business, it's actually been a way for me to get into the farming world, but just something that I love. I love farming. I work on other people's farms sometimes, but just wanting to have my own farm. This has been my way in. So being able to keep it going after high school finished and into university, it's been a great little business and now it is my way of contributing in the farming world.

Diego: [00:03:51] Yeah, I love it. If watching the movie of this business from eight years old to 23 here today, take me to the point where you decide, okay, this stand we have on our farm is not enough. We need to do something different. Okay. We pause the movie there. What's the thinking.?

Joel Konrad: [00:04:15] Yeah, the thinking is why is this stand not very good and how can we make it better? How can we grow this a little bit to sell a bit more? So the stand at our place at my parent's farm, there's maybe three cars an hour, so there's not a lot of traffic on that road. And maybe our neighbors will buy a pumpkin and it's just not a very good stand. So then was the second stand that we had, just outside of the town called Alison.

That was a good one. At the time that was a good one. It was a fairly busy road. So the thinking was okay, where can we put more stands? How can we keep on selling more? And we just realized that it all came down to location and. What we've now, what I now consider what it's called annual average daily traffic.

That's the data that we use to decide where stands go. that's the key information for where do we put stands? How do we get this thing going more?

Diego: [00:05:07] Because the unique thing about you or farm stand business is, and this is why you messaged me is a lot of farm stands. When people hear that they think stand in front of their farm. And you started with that. You had a stand out in front of your farm. But you quickly realized if you want to do more sales, if you want to expand and grow, you need more farm stands while you're obviously not going to add more farm stands in front of your property. So you went out in the community. And you found other places to put your farm stands.

Joel Konrad: [00:05:38] that's right.

So yeah, it started off that we would just look for any sort of little driveway on the edge of somebody's property, or if they had the little entrance into a field, let's put a stand there. We didn't really pay attention to how busy the roads were too much at that point. But we just, anywhere that we could possibly think of to put a stand, we would try it.

and we didn't actually get very creative at the time and we would just probably stick to people that we knew and try to figure it out. Okay. Would they possibly let us put a stand on their property? but then we decided, okay, if this thing is growing and if we're on busier roads and more people are stopping, we need better spots to stop.

So we started looking for a different criteria that would be good for spots. So is it safe for the people to turn off the road and can they turn around while they are off the road? Is it easy for me to unload pumpkin's at the spot? is the visibility good? Like just the simple questions that we had to ask.

Trying to think of where the stands go. but you're right. So we can't just sell it our farm because we don't have the traffic and it's a lot of work to, you gotta have something that's attractive for people to actually drive out of their way to the back road to come to your farm. And yes, it would be good to have a, or there's an option to have like.

But some animals and a petting zoo and make your farm an attraction, but that's not really what I was going for. So it just made sense. Okay. We're going to be looking for better locations in other areas in world, we'll do the driving for people and make it convenient for them to set up stands nearby them like near close to towns.

Diego: [00:07:01] One of the things that you mentioned in terms of identifying a site was the annualized traffic data. Can you talk about what that is and is that something that's publicly available? Is that something you're compiling? You need to sit out in the lawn chair and just watch traffic go by an account cars.

What is that? And how have you found that data to be useful?

Joel Konrad: [00:07:25] Yeah. So that's a good question. And I don't personally sit up there and track the data and track the cars that drive by, but all the different townships and counties around us, they have that information. they track how many cars are on the roads at a certain section of road every day.

And then they make that available to the public. Some places you actually have to buy it, and then they sell you the data, other places it's available for free online. And typically you have to do a little bit of digging, but what I've discovered is, or before we even start to look for a stand I'll look for the data, find the data.

And then, so let's say for example, Simcoe County is where I live in Ontario and I'll look on the Simcoe County map and find any stretch of road that's above. Let's say 15,000 cars. And then I think, okay, so in this section of road, there's 15,000 cars, let's go drive it up and down the road and see if there's potential for, a stand.

So that's how, that's my process of finding stands. But as far as the data goes, what I've figured out is that, and it's not a perfect science, but usually I can sell just over. In terms of dollars, just over half, as many cars that drive on that road per day, I'll have that in sales. So let's say there's 26,000 cars on one road.

I have a stand on that road. I sell about $13,000 at that stand in a year. And that's. Fairly consistent over most of the stands. There's a couple that are outliers, but that's fairly consistent that the traffic data I'll be able to sell approximately half as much, in sales.

Diego: [00:08:52] So the great thing about this is you can do this remotely.

And I go back to my early days before I. Really got into any sort of prior career. I was really trying to get a career in real estate and that's how a lot of people were prospecting houses to do renovations and stuff. You do it remote. So the beauty of this is you can sit at your desk over the winter, identify these roads and you only then have to drive and look for locations where the data looks really good.

Joel Konrad: [00:09:22] Yeah. And I'll even take it one step further. Is that okay? With Google maps. I can literally drive up the road at street view and just see what it looks like before I even have to go out. So some of these roads, I have my daily habits and I don't typically travel a lot of these roads. I know that they're busy roads, but I don't necessarily know what they all look like.

So I can go on street view. Move up and down the road and look for spots. Then I at least have an idea of what I'm getting into when I go to drive down the road to actually find a spot, but then finding the spot that also becomes a challenge as well as securing the spot. I should say.

Diego: [00:09:55] Are there any times where traffic is just to a false indicator? Like you could have a lot of traffic on run road, but for reasons beyond, like there might not be a site available. It's just not going to work?

Joel Konrad: [00:10:11] Yeah, I've got one stand like that. Now there's a couple of reasons that. Might work, but so there's one road nearby. I've got two stands on the road, actually, probably about 15 kilometers apart.

And they're in two different towns. This the road goes between two towns. One is, outside a city of about a hundred thousand or 130,000 or so. So it's a pretty big city and I'm just on the outskirts of that. And then on the other end of the other end of the road, it's in a smaller area, but it's a busy road, like there's over 20,000 cars a day.

One of the stands. Does great. So we figured, okay. So when, if I get, if I can only secure a stand down, farther away, It would also be good. So last year was the first year that I was able to find a spot farther down. And I know another guy who sells, he has a sweet corn business, and I know that he sells a ton of sweet corn at his place.

And I'm just a little bit further down from him. And for some reason, this pumpkin stand was not a good one last year. So it could be that it was just its first year and it takes people a little bit to notice it was in a little bit of a sketchy driveway, but it was far enough away from the building that.

People would feel, I would have thought people would feel safe stopping there. He was well off the road. So I'm not exactly sure why that one did not pan out as well as I thought it would. but it could just be, it's a first year thing and it takes a little bit for people to get used to it. So cause typically the stands will grow year over year because you got your customers.

Most people are happy and they'll come back plus other people will see it. So I'm not exactly sure what happened with that one, but I'll probably I'll do it again this year. Just to, if it flops again. Maybe I'll stop, but it's still a few thousand dollars and it's not far from home, so it's an easy one to keep going, but I'm not sure.

Yeah. So I don't know exactly, but the traffic data isn't perfect. But over the course of history, it's been a pretty good indicator of what's going to happen,

Diego: [00:12:02] Which is a great tool to have in your back pocket because it saves you a lot of time and you can really fine tune upfront. It at the stage of the prospecting process where you're going through Google maps at that point, are you just looking for what's on this road?

What are locations that could potentially be worth looking at so when you go drive you have some Xs on the map per se?

Joel Konrad: [00:12:26] Yeah, exactly. So I'm looking for places that are pretty open and pretty visible. Do they have a big enough driveway that if there's a couple people stopped at a time, there'll be enough space for them.

Can they turn around once they're there? Because if we're on busy roads, we don't want people backing out directly onto the road just going to become a liability issue. what else do we look for? Basically just the visibility. Is it a safe spot to turn around? And is it a busy stretch of road? Those are ideally, what we would have.

Diego: [00:12:56] Does the stand itself require a certain amount of flat land or is it on just posts? So you could work with whatever you're dealing with in terms of slope.

Joel Konrad: [00:13:05] Yeah. So ideally it'd be pretty flat because what I've done, all of our stands, all the stands look the exact same. So it's a pretty easy a system. But what we've done is taken old house trailers like camper trailers, stripped them down, or you can always find like on Kijiji people, I've stripped down these camper trailers to adjust the frame. so it's just a little metal trailer. And then I'd build the stand onto that.

So when I pull them out with a truck, I just pull this, pull the trailer along behind me. That is the stand and I drop it at the light. So it is definitely better if it's a flat spot, I can't really work very well with Hills just because the stand is a trailer. So it's got to be pretty flat

Diego: [00:13:41] For visibility, what are the important factors there? Like close proximity to the road? Like how close you are to the road. And then also probably you want people to be able to see it. Coming from both directions as they approach the sand. So the kind of the further away down the road they are and gets, they'll see the stand the better.

Joel Konrad: [00:14:03] Yeah, that's right. So that's exactly it. When you're coming down the road, you want to be able to see it. You want to be pretty close to the road or else like you just don't notice a lot. If it's too far off the road, now, the good thing is that pumpkins are orange. And if the stand has 250, 300 pumpkins on at a time, then that's pretty eye catching.

Like people will notice that when they drive by. So that's the good thing that pumpkins have going for them is that there's the bright color people notice them. But for me, it's definitely being able to see it from a ways away and, being close enough to the road that. When they drive by, they're like, wow, that is a ton of bumpkins.

let's stop there. You want to be able to catch their attention as they drive by. And if it's far away off the road, I think you just lose some of that.

Diego: [00:14:44] what it really reminds me of the model is driving through the Midwest last year. And I can't remember if it was Wisconsin or if it was in Indiana that I saw a lot of these, but there was just a ton of firework stands around the 4th of July, our independence day down here in the U S.

And there was certain brands that were just all over now. Those were obviously staffed for certain reasons, but they had this distributive model of, we don't just have one location and they're in Walmart, parking lots and there. Alongside the road at farms and stuff. But after awhile, just me passing through there, you started to identify brands.

So I can imagine you having stands all over these counties in this area that all looked the same over years, like you've became this brand and people are noticing it.

Joel Konrad: [00:15:36] Yeah. So some people, some of my friends will joke with me, you're the pumpkin King. Like there you're all over the place and it's true.

Like you go, I have people just ask me if they see me at a stand or something like these are self-serve stance. I don't always get to talk to a lot of people, but if I'm unloading pumpkins, they'll be like, Hey, do you have that stand over? Like on that road? And. Like people put it together that wow, these stands are all over the place.

So it feel for the Mo for the average person that stops and buys a pumpkin, it's okay, that's good. I'm supporting a farmer, buy straight from the farmers, those supply, but this way there's stands all over the place. So it's a pretty big thing in the like altogether, it's a pretty big thing, but then each little individual stand has its own little group, but people see the connection between all of them. So it is handy that way.

Diego: [00:16:21] In terms of visibility, you talked about. Stands that there's a lot of orange they're inherently in the pumpkin's. People can see that for people who are driving by and they seen all these stands. Do you need wording up there? Do you need to specifically spell out pumpkins?

If I'm looking at one of these stands as I'm driving down the road, is it light? Is there a billboard type thing to it where. I'm reading words in addition to seeing pumpkin's.

Joel Konrad: [00:16:52] Yeah. So what I have is, we try to keep the words to a minimum just because. People don't read signs that great, even when they're stopped at the stand, find that data's don't follow instructions very well.

So we try to make things pretty simple. So at each stand there's a big orange pumpkin that we've just cut out of a sheet of plywood. It's probably four feet by four feet. Big orange, pumpkin on it. It's a self-serve that's all it says. So people get the idea, pumpkin serve. I can stop and buy. Cause I think if they didn't have the self-serve Simons, people would be like, okay, there's nobody there working.

I guess I can't buy pumpkin right now. So that's the first big sign and that's in front of the stand, like directly in front of the stand, up the road on each direction. We just have a sign that says, fall decorations ahead. And that's probably about a hundred meters either way of this, either way of the stand.

And then on the stands themselves, all we have are the different piles. The trailer is divided into three sections, so there's different sizes of the pumpkins on the trailer. And then there's piles on the ground. Each one is just labeled like $4, $6, $8, whatever the price is, that pile has that. And then a little sign that says, please pay here with assigned to the money box, a little arrow to the money box.

So we try to keep it to pretty minimum amount of, words on the stand people just. If you say, if you try to explain too much through writing people, don't get it. And it just confuses people. Even when we are there on loading pumpkins, people will be confused. Like where do I put the money and just put it in the money box.

It's fine. but it definitely does say self-serve at the road. I think that's the most important one. People know that they can stop anytime.

Diego: [00:18:25] I love the simplicity of it all and just keeping things clear, communicate really well in the fewest words possible. It's brilliant, how you guys have come up with this.

When you're looking to set up this stand and you've identified the location, so you're going to need to park a trailer there. You're going to have piles of pumpkins. You're going to have some signs, a hundred meters in either direction on the property. Knowing that and your identify new location I want to put a stand here this year. If you don't know the property owner, like you don't know them personally, what is your process to try and secure that spot?

Joel Konrad: [00:19:05] Yeah, it's a bit of a challenge. A lot of people don't necessarily, I really want something on their property, which I understand, but literally we just have to go to the door or track down the owner.

So there was one place that we started out last year and there was no house on the property. It was a great little spot to turn around and just a random, little open lot on a busy road, but there was a billboard on it that was advertising. And they said, if you want to advertise here, call the number.

okay. That's all the contact information that we have for this place. So we call the number on the billboard, say, Hey, we don't want to advertise in the billboard, but would you be interested in renting the lot for selling pumpkins for the season. and it goes from there. So thankfully those people did say yes, they were quite happy with it.

They, Oh, we love pumpkins, they were great for it, but most of the time when you just approach someone, you go to the business, you go to the house, like you knock on the door, try to explain what you're doing, who you are, what you want. Most people, even if you're offering them some money for it, we'll say no, just because it's easier to say no.

Why do I want pumpkins on my property? Why do I want people stopping on my property? It's just an easier thing to say no to. but I think that's what I've learned is that you got to keep on trying, you got to keep on finding more locations, find more people because eventually someone's going to say yes.

So eventually we found one person on a great road, set up a standard, his property. And he happened to have, two other properties, that we�re also set up on. You just keep on trying, you keep on finding it. You're going to get 10 nos before you get a yes, but that one, yes, could be worth 12,000, $14,000.

So you got to keep on at it, and not get discouraged with the no�s, but that's is the process. You literally just go ask them, what are you doing? they're gonna want to know a little bit of information, but that's what it is. And hopefully somebody will eventually say yes and that's what happened every year.

It happens. We try a bit more, just get more creative with. Could we make this spot work somehow if we mowed all that grass down and could we make that work? Eventually people do say yes, but you got a lot of no's before that yes.

Diego: [00:21:01] Do you just get right into the pitch? Have you found that works like straight up? Hey, would you be interested in renting some land? Here's what I do. so they know right out find that you're not selling them something more, you're rather trying to buy something from them. They're you're trying to give them money.

Joel Konrad: [00:21:17] Yeah. Like you go up, introduce yourself, say our local farmer where you live. Just gives that little bit of a human connection that sometimes that can soften people up. You like people like to support a local farm, you use the word local, people like it. yeah. Just give them a little bit of context of who you are and then yeah.

What you're looking for and when. The good thing is that we do offer them money for rent. So I'm one person. I know that for many years he always had us and he just was honestly appreciative of the extra money. And there's some people like that. They just they're happy for the extra bit of income. So it's great.

But yeah, you just got to honestly tell them what you're asking for. If you don't ask, you never know, and just be straight up and honest with what you want. And sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

Diego: [00:22:02] What time of year do you need to rent the stand from?

Joel Konrad: [00:22:06] Yeah. So I start picking pumpkins on labor day weekend, which would be the last weekend of the first, last weekend of August, early September.

and I asked them, can I set up usually in the first week of September? there's a lot of stands to set up those. So it would go into the second week sometimes, but, first, second week of September, right until October 31st Halloween. So that's actually, the busiest day of the year is Halloween. We sell the most amount of pumpkins.

So the entire month of October and half of September three quarters of September. Yeah.

Diego: [00:22:35] Okay. So six months or sorry, six weeks out of a year. Not very much of a commitment for that person. What do you offer when somebody wants to rent it out? If they want to, when you go to offer somebody rent on that for just that short period of time, in that small amount of space, what have you arrived that works in terms of price?

Joel Konrad: [00:22:55] So mostly we pay around 250 or $300 for those six weeks. now the past couple of years we've started to go on some like really busy roads. So we know that those stands are going to be like good stance. So we've been willing to pay them more money, 500, 600 bucks, but it's still. If you can make $14,000 on your stand and you're paying $600 for rent, like it's a, no-brainer why wouldn't you do that?

Because A, they're so hard to come by. Like it's so hard to find a good location. So if they're willing to, you should be willing to pay a little bit for it as well. And yeah, like I said, 600, 300. It's not a lot of money for renting for the stand. It really just depends on what the location is. if it's a smaller road that I'm targeting, I don't want to be spending a lot of money on the stand, but if it's a busy road I'm willing to spend a little bit more.

Diego: [00:23:47] And that's a pretty good return then. obviously you have to do the work to raise the pumpkin's throughout the year, but to do $15,000 in sales, or I don't know, on the lower end, a few thousand dollars in sales over a six week period for not having to manage those sales on a transaction by transaction basis. Pretty good.

Joel Konrad: [00:24:12] Yeah. Yeah. A lot of people will ask, so you do self-serve stands. I say yes. And they're like, how does that work? Do people actually pay? The thing is, most people, if you talk to your family members or your friends, most people are honest people and would pay. So obviously some does get stolen, but it would be costing a lot more to hire somebody to stand at all 10 stands all day, for those six weeks, like you'd be spending 40, $50,000 in labor, like paying somebody to stand there when you can do it self-serve and still make good money at it. So it's just the way that we decided to run this business and it's working out well.

Diego: [00:24:47] Let's talk a little bit about pumpkins themselves. What are the economics of raising pumpkin's regardless of where you sold them? Let's say you can sell everything you raise. Can you go through about here's how much time and labor we have into raising them at the end of the day, that translates into this much cost. And we can sell a pumpkin for about this much per unit of weight or about this.

Joel Konrad: [00:25:18] Yeah. So in the spring, we use pretty small equipment. So my OPA had an old farm all six 56, like it's just a 70 horsepower tractor and it pulls a disc that is maybe 10 or 12 feet. So it's a pretty small piece of equipment, which is annoying. But at the same time, it means we don't have, we're not financing a big tractor or anything. So our cost for equipment is pretty minimal because we have it all.

It's just old and it just keeps on running. So that's fine. so there's a few hours in like work in the field in the spring. Planting. We usually actually get a lot of neighbors� kids, a lot of friends to come out for one afternoon. It usually takes if we get enough people, we have a little barbecue, order some pizza and have a little planting party and it takes probably three or four hours to plant all the pumpkins, which is a pretty economical way to do it because.

We don't actually pay everybody. We just, everybody likes to come out and work on the farm for a couple hours. They got a good meal and that's it. So planting is pretty straightforward. The seeds themselves are expensive, so we're reorder them. I just ordered them a couple of days ago. It was about $2,200 for, the seeds, Then I put fertilizer on the fertilizer, let's say is 500 bucks.

no, probably a thousand dollars. I do spray for weeds. So herbicide that usually comes to about $2,000. I'm just thinking of the bigger expenses here. So the fertilizer, the spray, the seeds. those are really the three big things. So the seeds that say $2,000, a fertilizer, a thousand dollars, that's 3000, then the pesticides, another 2000 all, and that's 5,000 over

Diego: [00:26:51] Is that over 11 acres or per acre?

Joel Konrad: [00:26:55] Yeah know, over 11 acres that's everything. And that is, that's like the seeds we planted for that cost, the fertilizer and the pesticides are sprayed for that cost. the accompany comes and sprays them for us. So that's all work. That's just done. Those are the costs for them. there's the rent that goes our fixed costs that we have every year.

There might be once everything is done. So there's other things like the straw, like we sell straw bales on the stands. We sell corn stock, bunches. Those all have a fixed cost to them. Cause I don't grow them myself. I make the straw bales, but I have to buy the straw as well. but all in for fixed costs, usually it's between eight to $10,000 to grow, to do every, to run the stands and everything.

Those would be the fixed big expenses. And then there's always. Extra expenses, like last year, just buy some thrower wagons for more straw, bought a baler. Like when you buy equipment, it's just one-time expenses and you just, you have that cost, but it's not overwhelming. When you're thinking about, if you have 10 stands, you make eight, 10, $12,000 on the stands, whatever it might be.

It's pretty minimal to grow the pumpkins and they're pretty, they're not. if you do it well, and the weather cooperates and everything, like they, they're not terribly difficult to grow.

Diego: [00:28:07] Yeah. So on, let's say $80,000 in sales, round up your cost to 15, pretty high profit margin. Let's say you had to pay for all that labor to do the planting. Even if you doubled your costs up to 30. You're still well over two times in terms of profit margin.

Joel Konrad: [00:28:24] And the busy time of year, like it's really only busy in the fall because in the spring, yeah. You spend an afternoon disking and cultivating the field and getting it ready to plant, and then you plant for a few hours with the kids and that's fun and that's great.

And then during the summer it's they're sprayed. So they only work during the summer during the growing season is. If the pesticide happens to not work, the herbicide happens to not work and you have to hold the field. Yeah. That's a lot of work to get rid of the weeds, but it's a necessary job, which we do sometimes get, we like to keep the weeds down in the field. It just makes the pumpkins better. But it's not a ton of work once they're planted and growing. It's not a lot of work until the fall time.

Diego: [00:29:03] where you're at. Do you have to irrigate those or in rain? Just take care of that.

Joel Konrad: [00:29:08] Yeah, ideally we would irrigate, but we don't have access to any sort of irrigation pond or a river or anything. Back in the day when we only had an acre or two acres, we would fill up a tank on the back of the truck, like my dad's truck, and we would literally take bucket fulls. And then I got smart and I bought a little garden pump and hooked up a pump to that thing and used a hose. And so we did use to vary. In a not-efficient way, your gate, the field. But now when you've got eight, 10, 11 acres, like you just, you can't physically do it by hand. So we do rely on that rain.

Diego: [00:29:45] At the end of the day. What do you look at in terms of yield? what's the yield metric? Is it pounds of pumpkins? Is it, do you divide them into categories? Like small, big, large. If somebody, what I'm trying to get at is if somebody grew one acre of ornamental pumpkins, what's an expectant yield?

Joel Konrad: [00:30:06] Yeah, it's hard to say because our stands, like we can't track the inventory or anything because we load up a trailer full of pumpkins and we usually put about 250 pumpkins on a trailer.

Take it to the standard, drop it, but there's such a variety of sizes of pumpkin's. they would usually say you would maybe get a pumpkin per plant. But it really depends. If you got a big pumpkin, that's technically equivalent to two smaller pumpkins. So it really there's just so much variability to that A pumpkin with per plant would be good. Half a pumpkin for plant. I think we're probably closer to half or three quarters of a pumpkin per plant that we plant.

Diego: [00:30:42] And how many pumpkins do you get or how many plants do you get?

Joel Konrad: [00:30:45] Roughly per acre? We usually get about 1500 or 2000 plant or pumpkins or plants. So then we are hoping for, let's get a pumpkin per plant, but like I said, it doesn't always work out. And then there's a lot of stuff like the weather that will impact how many pumpkins you get, or if it's a super dry one, you're going to get more little pumpkins and fewer big pumpkins. So then it looks like you're growing more pumpkins, but you're just getting a million, little tiny pumpkins.

I would rather get bigger bumpkins. You can sell them for more money. So there's just so many. There are a lot of variables that come into play to determine how many pumpkins you get per acre. But they would say if you get a pumpkin per plant, that'd be great.

Diego: [00:31:26] Out here, there's a self-serve pumpkin patch and it always looks like, come Halloween. They still have a ton of pumpkins in the field yet. They no doubt sold a bunch of pumpkins. Do you have a sense in terms of what percentage of the pumpkins grown, you're selling. I think that's important because obviously you want to over plant, you want to have more than enough pumpkin's and it's probably better just to let nature compost some pumpkins than it is to come up short. So what do you think you're selling in terms of what you're growing?

Joel Konrad: [00:32:08] Yeah, so on our farm, there's never been a year that we haven't what we would consider selling out of pumpkins or so sell out of pumpkins because at the end of the season, like on October 31st, all of the pumpkin's from the field, unless they brought it in the field, which is a very small percentage. All of the pumpkins from the field are gone onto the stands.

And at the end of the day or on November 1st, when we started to clean them up, there might be like 20, 25 pumpkins left on the stand, which is good because you don't want to have. Literally zero pumpkin's left because that means we could have sold more. So if there's a few pumpkins left, that's good.

But that also means that we've been collapsing a few stands. So we will, on those busy days, at the end, if a smaller stand still has a lot of pumpkins and the bigger stands are selling like crazy, we'll get rid of the smaller stands, like we'll take them down a couple of days early, move all those pumpkins to the bigger stands to keep them going, because there's a better chance of them selling at those big stands.

So we would consider like last year, the same thing every year before that the same thing we basically sold out every year. we always do out a few more pumpkins, like a plant, another half acre plant, another acre. but we always do sell out and that would be because the stands are growing as in people are stopping more.

but also if we add another stand every year, then, you're gonna be able to sell another couple acres or another acre on that stand. And if it's a good one, you can sell quite a few more. So it's a hard one, but you can. The places that you're thinking about, that would have the pick your own, they are making a lot of money on just getting an entrance fee to the field, or like they might have a lot of pumpkin's leftover, but you can sure.

You can be assured that they've done well as well. But on our farm, we do like to plant more than we would think we need, but we've always run out. We just, we've never been able to, we've never had a ton left over in the field, but you always think you're going to have a ton of leftover and then come those last three, four days of the season. It's unbelievable. How many sales, like almost, a third of the entire season sales come in the last three or four days before Halloween.

Diego: [00:34:13] That's amazing. Probably stressful. The first time you go through that, but now you just realize that's how it works.

Joel Konrad: [00:34:18] Yeah. And every year you're thinking like looking at last year's numbers, you're like, there's no way we're going to hit that target. There's no way that's going to happen because you're looking out in the field, you see all these bumpkins and you see the numbers in front of you, but then somehow it happens and you sell them.

Diego: [00:34:32] Is a very rough formula, then two to four acres per stand?

Joel Konrad: [00:34:40] Yeah, that's pretty rough though, because the big stands will sell way more. Like I said, one of the good ones last year, might've sold $14,000 and a slower stand might've sold 3000. So obviously the bigger stand is going to take way more pumpkins, but then there's also, like I was saying, we sell bales of straw and we sell corn bunches, like corn stock bunches for people's front porches. So those things we do sell quite a bit of that, quite a bit of those products as well. but yeah, it's. If that would be a really rough formula, but there could be some merit to that.

Diego: [00:35:16] If you look at all your stands at the end of the year and you rank them highest to lowest, what do you do about that bottom core tile? Do you see them as they serve a function? You're not manning those stands. If they do $2,000 in sales. Great. It just helps the total, but they're not really advancing the cause that much. Maybe they're covering your costs of the whole operation. But do you go back and say, this $2,000 stand on main street.

We need to improve that. Let's see if we can find a better location, a better road to reallocate those resources somewhere else. Or do you try and improve that stand�s sales somehow in a different way by not moving the stand by just doing something different at the stand?

Joel Konrad: [00:36:02] Yeah. Yeah. That's something that we think about every year and we think, why can we not make these stands, sell more pumpkins? And, then the thought is, okay, did we just get rid of the stance so we can focus on the big stands and keep them like really stocked? Like the thing is that when you're keeping 10 stands full, by the time you do some on Monday morning come Wednesday or Thursday, they need to be restocked again.

So it's always a process. So then we would be thinking, okay, if we don't keep it smaller Stan stock, that would give us more energy to keep the big stand stocked. And then maybe we would sell more that way. But if we work hard and if we can keep them all stocked, so then we hate to say goodbye to a stand and just let it go because the smaller ones are typically going to be close to home.

Like we don't, we're not going to travel. We're not going to haul pumpkins 20 minutes away or half an hour for $2,000, but if there's a stand that's, we can get to in eight minutes or 10 minutes and make the $2,000, then it's worth our time. Just go and do it. It's annoying. You don't collect a lot every time, but you still make those sales. So it's worth it in that time.

And then when you think about how do we make it better? it's a hard question because. We're doing the same thing on those stands that we're doing on the big stands. So they've got all the same products. They've got all the same size of trailers. The loads are the same.

They look the same. So then I think it really just does come down to it. Doesn't have the same traffic and it's never going to be a big stand. So then you just have to be okay with, okay, we're going to make 2,500. We're going to make 3000 here. It's going to be good.

Diego: [00:37:30] When, let's say after last year, we're going into about planting time for you for 2020, if you look back at 2019, is the thought every year to add new stands, are you in growth mode at this point where you just keep wanting to add a few more new sands every year? Or are you okay with where you're at?

Joel Konrad: [00:37:55] Yeah, I'm in growth mode. There's another road around here that I'm definitely targeting. I'm thinking about trying to, we have an idea of where we could put a spot. Now this coronavirus is throwing off some plans, but, we do have other roads in mind. And so we're definitely still in growth mode. And I think if it came down to it, when we have maxed out what I can work on and some people help me, When we've maxed out what we can handle.

Then I think at that point we would consider getting rid of those smaller stands to focus on the bigger stands. If we could have all of our stands make 10,000, $12,000. And that would be great. And we're slowly getting towards that. Like we have gotten rid of some smaller stands over the years is that they're just making peanuts.

So we get rid of those, but, Yeah, we're definitely in growth mode looking for more bigger stands. We're not looking for a stand just to put on any little street. Cause I think it's not that hard to find locations, because there's a lot of, okay, there's a lot of smaller roads that could hold a stand, but it's just not that not as much worth your time.

So we target the bigger roads, so we are trying to grow. but just focusing on the bigger roads is where we're trying to grow. So we are looking to grow. And it's just, like the process that we talked about earlier, finding those locations,

Diego: [00:39:12] Knowing you're not going to need those fans for another five months, mid-September. When do you want to have those locations secured by?

Joel Konrad: [00:39:21] Ideally we would do it pretty soon. we typically leave it till. The summer, mid July, August. I think people aren't really thinking about pumpkins too much. Like they're not really thinking about anything in the fall at this time of year. So they're like, why would I agree to having pumpkins at my place?

it's just not even on their radar, but come summer and other farmers have stands out and it's just something that's more on their mind having different roadside businesses going like that kind of thing. we usually leave it more towards the summer to start talking to people again. And then it's a bit of a scramble, so I'm not sure what the best time would be to that. Maybe we shouldn't do it earlier, but we've always left it to the summer.

Diego: [00:40:01] Give us some quick pumpkin pricing math here. When you go to price of pumpkin, how do you come up with how much to price it? And is that price that you've charged? Have you found that's been pretty stagnant over the 15 years or have you raised it?

Joel Konrad: [00:40:17] Yeah, I know we haven't raised our prices, but what we typically would do is, so the pie pumpkins, we've always sold for $3 for a pie pumpkin. That's a smaller pumpkin, a little bit bigger than a softball, or maybe two softballs. If you think of that size, then a nice average sized pumpkin that you typically get at a grocery store.

We would typically sell for $5. then slightly bigger, $6. Then we go $8 and $10. To think about it. So when you pick up a pumpkin, the $10 ones, you pick up the pumpkin and you think wow, this is heavy. That's how we would price a $10 one. If you think about it, it's a little bit less. but still a big, nice, solid pumpkin.

We didn't usually do. That was $8 and then six and four, but it's not an exact science. And what we do on our stand is we would never put a $5 pile beside a stick's dollar pile, because then people are going to be thinking like, there's not much of a difference here. Why would I buy the $6 when I can buy the $5?

And it's true because it's not an exact science of how we price the pumpkins. It's just, we really are doing an eyeball test and wow, that's a really heavy, big pumpkin. Let's price it more. but if you have the $5 pile. Beside the $10 pile, then you're like, wow, that is a big $10 pumpkin. And then maybe beside that, you have the pie pumpkin's and then cause those are small and then decide that you have the $8 pumpkins.

So if you spread them up and put the small pumpkin, besides the big bumpkins, it just makes a stand like, you can see the variation in the pumpkin sizes. Whereas if they were all sitting beside each other, like the $4 pile would look pretty similar to the $5 pile and that would then blend into the $6 pile.

Like it's just. It's hard to draw the line of that's a $5. That's a $6, but when you set up your stand in such a way that the pumpkins are in different areas, like not beside a similar size pumpkin, that's how we can get away with not really having an exact science of pricing.

Diego: [00:42:04] I know you're selling most of everything that you're growing, but where do most of the pumpkins land, just in terms of they're in nature, they're growing, where do they fitting in the size category?

Joel Konrad: [00:42:19] in terms of what do you mean? if,

Diego: [00:42:21] when you harvest, let's say you harvest 11 acres all at, once you start dividing them up into your size categories, what pile is going to have the biggest pile?

Joel Konrad: [00:42:31] Yeah, that's a good question. I would say typically a $6 pile is going to be a big pile and the $8 pile. And that really just depends on the type of pumpkin that you grow, like the variety of seeds that you purchased and plant, but you can buy pumpkins, you can buy seeds that would plant all $4 size pumpkins, or we could plant all pie pumpkins and they would be a very uniform size, but this is the type of pumpkins that we are planting and the variety.

This would be, it's like a, supposed to be a fairly large sized pumpkin. So six to $8 size. And then the variability and the $5 pile on the $10 pile comes in the fact that some of the pumpkins from that type get really big. And those are the $10 size and some underdeveloped, a little bit, they got a little bit less water.

Like whatever happens when it's growing, they do a little bit less. They grow a little bit less. And then that becomes our $5 and $4 size. So the $6 pile and the $8 pile are typically pretty big piles of pumpkins. but then there are also. Just ones that get abnormally big and abnormally small, they fill up the rest.

that's usually how it goes on the farm, but then also a dry year might mean that overall we've got fewer big bumpkins and more small pumpkin. So it does depend a lot on the weather as well. But on average, if everything works out well, we'll have a lot of six and $8 pumpkins.

Diego: [00:43:44] Do you get a sense of five and 10 dollar pumpkins sell more because you only are paying with one bill. Does that play into it at all? I know the stands aren't man. So it's really hard to tell.

Joel Konrad: [00:43:59] Yeah, that is a hard one to tell we can. Yeah, it's hard to know. Like when you go to the stand and the $10 pile, the $10 pile always looks depleted. People love the big pumpkin's, but at the same time, that could mean we only had, let's say 15, $10 pumpkins, but we had $45 pumpkin's out.

So we might've sold more $5 pumpkins, but that's that pile still is going to look pretty full because, there was just a whole lot more pumpkins to begin with. So then if you look at the $10 pile and 10 of those are gone, You only sold 10 of those bumpkins. He might've sold $25 pumpkin's but the $10 pile looks so depleted just because they're bigger bumpkins.

They take up a lot of space and if a few are missing, that pile looks smaller. So it's hard to know. There could be something to the fact that it's easier just to pay with it's five or 10, but it's hard to know for sure, just because we don't have a lot of communication with the customers themselves.

Diego: [00:44:50] just looking at pumpkin's themselves, what are your thoughts on a market gardener, listening to this, hearing the economics of pumpkins and saying, okay, I have some extra land that I want to try and grow pumpkins on. Do you think this could be an add on business? I'm seeing it as it's less intensely managed than your typical market garden of somebody who's growing salad mix and other market garden type vegetables.

But a lot of people have market gardens. They have that intense half acre, but maybe they have five acres of property. You do an acre in pumpkins less work in, maybe you get that seasonal boom. And that also helps your farm in other ways, too?

Joel Konrad: [00:45:36] Yeah, exactly. I would definitely be inclined to try it if I was what you're talking about, like growing beans and salads and everything like that, I would definitely be willing or wanting to try pumpkins, but I wouldn't don't expect success immediately.

I figured out how to grow pumpkin as well and how it works and other people's areas might be different, but it's definitely something to consider growing just because it's something later in the season, it extends your season a bit. and yeah, once you figure it out and once you know how to do it, it's definitely worth it. And I would try, I would say try it for sure.

I've considered growing like smaller things that you've talked about and it just. It doesn't attract me as much as the pumpkins, but I would definitely, if you've got the extra land, try planting an acre and see what happens. Try setting up a stand, but don't expect your stand in the first year to sell $10,000, be happy with $2,000 at a smaller stand. And if you want to try it again the next year, try it. But I wouldn't be expecting the first year you grow pumpkins, you're going to sell $50,000 worth of pumpkins.

Yeah, there is no get quick rich scheme and the pumpkin's, it's no exception to that. I don't think you're thinking that either, but, there's definitely still work involved. You gotta work for it.

Diego: [00:46:51] I think that's totally fair. And I'm in agreement with you on how somebody could approach that. What about the distributed farm stand model? How well do you think that might translate to a longer season where it's not seasonal, which the seasonal makes it special. It's w it's one time a year, the pumpkins have high visibility. Maybe there's not a lot of people selling them. If somebody was looking to do this type of model or say you were, so you were into the smaller vege, and even if you were buying it from local other local farms, Do you think you could push your stands, open them in July and over July, August, and September be selling other types of produce in this same distributed farmstand model?

Joel Konrad: [00:47:50] I think I could, but I think it would be a lot of work. I think the stands would work and, you could make some money at it. But the good thing about pumpkin's is they don't have a shelf life. So a lot of the smaller vegetables, you can't leave them out on the stand for three or four days. Cause they're just going to go bad.

Your salads will wilt and everything. It's not going to be as good. So you'd have to collect this stuff at the end of the night, or just hope that you're selling it that day. the good thing about the pumpkin is I can go to a stand, unload the pumpkins and leave them there for three or four days. And I know they're not going to go about it.

No nothing is going to happen to them. So it's all fun and games. It's great. But if I've got, if I've got perishable things on the stands, then I gotta be a little bit more careful. And then the other problem that I think about. If I was growing it myself, I would be in more inclined to try it. But if I had to purchase it from another farmer, that's already eating into some of my profits.

And then also I know some will get stolen on the stands. Like they're not perfect. Some will get stolen cause they're self-serve. So then I making even less. So then I have to start thinking about, is it worth my time to drive around to all these stands keeping them stocked because these vegetables, ideally you'd be stocking them like pretty frequently.

You would hope that people would be buying them. But I'm also not sure exactly how it would work. Like the pumpkins, like you said, are a novel thing. They come around once a year. It's great. Sweetcorn is a similar thing in the summertime you get sweet corn. It's a great treat for everybody, especially around here. The vegetables that go all year long. I'm not exactly sure how it would go on a whole bunch of stands. I know there's some people that do it and it must be working for them, but I haven't been able to figure out in my head how I would make it work. in a similar way yet to the pumpkins.

Diego: [00:49:33] But sweetcorn and asparagus are two crops you're looking at growing. So let's say we just look at sweet corn. If you, when you roll that out, how do you envision that fitting into your current model?

Joel Konrad: [00:49:48] Yeah, so I've got a couple of sweet corn stands right now and. Here's how I envision it. I would keep the busy stands, the stands on the big roads or the stands that I would keep going. I would probably not do a full 10 sweetcorn stands. I might do five or six sweet corn stands and pick stands. In a smart location. So for example, my loop of pumpkin stands. It might take me two and a half hours to drive. If I drove to every sand in a day to collect the money, for example, it might take me two and a half hours to drive all those stands.

The sweetcorn. If I'm doing sweet corn, where I've got to be there every day, or like dropping off new corn every day, I'll probably focus on a smaller number of stands, but make them inconvenient locations. So in the one town nearby. I would probably, put stands there in a little bit of a loop that maybe 45 minutes I can hit up three stands in a row, and make it worth that trip to go out and not go out to my one-off stand way far away.

that's one way that I envision this happening. and that is how I've started actually with the sweetcorn stands. I do have going, they're also, they will take a little bit more marketing just because they're not. It's not a visible, big, visible thing, like pumpkin, that you need to have more signage, I think.

And it's just not as eye catching as pumpkin's. So there is some more to figure out with these smaller crops. And that's the same thing with if you were selling beans and, salad mix and peas and stuff. Yeah. You have to educate the people that you have, those things available. And it's just a harder thing to do. I think it's possible, but it's harder to do. And I haven't quite got my head wrapped around that part yet.

Diego: [00:51:31] for the sweetcorn stands that you have, those are the same stands you'd use for pumpkin in the fall. They're just starting in July?

Joel Konrad: [00:51:39] Yep. And I have a kind of build like a little shed on the back of the stand and, Yeah. So it's the exact same. I use the same trailers. I use the same, everything. I just lift on a shed or lift off a shed. I would take it off of the, pumpkin's put it on for the corn. just to cover it. If it gets rain, I don't want rain in the bags of corn. but yeah, it's similar, stay on location at the same location, same trailer. Just change it up a little bit for sweet corn.

And then I have to similar to the big pumpkin self-serve sign. I use a big sweetcorn self-serve sign and people in this area, love sweet corn. I think pretty much. That's a universal thing. People love sweet corn. So when they see that big sign come out of that, so self-serve, they love to stop as well. I don't know if I would get the same excitement for like beans. If I put a big bean sign up that said self serve beans, I'm not sure it would be as crazy as self-serve sweet corn.

Diego: [00:52:30] I think you're definitely gonna need those key crops to attract people. And tomatoes are something that comes to mind, but they�re fragile. There's a lot of labor in there. There's a lot of costs in there. I'm not sure that's going to translate so pumpkins, corn, that's there's reasons why you see those things for sale. And I guess if you're leading with corn, selling something else next to it in a lower quality to try it or lower quantity to try, it might make some sense, but yet I don't know that you could go out and just roll out the green beans stand.

Joel Konrad: [00:53:03] Yeah, exactly. But you're right. If I've got the sweet corn there already, then why wouldn't I try to sell more stuff with it? it, then it just becomes the whole, I got to buy it from somebody. If it gets stolen, then I'm making even less. So it is really just an analysis of what's it worth to you? Like you have to guess how much you're going to make, make a, make an educated decision or an educated hypothesis of what you're going to potentially sell and decide is this worth it or not to me.

Diego: [00:53:31] So the distributed model may or may not work for the market farm community, obviously location dependent, crop dependent. But I think a lot of people could look at a farm stand for their farm. They could draw a lot of your. R and D your experience out of this episode, and really trying to determine, okay.

Is it worth it to just put a stand out in front of my property? Just looking at that traffic data, maybe they intuitively know it. Is it a super busy street or is it just this lazy lane that a lot of cars don't go past? And if it's a busy street, all those little things, can somebody turn around? Can somebody easily park.

Can you have good visibility in both direction? Can you make it eye catching? And if it's on your property will transit times, not a big thing. You could restock that potentially several times a day. You could have coolers if you want to keep things cool. So really road dependent, I see as that's like the big yay or nay. You have to, if it's on your property, you really have to be on a busy road for that to make sense.

Joel Konrad: [00:54:35] Yep. I would also, yeah, the perishable stuff I would. If I was on a really slow back road still. So like I moved, I now live on my own little farm, with my wife, but if I was on a little back road, I would probably, I would make a stand and I just wouldn't expect to sell as much.

if I was on a busy road, if I was somebody who lived on a busy road already, Definitely started to solve stuff. You're going to make a little bit anyways. Like no matter what people will buy stuff, but it's definitely road dependent. If you own the property, though, you might as well put up a farm, stand at your place, make it self serve.

You saw a little bit will get stolen, but you'll get, you're still going to sell stuff. But my biggest thing is I would never not have a stand at my house because it's a free location and some people will stop. So it's no extra work like urban, it's a little tiny bit of extra work, but you might as well try selling at your own place.

Diego: [00:55:24] Yeah, great point. For self-serve. You're right, you just got to accept some of that's going to be stolen, but I think it is a small percentage. I think that's a big worry in people's heads, but I think if you did the accounting on it, the accounting hit isn't as big as you're thinking it might be or worrying about.

Joel Konrad: [00:55:46] Yeah. I think people are terrified of the self-serve model and the people, when we approached them asking to put up permission for a stand, they also get nervous about a self-serve stand and are people actually going to pay you? And everybody asks, do people actually pay and people honestly, the majority of people are good people and the majority of people are honest people and will pay, even if they shortchange you 20 cents, because they don't have the right change in your pocket.

They're still paying the majority of it. And it's great. A little bit stolen. That's fine. But the self-serve model, I would way rather have self-serve and put more stands up and be able to do it that way than have to pay somebody to stand at the stand all day.

Diego: [00:56:23] In terms of taking payment. What have you found works there in terms of cash boxes? I know I was reading the article that you sent me that was in the local news that you've improved the boxes over time. If somebody's going to get started today, what are some cash box keys?

Joel Konrad: [00:56:40] Oh, the cash box keys are. You will get broken into, that's the first guarantee. And then, after that, I dunno. It's so we started off with a little tissue box thing, and that was great on our little back road, and then somebody took it.

So we decided to put a little tin can out there that's you could screw down. That was great until somebody took it. Then we decided to put a toolbox out there that you could lock and screw down. And that was great until somebody took that. And so everything is going to get taken at some point, but now what we've done is we've got these custom made boxes from a friend of ours and, they've got a couple of different locking systems in them.

And also the big key to this, the way that we do it now is that like I mentioned before, we build our stands on the trailer frame. So like the camper trailer, we use the frame and that means that we have a spot to weld too. So our money boxes we've welded on a little, I don't know how you describe it like a piece of metal basically that we bolt our money box onto. So they can't just go take a chainsaw cut that wood piece of wood. If we had it on a piece of wood somewhere, they can just cut the wood out. And that happened to us lots of times before we changed to these metal trailers. So if it's on wood, they just cut the wood and they've got the money box and they're gone.

We have now bolted our money boxes onto the trailer frame, which is way more secure and. Yeah. If you want to talk about money boxes, there's, we've learned a lot because we, every year we basically make a new or make an improvement to our design. So right now, if you look at our money box, we, you basically can't see any hole where you'd put a key in.

if you look around the money box, there's no hole to put a key in, but then using a heavy earth magnet, there is a place to put a key that you can't see originally. So we've just got a lot of sophistication on our money boxes now, and they�re borderline unable to be broken into. We've got people. You can always see if people try to break into it.

They'll see like broken drill bits on the ground or random bangs on the box. One of our boxes, just for fun, we put a fake lock on the very front of it, right in the middle. if you're gonna try to break into the box, take out this lock, it's going to get you in. So obviously the first thing somebody tried one time when they tried to break into it was drill out that lock.

That locked in nothing. So they just wasted a lot of time and battery power, trying to drill out that lock, which is good for a little laugh for us because they didn't get anything. But yeah, a lot of work goes into the money boxes trying to figure out how to keep them secure. And we basically figure that out now.

So it's hard to describe what they're like, but people can talk to me personally, if they want to get the plans or figure out how we do it. They're pretty good boxes. Now it's solid metal.

Diego: [00:59:19] You guys need a side business of these mystery games that people have to try and break into it. There's a lot of YouTube videos on this, where people are buying these $5,000. Can you open it challenge?

Joel Konrad: [00:59:31] Yeah, exactly. Or a side business of selling these money boxes because there's a lot of people out there who have these stands and everybody's at the same thing. Their money boxes get stolen, but yeah. It's very hard for people to steal our money boxes now.

Diego: [00:59:42] If somebody is listening and they want the money box, maybe they can reach out to you.

Joel Konrad: [00:59:46] Yeah, that's right. Just find me in Instagram.

Diego: [00:59:48] Have you ever thought about putting cameras up at the sites? You gotta have the right conditions, right? There's gotta be wifi or at some I've gotta be hooked up to cellular or it's just recording on like a GoPro onto a card. And I don't necessarily mean for security, like I think you've accepted, Hey, stuff's going to be stolen. It is what it is. It's part of the business. But just to get a sense of when are these stands the busiest what's the actual flow look like at these stands, when a customer comes up, how are they actually approaching?

Are they reading something for a while? Cause I imagine one thing you're lacking in this, but you might have learned this over so many years, is what is the actual customer experience? Are they confused? Cause you're not talking to them. So like you could obviously tell if somebody standing there like looking around, going back and forth, are they trying to have a hard time choosing between A and B? Are they at the payment box trying to read the instructions, scratching their head. Have you ever done anything where either you're just parked there watching or thought about putting up a camera?

Joel Konrad: [01:00:51] Yeah. we've definitely thought of part putting up a camera and we've also had sat and watched people before, which is weird to say, but, as far as the cameras go, it's a great idea. And we've thought about it a hundred times and how can we make this work? We could put up a trail camera, but it's, they've got their problems as well. They're not great for catching. I don't know. The trailer camera will be challenging, but there is no power on any of our stands. there's no way to power a camera, even though it's battery power.

We don't have wifi on the stands like this like you said, all those little hiccups that we can't. It'd be hard to overcome those little things. So we never have put a camera on the stand. as far as security goes, we've put, between you and me and the listeners. We do have some fake cameras on the stands that people.

As soon as we put the cameras up, those fake cameras, they let me put the under video surveillance sign up. People would start putting notes in the box saying this is what I took. I took five, $5 pumpkins and a bale of straw and a corn. They told about their money. And it's okay, thanks for totaling it up.

We couldn't see you anyways, but I'm glad that you were afraid and wanted to pay. That's great. but the number of notes that we got in the box went way up after people thought that they were being watched, which is a good thing. But, yeah, it's really hard to know to get customer data and to understand what they're doing besides the time that we're at the stand.

And we don't have a ton of time during pumpkin season to sit and watch people. So it is a really hard thing. our best time is when we're unloading pumpkins. People always stop at the stands when we're unloading. So you can talk with them there and just see what they're doing and where they're getting confused.

Okay. But, yeah, it's a really hard one. I wish we could have real cameras up and if I could, I would. but right now, and I definitely, this is something I do research quite a bit, how we can make that happen, like using solar and yeah. Yeah. UGI networks, not everything like whatever we could do. I want to try to make it work, but it's a hard thing to do, but I definitely see the value of it. And knowing how your customers are behaving at the stand is a big thing.

Diego: [01:02:44] It's interesting. How, like you said, most people are honest yet you put that subtle hint up there of, if you were thinking of doing something you might be watched and now people are like totally straight and narrow on it. it's a great model and I'm glad it's worked out really well for you. Just looking ahead. I know it's tough with the whole Corona virus situation, but in 2020 here, what's your goal for the business this year, more sands, more revenue overall?

Joel Konrad: [01:03:17] Yeah, I would love to add one or two more stands this year and if I could hit a hundred thousand in sales, that would be great. We'll see what happens. I'm not really sure what's going to happen with the coronavirus. Are they going to allow farm stands, who knows what's going to happen. but yeah, ideally I'd put up more stands. one or two more stands on a busy road would be the, would be a goal for me this year. For sure. And

Diego: [01:03:39] With the revenue you're generating, is this a full-time job?

Joel Konrad: [01:03:44] It could be a full-time job for six weeks of the year, but. Like I said, you don't want to give this up. And, if I took another job somewhere else, I'd be working all year long to make this much money. So it's hard to, it's a hard one. Do I want to give this up or do I want to go do something else?

So right now I've actually just been in school until now. I've just done this. During school, like I would do school and pumpkin at the same time. So this is my first year of not being in school. So we're going to see what happens, but, no, it is my job, but it's my source of income. but I do have a lot of other time in the year as well. I'm all filling my time some way. I'm not too worried about that.

Diego: [01:04:21] that's a good problem to have because even if you compartmentalize all that work into four months out of the year.

Joel Konrad: [01:04:28] Yeah, exactly. And I'll also, it's good to have something else going as well, because let's say the weather just doesn't cooperate in the pumpkin crop is a flop. Then I've still got a lot of other time in the year that I can be working, which is helpful.

Diego: [01:04:42] Just before we close it out. One potential direction you could go in, and you talked about you didn't guys didn't really want to do this. At least in the beginning would be bringing more people to your farm.

Have you thought about the whole idea of turning your farm into that fall fun house? I have a good friend who does that in a different state down here, and they make crazy money with a corn maze and like a little mini carnival and selling pumpkins in 30 days. And they get, I want to say over a hundred thousand people come through there.

Joel Konrad: [01:05:16] Yeah, I believe it. Yeah. It's on the back of my mind. And that'd be a great thing to do, I think. And so much easier than dragging pumpkins out to all these stands, just have people coming to the farm, but in our area, there are already three other, I can think on the top of my head of three other places that do that.

And I'm just thinking to myself, like they already do those really well. Is it worth it for me to try to compete with them when they're already established? They've been going for years and years. I'm not sure. I would have to think of what's going to be my. How am I going to differentiate myself from them and get people to actually come to my road versus going to them? That's the big thing.

There are other ideas in my head like this farm that I've got I'm on right now, it is a fairly busy road and we've got a nice property and a different idea that could be done on this farm would be a Christmas market kind of thing in the barn, like selling Christmas trees in the barn.

Cause you can do A million lights up all over the place. And there's a lot of ways that you can make that really nice. And I'm sure people would come to that. So that type of thing has been on my mind. But as far as making it like a fall sort of festival, I'm not sure yet how I would be able to set myself apart from what these other places are doing, just because they do it so well already.

So that's why up to this point, I've always done the self-serve standard model because this is what I do well, and there's not a lot of people like me out there, and it's working for me right now. So I haven't put a ton of thought into the entertainment part of it, like having people come to the farm yet, just because there's a lot of people doing that really well right now.

Diego: [01:06:50] Not every good idea has to be pursued. And I think you've done a good job at filtering that down and really just saying, Hey, this is. Where my niche is. And there's still sounds like there's still a lot of room in that given niche in your area. So why look to change it up until you've increased that radius so far that you don't want to drive it, but then you can always hire a driver at that point. So I'm sky's the limit.

Joel Konrad: [01:07:14] Also, I'm not sure how. Like when the market is too saturated for the stands, like I said, I've got some roads that have two stands on them. They might be 10 kilometers apart and both stands make like half decent money. So when you think about it, that way, there's still a ton of potential for stands around an area.

And I think anybody who's listening to this, if they get creative and they were to start this, the potential is there. I don't know when your market is too saturated, but I have stands pretty close together that both do well. And it just happens to be that somebody drives this route one day and somebody, a different person drives a different route and they never go on that different stretch or that same stretch of road. So you're hitting different markets or different groups of people, which so far, it's still working

Diego: [01:07:57] To put some things into perspective for people who are listening to this, if they might think, okay, he's outside Ottawa or he's right outside Toronto. If you go put your farm on a pin on the map and you go a hundred kilometers out, which is about 60 miles in a circle, how many people are inside that circle?

Joel Konrad: [01:08:21] That's a good question. There's probably a big radius of me. I'm just trying to think of the big, the bigger towns and cities around us. There's one big town. It's called Barrie and it's got 130, 140,000. That's a big one. I got a few stands around that one, but then most of my stands are in towns around 20,000 people, 15,000 people.

I am pretty close to the GTA like Toronto, but I'm nowhere near. I don't sell anywhere near Toronto. So all my stands are pretty much in a radius of 25 kilometers of me. And just because of Barrie, there are a few thousand, like several thousand people in Barre, but I don't have all my stands in very, I bought a lot of smaller towns and you just happen to hit the big roads, like people, the commuter roads, like for example, highway 400 is a big highway right beside us.

And it goes down into Toronto and a lot of people that commute from these little towns, I've got roads that go onto the highway, like all the exits off the highway, I've got stands on those roads. So that's definitely helpful. But, yeah, there's a lot of people around, but I'm not in a crazy populated area,

Diego: [01:09:29] which I think makes the story even more amazing because I hear those numbers. That's all small concentration of people per given unit of area. obviously you have your home farm. There is 41 acres, so that's farm country. You're not going to have 41 acres in this big rural or suburban area where there's all these houses. It just goes to show that it can be done in a less populated area.

And I think the other big lesson or takeaway for me in this is you don't need a huge population to make a significant amount of money and honestly, population and how significant that is. That's contextual and everybody can change, but I think. Too quick. The reaction is, I'm not near Toronto or Seattle or San Diego or downtown Portland.

It's really tough. Here's some small towns supporting one farm in a unique way, and it's worked really well for you. And because you've been creative and you found this niche that didn't exist, you invented it. But you feel demand that was always there. It was present, but maybe it wasn't being served in the best way.

And the, I think one of the most brilliant things you said was instead of having people have to drive to us, we've made it convenient for them by driving to them, putting the stands, where they drive on the way to work. Near all these highways on the crossroads that lead to the highways. So it's really cool to see that you've done as well as you have in an area like where you're at.

Joel Konrad: [01:11:18] Thank you. It's definitely true. We are providing convenience. Like people are going to buy pumpkins at a grocery store or somewhere else, but if you can hit them where they are and not have to make them come out of their way. It works.

Diego: [01:11:28] For people who want to follow along with everything you're doing, where's the best place to go.

Joel Konrad: [01:11:32] Yeah. They can go to Instagram and look at Konrad far markets and that's Konrad with a K most people would sell it, spell it con, but it's K O N R a D Konrad farm markets. Or they can just find me on Instagram. It's just Joel Konrad or J dot Konrad. but yeah, they can connect with me there and I'd be happy to answer any questions that people might have.

 

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