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Pick-N-Pay Honor System Works
When customers stop by to pick veggies in Tom Lopez's pick-n-pay gardens, they are trusted to pay for whatever they pick. Flags in the garden indicate which veggies are ready to pick, and a slate board is revised every day. It indicates what is ready, where it is in the gardens, and what to pay. People pick and leave their money behind.
"The honor system is a giant plus for us," he says. "People love that someone trusts them at a time when everyone seems to be at each other's throats. Most of our customers are working middle class, and they want to be fair. Sometimes they will throw in a little extra, just to keep this resource here."
Lopez and his wife have used the system for the past five years. Each year they have doubled production and sales with no advertising. The system has allowed them to learn as they grow without a lot of cost.
"We started out incredibly small and grew each year," he says. "There is much to learn, such as what to grow and when to start it. Each year we get sharper."
Today they plant about two acres of vegetables on their rural Colorado farm. Lopez stresses the low-cost gardening enterprise isn't a big money maker for him and his wife. But it has other benefits.
It helps draw traffic to the farm's pick-your-own orchard and horse boarding operation. They also have free range laying hens and rent out a facility for weddings and other special events.
"People stop by to pick some vegetables and stay to buy some eggs and pick some fruit," says Lopez. "They see the stables and may ask about boarding a horse with us or see the reception hall and may hold a wedding here."
Lopez owns 120 acres in total. Much of it was once hay fields. While he still has about 50 acres of hay, every year more and more of the farm is in trees. In addition to the one acre orchard of apples, pears, cherries and plums, his wife Kristin plants between 300 and 500 new trees a year.
"The place doesn't even resemble what it once did," he says. "This spring we are adding 300 asparagus plants. Perhaps eventually we will expand to a volume level where we can justify hired help to work the garden stand, but for now this works fine."
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Lone Hawk Farms, 10790 N. 49th St., Longmont, Colo. 80503 (ph 303 776-8458 or 303-956-3866; admin@lonehawkfarms.com; www.lonehawkfarms.com).

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2010 - Volume #34, Issue #3