Everywhere through Germany, September 2011
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The bicycle-road Main Radweg leads us to the freeway. We saw pumpkins next to the bicycle-road. They are sorted by size, small to big, on top of a rug. Next to them there is a sign with the prices for each size of pumpkin and a money box. There is no salesman. The pumpkin sale is trust-based. Without being controlled the customer pays the money into the money box. The farm Kuhn from Allersheim owns many like this pumpkin-station along the freeways of the country but sells depending on the season asparagus, strawberries or flowers.
We found many flower-fields on our way,
all according to the same principle: trust the customer and save money for sales staff. In Nienburg an der Weser we got to know Anne on the side of a field of flowers. She lives only a few blocks away. Because she waited for some visitors in the afternoon she wanted to buy flowers for the table. “Actually I always buy my flowers here. They are cheaper than the flowers store and not far away.”, she explained while looking for the most beautiful sunflowers in the field.
Especially in the countryside there are plenty of those stands, selling whatever belongs to the season harvest. On our way through the German states Niedersachsen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Hessen and Bayern we found zucchini, potatoes, pumpkins, eggs, milk and flowers all along the trail. Day and night these stands are open, most of the time filled with groceries. Freshness, price and a convenient location are advantageous to the clients.The self picking experience and the possibility to choose the most beautiful flowers and biggest vegetables make the clients feel
proud of having made a great deal. The farmer can cut out staff costs and middleman wages to earn a better profit and offer cheap groceries instead. Apart from that all, the environment is saved because packaging waste and long transports are no longer required. But can all this really work out?
Anne is sure that the sale pays off. She pays 1.80 € for two sunflowers, as quoted on the price list next to the money box. “Of course I pay the full price every time”, Anne explains, “and I think most of the others do so as well. I have never seen anybody here who has left without paying.” Anyway the money box is burglarproof, just in case. Viola from Überlingen writes in an internet forum to point others who want to start their own flower- or vegetable-business in the right direction. “One does not get rich with this business”, she admits, “but it is always a little bit like Christmas opening your box of money. You never know what to expect.”
With her flower-field Viola had had good and bad years. “Once somebody tried to break into our money box, but it was stabile enough to not brake.” She writes. But there are more honest than dishonest clients. Sometimes Violas regular clients send her pictures of their picked flowers. She also receives letters from her clients that forgot to bring money promising that they would make good for it soon. These letters are signed with name and telephone number.
We hardly have any use to cut flowers while we are on our bikes. We did not buy a pumpkin either because we had just filled our grocery-bag, but on the next egg-stand we will definitely stop for breakfast.