What and where you can sell produce depends on a number of factors. It is against the law (and often breaking the rules of your tenancy agreement) to sell produce from or at your allotment, though some sites do have their own allotment shop, which is generally seen as fund-raising rather than a business. It is generally accepted that you can sell 'surplus' produce away from the site, whether that be to local shops or restaurants, or at a market.
Other things to consider are tax and food hygiene. Occasional sellers won't need a food hygiene certificate, but it is important to ensure the food is safe to eat before selling it, while if you manage to turn your allotment into a business, you will need to register with the Food Standards Agency. Those selling at markets or shops may require council registration so do check before you begin. Much the same applies to tax. Selling surplus crops to friends and neighbours is one thing, but if you make money from market trading or the like, you will need to declare it to the HMRC.
To begin with, it's an idea to sell a few bits and pieces to friends or neighbours who may be only to happy to enjoy some freshly-grown produce. But those who have a sizeable surplus may want to take things further. A great place to start if you're a novice is Crunchd, a social network that allows allotment holders and gardeners to swap and sell produce as well as advice and tips.
Local shops and restaurants are another option. BigBarn's Crop for the Shop initiative links growers up with independent retailers, and offers advice on how to do things properly. According to BigBarn founder Anthony Davison, the producer generally receives 70 per cent of the retail sales value, as credit to spend in the shop, thereby keeping the cash in the community. Cafes, pubs and local restaurants may also be interested in seasonal and local produce.
Alternatively, the growing number of farmer's and country markets are a fantastic place to sell. Stalls are generally cheap to come by, though you may need to pay a commission of around 10 per cent of sales, towards the cost of running the market. Linking up with fellow growers so that you can offer more choice is a good idea.
What to sell
If you are only selling to friends and neighbours, or have teamed up with other growers at a market stall, then it's really a case of the crops of which you have a surplus. But if you are hoping to make more money, it's worth checking out which crops are desirable or expensive to buy.
Local restaurants might have specific needs so it's an idea to build up a relationship with the chef and find out what seasonal fare he or she is after. Some might be searching for specialist items, from herbs to flowers used in salads - if that's the case, look into growing. Other crops, such as pak choi, asparagus, herbs and chillies, can be easy to grow but command a good price from customers.
Ultimately though, it's important to remember that allotments were never meant to be businesses. An allotment is all about community, so keeping any selling local and reasonable is part of the ethos.
Do you sell produce from your allotment? What advice would you give to others? Leave your comments below...