If you casually watch television, you might notice various shows and commercials that depict folks perusing through their local farmers markets. It’s pretty much a cornerstone in modern American living. It’s the trendy weekend getaway for friends and family on a nice spring day.

There are many ways that you get your produce out there: supermarkets, restaurants, wholesalers and distributors. However, for some of you, there’s a good chunk of your purchasing base that consists of those weekenders and regular customers who visit your farmstand.

In fact, more than one-third of farm sales ($3 billion) come from consumers: the farmers markets, roadside stands, online and mobile markets. The trend continues to be steady as consumers are continually seeking healthy, high-quality produce. This year, more growers are finding value in reaching consumers through community supported agriculture (CSA) and other food buying clubs.

If utilized efficiently, consumer sales can be a sustainable stream of revenue for your operation.

Don’t know how to start? There have been several growers who are showing others the way of direct-to-consumer sales. For instance, during the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention this year, Robert Muth, of Muth Family Farm in Williamstown, New Jersey, explained to produce growers how he started and maintained his CSA. Muth detailed the highs and lows of working in a CSA framework, but noted how important it was to listen to the consumers and keep up their demand for produce.

There have been many advancements in how farmstands operate, but it still boils down to the basics in business: customer service. Our cover story explores the relationship in a segment of the industry that’s evolving but remains naturally nostalgic.

In the age of instant information and social communication, there is no reason why your operation shouldn’t include a direct-to-consumer vehicle. You’re missing a chance for a lot of one-on-one conversations with the most important person in your business: the customer.