Sweet! Corn season produces roadside stands

The Bishman family sells corn and other vegetables they grow from a spot along the east side of Highway 169. Pictured is Erin Bishman with her kids/salespeople; left to right are Reece, Berkley, Estin and Wes.

Princeton – Travel along rural roads and Highway 169 in Princeton and Milaca this time of year yields the familiar, anticipated, seasonal sight of sweet corn and other farm-fresh vegetables for sale. Erin Bishman and her four children set up shop on the east side of Highway 169, where she said they typically set up Thursday through Sunday.
She said, “Every morning we go out about 5:30 a.m. and just pick and pick.”
On any given day, that usually includes sweet corn as well as tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini, peppers, potatoes and more. Erin said they grow about five acres of sweet corn and one acre of other vegetables.
They eat some of the produce and sell some to local restaurants. The Bishmans have been setting up a seasonal vegetable stand for several years, but last year was the first year they set up near the highway using a friend’s driveway.
Erin said the small-business venture has been great for her family, especially her eldest son, Estin. His siblings Berkley, Wes and Reece also help with the stand, but their mother says Estin is the most ambitious when it comes to salesmanship.
His mom said the veggie-stand responsibilities have been a tremendous confidence builder and have enabled Estin to excel in school, whereas he used to struggle. She said since he’s been doing the summer work, his school-test scores have improved dramatically.
Erin said he is the one who came up with an idea to offer a “value pack” every day, which is a package deal on several vegetables. He decides how to price it and what to offer each day. Estin writes all the pricing information on a white board and hustles out to each car and truck that stops to show drivers the sign and explain the pricing.
He runs to get what vegetables people want, bags them and delivers them to the car window, where he takes money for the sale. Estin said lots of people tip him a little for the service; the most he’s made in tips for one day was $37.
The family conducted some market research last year and realized the best sales happen Wednesday through Sunday. They will occasionally open on a Monday if it’s a holiday weekend, or if there is ripe produce that needs to be sold.
The family has a greenhouse in which it starts all its vegetables from seeds. Erin said there has been more than enough rain for the season, so much so that it has “wrecked” some of the onion. Their stand consists of a colorful banner, the family minivan and a trailer.
“This year has been so cold vegetables are taking a long time to ripen,” Erin said about growing this year.
She said the vegetable stand is a great way to work together as a family and that the customers love to see the kids working. The light job teaches them valuable skills such as math, marketing, reading, presentation and more. Their mom has observed how the little business teaches them one of life’s most valuable lessons, too.
Erin said, “I think all four kids have learned how hard it is to earn your money.”