In the countrysides of Tokyo, you will find a retail concept devised by farmers. These are unmanned grocery stalls on roadsides that you might pass by if you weren’t carefully looking. The stalls, called mujin hanbai, are simply put together by farmers who want to sell the leftover, unmarketable produce that hasn’t been bought by the local markets.
In some stalls, the fruits and vegetables are simply laid out in baskets with cradboard signs that give the prices. Customers choose their wares and then simply put their payment in a tin box that is much like a piggy bank. This honor system style of retail is not uncommon in many rural parts of the world, where the sellers trust the unsupervised customer to pay.
On the other hand, there are stalls that are like grocery vending machines. The leftover produce is placed inside a locker style vending machine that requires customers to pay honestly. The machines are also equipped with ventitators that keep the produce fresh.
There are more than 120 mujin hanbai’s in the countrysides of Tokyo and here’s a useful map detailing all of the stores.
Small scale American farmers might do well by taking a leaf from the Japanese farmers. It’s a great way to cut down on wastage and excess costs. Vending machines that sell fresh produce on the streets of New York? Definitely a sustainable way to sell groceries.