A farm takes vending out of its urban setting to sell fresh eggs
By Naomi Szeben
In a picture postcard setting, the Misty Mountain Farm is set with the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains in the background…and a cashless vending machine that dispenses eggs from its roadside stand. Normally, vending machines are a seen as an urban creation, made for dispensing big-city needs, but as the Poortvliet family found, it has an application for farmers, too.
“We had a safe they couldn’t take out of the stand, but the slot where you’d slip in the money was at most, an inch and a half wide, but thieves would get in there with screwdrivers and sticky glue. They’d dip screwdrivers into glue and jam the screwdriver in the slot and whatever would stick, they’d pull out,” stated Kristin Poorvliet.
Poorvliet insists that the majority of the customers are “awesome” some would even pay more than the advertised price to help the family compensate for the theft. “Sometimes, it was eighty bucks a week, or more than that. People were creative about getting at that money, and when they couldn’t get at it anymore, they’d go for the eggs.”
It was after a trip to Europe when her husband, Willem Poortvliet, returned with an idea. “He noticed that a lot of stuff was getting sold out of vending machines. When we decided that we wanted to continue with our roadside stand, it popped into his mind, ‘what about a vending machine?’
“We started doing some research online,” recounted Poortvliet. We looked into ones that we could have gotten shipped straight from China, but that was quite expensive.” At that point, Willem started phoning around to a number of Canadian vending companies, and reached out to Nick McLaren of Langley Wholesale Lt.
Together, they worked on refurbishing a vending machine that used to sell soft drinks, and as Poortvliet noted, it cost much less than having it built and shipped from overseas. “They refurbished it to fit egg cartons.” The project to refurbish and customize the vending machine so that it was fitted with an elevator that would provide a safe descent for the carton of eggs, took a total of 3 months. The couple tested the device with Langley repeatedly to ensure the device and the eggs, would work. From concept to fully functioning device it took approximately two weeks.
The pair bought an 8 foot shipping container and had it installed on a concrete pad, and had their electrician wire it for lights and heat in the winter. A lick of paint later, The Egg Shack was hatched.
“It didn’t take a long time for Nick to figure out how to space the coils in order to fit our cartons. he did a lot of tests, he didn’t want them to roll. They’re extra large eggs, so there’s a lot of weight; we tested hundred of dozens – we’ve never had one crack. It’s a soft landing.”
“A lot of people thought it was great. We also had a lot of older, fifty-plus people who buy our eggs from the community resort of Harrison Hot Springs. Quite a lot of them who had never used a cashless egg-vending machine before and they were quite intimidated by it. They thought it was a crazy, hard-to-use sort of device.”
Since the machine is cashless, there is little incentive for thieves to take cash; this also presents better security for both the eggs and her family. Poortvliet fills it once in the morning, and has the rest of the day to herself, instead of hiring someone to man the farm stand. She’s grateful that she has made the choice to go with a local company, as she realized she was unsure who or how she would reach out to anyone for tech support had she chosen a company from overseas.
Poortvliet eased resistance by providing demonstrations during the day, “most people, now that they know how to use, love it.” She added a personal touch that was easy for even the most technophobic to use: “I didn’t really want to put my phone number by the vending machine, but I have a mailbox by the machine, with a notepad and pen, and if people were having issues, they could leave me a note with their number, and I would call them back and show them how to use it. It took a couple of months, but I rarely get any notes, anymore!”
This innovative use for farm-fresh goods may be unusual, but Poortvliet feels this was a good decision. “We knew that it was the best option for us. Surprisingly, people did find it hard to use, but they just overthought it. I think it just looked intimidating, so people may have thought there was more to it. It’s running smoothly now, for sure, adds Poortvliet. “People just have to dare to step outside the box and just try it.”