Why do we use computer scales?

by Bob Bowen

When we started in the farmers market, we sold chickens and meat with a small (and CHEAP!) set of table scales. They weren’t sealed for retail sales but no one caught us. And we kept checking them to assure us that we were being fair. And we tended to charge to the nearest 1/4 pound under the mark.

Well, as we grew, I was trying to figure how to make more money without raising the prices of our products and realized that if we charged the exact amount or the weight being sold, we would probably make a lot more.

One night, we sat around and figured if we sold 6,000 chickens a year (which we were) and we missed the real weight by 1/4 pound a bird, that would mean we weren’t getting paid for 1,500 pounds a year. And since we were getting $2.00 a pound, that meant we were losing $3,000 a year. Not a bad raise for doing no more work!

We ordered a set of dual power scales (battery or 110 volt) and we have used them for three years. Since we now sell 8,000 plus chickens, 400 turkeys, and over a ton of sausage a year, you can imagine how much we are making from these scales!

They cost us $400 at the time and can be bought for about that now. I wouldn’t think of being without them again.
Anyone selling products that have a high price and are sold by weight would benefit from accurate weights. And they figure the selling price also.

Now for the register!

On our farm, there are now my wife and I plus an apprentice or two that have products at the farmers’ markets. We used to try to keep track of each sale, but for us, that didn’t work well. In self defense, my wife bought me a dual power cash register that has ten departments that can be assigned to people or products. That way, we each have a number and the sales are run into the machine. It totals the sale and assigns a code to each item. At the end of the market, I just hit the report button and it spits out a tape with the totals of the sales by dept. Then we can pay everyone what they are due and life goes on. The only drawback is that the register can’t be in the rain. And direct sun for hours will fade out the numbers for the duration. We just keep it in the shade or the truck. The scales can take light rain, but I wouldn’t overdo it.


In our case, we do four markets and found that we could go all summer with two sets of batteries as long as we managed them. No customers, no power. Finally, I ended up buying a power inverter from Radio Shack and plug them into it. It runs off the truck battery and works great. This unit costs $70.

If you do much, these items will pay for themselves fast! I do miss the easy way we used to work. But this was a good raise.

Bob attends the Ellsworth, Deer Isle, Blue Hill and Stonington Farmers’ Markets.

About Leigh Hallett

Leigh has been Executive Director of the Federation since 2014. She can be reached by email ([email protected]) or by calling the MFFM offices (487-7114).