Courtesy of Roxanne C. , Philadelphia PA
Since its launch 10 years ago, SPIN-Farming has come to mean many things. While it embodies lots of food and farming trends, it’s practitioners know it as a profit-driven production system coupled with a business model. That’s what it is meant to be.
If you have come to know it by hearsay, you might be surprised to learn it’s not all it’s said to be. Over the next 10 weeks we’ll do a countdown of some of the claims that should be taken with a grain of salt. Here is # 6.
# 6. SPIN-Farming uses set pricing of $3 per unit or 2 for $5.
There is no set pricing in SPIN-Farming, but there are pricing strategies which are outlined in the learning series. There are two other rules of thumb to keep in mind on pricing:
>>>80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers
>>>If 20% of potential customers don’t pass you by complaining your prices are too high, you aren’t charging enough
The exact percentages above aren’t important, but the points are:
>>> you need to capture whatever percent of the market that is willing to pay you what your produce is worth, not the largest
percent of the market
>>> you need to charge pricing that makes being in business worth your while, and hold to it (of course you have to back it up
with quality products)
An important point to understand when it comes to SPIN concepts and processes is that practice overrules orthodoxy. SPIN farmers are master rule breakers – especially rules of their own devising!
With SPIN’s mix and match pricing, customers can grab and go…just ask Rex Landings of Cackleberry Farms.
# 7 SPIN-Farming is just annual plants.
Perennial crops are frequently used on SPIN farms. They are used in areas that might be difficult to put into annual production, such as perimeter areas. Perennial crops are usually low maintenance so they are also used on multi-locational farms that are over extended. If you have a lot of land in play these types of crops reduce the amount of labor needed, and make overall farm operations much more manageable. Many can be sold through multiple sales channels, and can be worth a lot of money – $1000+ per segment. Examples of perennial crops include horseradish, mint, rhubarb, raspberries, sunchokes, strawberries. There are many, many others.
That is the point – to have as many options as possible, and be constantly changing them up. SPIN farms are comprised of annual, perennial, and even foraged crops. Crop planning is mix of both strategy and serendipity To be successful you need to be a reality-based farmer, not a rules-based farmer.
There are many reasons to include perennial crops like rhubarb in a SPIN crop repertoire.
#8 SPIN-Farming is Square Foot Gardening. Pictures are worth a thousand words.
Square foot gardening.
SPIN-Farming on 2,500 sq. ft.
To turn garden-size spaces into farm-size income you need to maximize your growing space in order to produce significant volume. But SPIN-Farming goes far beyond space utilization. It also includes professional grade harvesting and post-harvesting practices, an operations management framework and a business model. Its aim is to achieve progressively higher levels of revenue, with key benchmarks provided.
# 9: SPIN-Farming is urban farming. It doesn’t have to be. SPIN-Farming can and is practiced wherever there are markets to support it. It greatly reduces the amount of land needed for commercial crop production, so the land base a farmer needs is no bigger than some backyards, front lawns and neighborhood lots. In fact the land base for many SPIN farmers is backyards, front lawns and neighborhood lots. It is also non-mechanized and does not use harsh chemicals. So it is particularly suited to densely populated areas since it eliminates the conflicts posed by larger scale agriculture. However, its core concepts of relay cropping, land base allocation, workflow practices and direct marketing are practiced on suburban and rural farms as well.
Some SPIN farms are in rural areas. Some SPIN farmers even use a tractor!
# 10: SPIN-Farming teaches how to farm.
It doesn’t. It teaches how to make money growing food. Rather than duplicating existing farm education programs that focus primarily on agricultural practices, SPIN-Farming provides a financial and management framework for having business drive the agriculture, rather than the other way around. It works much like a franchise, without the cost, conformity or complications.
A common complaint from beginning farmers is they invest years of training for a job that barely pays. SPIN’s online learning programs and membership in its online support group is a low-cost, low-risk alternative. You can find out quickly if you’re cut out for farming without taking on the traditional farm commitments of owning lots of land, investing piles of money and making a big lifestyle change. You get just what you need to know to start, without being overwhelmed by knowledge that is more appropriate to acquire later in your career. The money you save from not having to commit to more elaborate programs can
be invested in your farm infrastructure, which, following the classic SPIN approach, is simple and affordable.
By making farm startup fast and easy, SPIN-Farming opens up the profession to many more people who otherwise wold not think it was an option for them.
Next Up: # 5: SPIN-Farming is yardsharing.