Can My 2,700 Sq. Ft. Garden Support a 20 Member CSA?

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon

SPIN farmers are starting to plan for the 2015 season, so let me share a typical Q&A that might help you in starting to look ahead.

Q: I have 54 2 ft x25 ft SPIN beds. Nest season I am hoping to subscribe 20 families for $20.00 worth of produce for 25 weeks…mid-April to mid-October. Is that feasible from this amount of space?

A: I would say your plan is very do-able, and I see no reason why you couldn’t achieve the $10k revenue you are targeting. Here’s some tips on how best to go about it.

  • For a CSA you need a steady supply of produce to satisfy your families, from spring until fall. This means you need consistent weekly production of a variety of crops.
  • You can relay crop the entire area, about half in intensive, and half bi. That will ensure steady production production throughout the entire season, and it should be managable by one person.
  • Make use of crops like chard, which is many people know how to use now, and which can be planted once, and harvested throughout the entire season.
  • You need to have a strong spring line coming on stream sometime in May, or even earlier. This means plantings of classic crops like lettuce, onions, radish, and spinach.
  • Instead of using SPIN’s standard size beds, you might consider using short beds for your production purposes, which might put your weekly production for some crops more in line with your weekly demands. A short bed is 10 feet long and 2 feet wide. If you planned your production on the basis of short beds, you would have 100 beds to plan with.
  • For instance, a short bed of spinach should yield 20 1/2 lb. bags, or 20 bunches of radish. But working with standard beds will work also, especially if you are thinking of generating a surplus of produce to sell at a farmer’s market.
  • If you have not already, consider buying an upright produce cooler,especially if you are a solo operator. It will make your workflow much more manageable because you can harvest steadily throughout the week rather than having it all gang up the day before delivery. This could be a make or break investment.
  • Use SPIN 2.0 Crop Profiles guide for production planning, to figure out which crops to plant, and in which quantities, in order to achieve the necessary yields. It contains in-bed plant spacing, seed required per bed, seed cost, yields per bed, among other data,  for 40 SPIN crops. You can use it to plan out your relays to be sure you have a wide variety crops, in the required volume, throughout your 6 month CSA.

There is a bigger point to made here, and that is the potential to use a backyard to achieve specific financial goals. This person can gross $10k in 2,700 sq. ft. in a season. Think what that money could be used  for. Maybe an exotic vacation. Or finance a wedding, or build up a college fund. You don’t have to commit to a full-time career change, or give up the opera for crickets, to make money growing food. You don’t even need to don a hair shirt. A microgreens vest works just dandy.

SF photo BUG Farms micorgreens vest Peggy Helvig Alspaugh

photo courtesy of BUG Farms in Salt Lake City UT