# 1 Success Factor No One Talks About

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA

Soil building. Sustainable growing practices. Eliminating waste. These are what new farmers obsess about. They’re overlooking something that has a far more important impact on their business. No matter how good a grower you are, your farm’s success is dictated by something you can’t always control, and don’t think too much about until your gas bills start coming in or you start nodding off at the wheel. It’s distance to market.

Even if your market commute isn’t taking a big toll on your expenses or health, it’s a key business factor that needs to be weighed when considering new or different markets, or figuring out how to reach your revenue goal. Here is your key decision:

Longer drives to bigger markets with greater revenue versus shorter drives with potentially less revenue

To help you decide you need to calculate gas expense, commute time, and hours spent at market for each type of commute. Here are some of the trade-offs:
  Longer drives require that you are able to reach your revenue benchmark and has to justify the gas expense

  Short distance drives means less gas expense, but also maybe less revenue

  You might have to go to several short distance markets to meet revenue, but that means more time at markets

There are no easy answers to this crucial question, but not addressing it means your farm business is less likely to go the distance.

 Don't assume a long commute isn't do-able or worth it. And yes, farmers are commuters too.
Don’t assume a long commute isn’t do-able or worth it. And yes, farmers are commuters too.

LEARN THE BUSINESS OF GROWING FOOD FROM FARMERS WHO KNOW HOW TO GO THE DISTANCE IN THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP. FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP WHEN YOU PURCHASE ANY SPIN GUIDE

Best Tool for Beginners: Cash Flow

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

Many beginning farmers who enroll in our learning programs already know the standard operating equipment of a SPIN farm – a cooler, tiller and seeder. An important tool they haven’t thought about is cash flow.

Cash flow is crucial for any small business, and it’s variability is a source of a lot of stress. One of the main objectives I had in creating the SPIN-Farming system was to make cash flow more steady and consistent.

One way to do that is to get off to a strong start early in the season. Being first at market with crops gives you early cash flow, before many other farmers have even started harvesting. It also gives you a jump on establishing regular customers. Examples of some of my early season crops: carrots,radish, scallion, spinach

Your crop repertoire also has to be diverse enough to support sales through mid and late season. So you need to aim to have a wide variety of crops,,consistently, as long as your season lasts.

Another way to achieve steady cash flow is to plan for it. That’s why important factors in SPIN’s business planning process is setting a revenue target and determining the number of your marketing weeks. Divide the two to get your average weekly revenue target. That’s your cash flow, and by tracking it each week, you can gauge your progress and be able to make adjustments as you go along to keep you on target, or change your targets, if need be.

Maintaining cash flow is among the most stressful parts of any business, but farmers have a lot more control over keeping it steady than they realize. They just have to plan for it, by thinking through their production strategically, and applying SPIN-Farming’s business framework. You may not always like the numbers you see, but you won’t be left at the end of the season asking what happened.

SF photo blog $1,000 spring farm stand

Early season cash flow is what SPIN farmers plan for. This is a $1,000 market stand in early May. .

LEARN THE BUSINESS OF GROWING FOOD FROM THE BEST MINDS IN FARMING TODAY IN THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP. FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP WHEN YOU PURCHASE ANY SPIN GUIDE

 

Be Ready to Be Dynamic

Thanks to Ray Derksen,John Greenwood, Darmaris Katt, Beth Hagenbuch and Adithya Ramachanrdan for helping Wally lead last week’s meetup. and sharing their end of the year assessments in 5 areas: crops, marketing, work flow, gear and revenue.

SF photo fb Taking Stock 5 members non holiday aThe main theme was in-season revamps to farm plans are now the rule rather than the exception. SPIN farmers are constantly having to change throughout the season in response to food trends, customer tastes and competition.

What that means for 2018: 2 plans – one that is “core”, based on predictable, steady best sellers. And another that is a flex plan, based on more niche, experimental crops that can be changed out quickly throughout the season. Real-time analysis and record keeping are more important than ever. Lots of software out there to help you do that.

Flowers are a blooming trend, along with farmers having to take a more active role in building traffic to their farmer’s markets. Finding motivated labor is a key challenge, and controlling costs is the top 2018 priority. Lots more insights on the current state of the backyard farming business in the replay. Now playing 24/7 when you log in here.

How Long Can You Keep SPIN-Farming?

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

Over the 10 years I’ve been doing SPIN-Farming workshops this question comes up at just about every one. SPIN-Farming is certainly more labor intensive than riding around on a tractor all day. And I know I’m not getting any younger, so the age issue isn’t going away.

SF photo blog Wally selfie young

Eventually you get too old to do anything, and that’s true for many vocations. Based on my experience, I would say going into your 60’s you should be good, if you’re in decent health. If you’re obese, then probably not. My wife Gail is in her early 60’s and works harder than people 30 years younger. But she is starting to feel it.

This is where SPIN-Farming concepts can really be put into play. You can adjust your intensity level and crop repertoire. I don’t think anyone in their 60’s wants to do a Curtis Stone-type intense greens production regime. Instead, you can skew intensity levels to 1 and 2 type production. Or maybe even do just 1 type production, or specialize in one crop, say garlic.

Once you get into your 60’s and 70’s many have supplemental sources of income, so they are not relying on SPIN-Farming solely for their bread and butter. When you’re younger, yes, you can be full out earning 6 figures at the top of SPIN’s revenue benchmarks. As you get older, not so much.

You can cycle through SPIN’s four models of operations many times throughout your life, ramping up and dialing back your business, depending on circumstances. As you get older you might change from full-time year round to part-time year round or part-time seasonal, with non-intensive production. If you’re multi-locational, you can give up the plots furthest from home base and start downsizing. SPIN-Farming is readily adjustable to the energy you can you put into it, and totally predictable because you can quantify the rewards you’ll get back. It’s up to you to make the calculation on how, when or even if, to quit. When those outdoor plots get to be too much, there’s always the den or basement.

GET TIPS ON HOW TO MAKE FARMING EASIER ON YOURSELF FROM SPIN FARMERS ATALL STAGES OF LIFE IN THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP. FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP COMES WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY SPIN GUIDE.

Welcome to No Trace Farm

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA

This is a situation SPIN farmers try to avoid. Even though the yard owner wants to champion it, and there’s no law against it, front yard farming isn’t always a good idea. Controversy feeds the media and sells newspapers, but it works against building a business. In your face farming isn’t healthy for anyone, and sometimes even when you’re right, you’re in the wrong. .

So remember when you are starting and operating an urban and suburban farm that backyards minimize conflict, fences make good neighbors, and farm diplomacy ranks up there with soil maintenance and food safety as a best practice.

Read more about farm diplomacy here. 

SF photo blog no trace farm

It is much easier to farm without distractions or discomfort, so the main objective is to have your farming activities be a non-issue.

GET MORE PRACTICAL ON-THE-GROUND ADVICE FROM THOSE WHO ARE OUT THERE MAKING MONEY FROM GARDEN-SIZE PLOTS (USUALLY IN BACKYARDS) EVERY DAY. IN THE SPIN ONLINE GROUP. FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY SPIN GUIDE.

 

 

How SPIN Farmers Are Building Their Own Supply Chains

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA 

It took several generations to dismantle local food supply chains but SPIN farmers like Mary Ackley, owner/operator of Little Wild Things City Farm in the heart of DC, are rebuilding it pretty quickly, without Trump-size infrastructure investment or government policy changes. All she’s using is some off-the-shelf e-commerce software that keeps her business open 24/7 and offers just-in-time ordering and delivery.

The software that powers her business wasn’t even designed for a local farm business, but with a little tinkering, which farmers are great at, she integrated Shopify with Trade Gecko and a few apps to get it to do what needed to be done. She says the most-used feature is same-day delivery by Postmates courier. So not only does her business shorten the food supply chain, it improves upon the old one by producing just what chefs need, when they need it. No waste. Steady production. Highest quality product. Dependable relationship between farmer and chef. Steady cashflow.

Here’s how it works, and here’s how new farm businesses are being created a lot quicker than most would think possible, even if it is one SPIN farmer at a time.

GET MORE IDEAS ON BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL FARM BUSINESS FROM MARY AND OTHER SUCCESSFUL FARMERS LIKE HERE IN THE IN THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP. FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP COME WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY SPIN GUIDE.