SPIN-Farming Certification Means Business

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What’s it good for? SPIN-Farming certification doesn’t leave you wondering. Once you’ve earned it, what you’ll have to show for it is a moneymaking farm business. The certification program is focused, rigorous, performance-based and produces a measurable ROI.

Completion time depends on the level you are starting from. Here are the levels:

SPIN-Farming Levels of Achievement

$ Pro 1 (Basics concepts) – Novice ($500 average gross/week)
18 Credits
Covers:                                                                                                                                     >Design
>Production techniques
>Basic, low-cost infrastructure and gear
>Harvesting & prepping practices
>Safe farming practices
Graduation requirement: present the plan that generated $500 average gross/week in revenue- crops grown, unit amounts, sales channels, pricing, number of marketing weeks

completion of this level signifies a novice farmer

$$ Pro 2 (includes 2.0 concepts) – Apprentice ($1,000 average gross/week)
21 Credits
Covers:                                                                                                                     >Equipment investments
>Land base allocation
>Extended marketing period
Graduation requirement: present the plan that generated $1,000 average gross/week in revenue – crops grown, unit amounts, sales channels, pricing, number of marketing weeks

completion of this level signifies an apprentice farmer

$$$ Pro 3 – Experienced ($2,000 average gross/week)
12 Credits
Covers:                                                                                                                                   >Work rate
>Cropping strategies
>Crop repertoire
>Extended marketing period
Graduation requirement: present the plan that generated $2,000 average gross/week in revenue – crops grown, unit amounts, sales channels, pricing, number of marketing weeks

completion of this level signifies an experienced farmer

$$$$ Pro 4 – Expert ( $2,000+ average gross per week)
12 Credits
Covers:                                                                                                                                >Maximized marketing period
>Season extension
>GAP compliance
Graduation requirement: present the plan that generated $2,000+ average gross/week in revenue – crops grown, unit amounts, sales channels, pricing, number of marketing weeks

completion of this level signifies an expert farmer

No grades. No papers. You learn by doing with online guidance from a SPIN mentor and peer-to-peer support.

Here’s how it works:
>Pick the level you are starting from
>Be assigned a SPIN mentor
>Earn SPIN credits (you might already have)!
>Achieve progressively higher levels of proficiency and revenue
>Create a moneymaking farm as you go, at a pace that suits your abilities, time and resources

Here’s graduation requirements:
>Follow our online learning program
>Pass a 25 question test
>Provide key 5 SPIN metrics for each level you complete
>Create a moneymaking SPIN farm

For more details on SPIN-Farming certification, go here.

Entrepreneur in Training Opportunity

A deluxe model SPIN farm in Detroit MI seeks an operator.

Run a dream farm without having to pay to build it. That’s what this first-of-its-kind program offers.

Penrose Market Garden, now entering its second season, provides complete top-of-the-line infrastructure, housing in an architect-designed farm house, an established on site farm stand and customer base. 2017 sales expansion channels include a salad CSA and an additional farmer’s market.

Last year Penrose Market Garden grossed $15k on 2,500 sq.ft. A total of 10,000 sq. ft of growing space is available. Guidance and oversight will be provided by the architect-farmer who ran the Penrose Market Garden last year, using the SPIN-Farming system.

Compensation:

  • You make what you can grow and sell.
  • Minus operating expenses
  • Plus housing
  • Plus $200/month paid utilities. (balance of cost paid by you).

This year, put your entrepreneurial abilities on the line, without having to bet the farm. For application and more details email Roxanne Christensen at rchristensen@infocommercegroup.com

 

sf-photo-penrose-blog-farm

sf-photo-penrose-blog-beth-and-kid

2017 Trends and Who’s Setting Them

Here’s SPIN-Farming’s Alphabet List of 2017 Trends culled from all the presentations at last year’s Member Meetups. Thanks to all of the forward thinking SPIN farmers listed below who presented their business plans, how they implemented them and the revenue they targeted and achieved.

SPIN’s online Member Meetups are THE place to get in on the latest entrepreneurial farming trends as they are happening and learn from the real-world experience of those who are using SPIN-Farming to create and develop successful businesses. If starting a farm business, or learning the business of growing food, is on your New Year’s to-do list, you’re welcome to join in. (see below).

SPIN’s Alphabet of 2017 Trends
A la carte CSA
Bike-power
Co-operative marketing
Diversification
Ethnic
Farm to Barrel
GAP
Hyperlocal
Intensification
Juicing
Kids
Loss leaders
Mushrooms
Nutrition info
Online marketplaces
Performance-based
Quick Greens
Relays
Sampling
Targeted revenue
Units
Value add
Winter micros
X-treme weather
Yardsharing
Zero waste

SPIN Farming’s 2017 Star Members
Mary Ackley, Little Wild Things City Farm, Washington DC
Caroline Barrington, Clean Spade Farms, Swift Current SK
Keri Fox, Green Sister Gardens, Moose Jaw SK
John Greenwood, JNJ Farms, Macomb IL
Annabel Khouri, Bay Branch Farm, Cleveland OH
Brian Kowlaski, Murray Meadows Farm, Portugal Cove NL
Rob Miller, Trefoil Gardens, Woodstock GA
Adithya Ramachandran, Kaleidoscope Vegetable Gardens, Dundurn SK
Marcus Riedner, Happiness By The Acre, Calgary AB
Eric Stoffer, Bay Branch Farm, Cleveland OH
Brenda Sullivan, Thompson Street Farm, Glastonbury CT
Brianna van de Wijngaard, Puddle Produce, William Lake BC
Justin Vandenbroeck, Fleet Farming, Oakland CA

sf-photo-blog-star-performers

WANT TO GROW WITH THESE PRO’S?

There are two options  You can purchase membership here, to participate in our online support group and get access to all past and future Member Meetups as well as monthly instant learning sessions conducted by SPIN-Farming’s creator, Wally Satzewich.

If you are committed to starting a business, purchase one of our programs here which also comes with a trial membership.Be on trend and in the money in 2017!

SPIN Farming Ten Years Down the Road

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. Here are 10 claims that should be taken with a grain of salt.

# 1. SPIN-Farming teaches you 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, it opens up the profession to many more people who otherwise wold not think it was an option for them.

By making farm startup fast and easy, it opens up the profession to many more people who otherwise wold not think it was an option for them.

# 2. 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.

spin-photo-gail-manitoba

Rural plots can also be used in SPIN farms. Some SPIN farmers even own a tractor!

#3.  SPIN-Farming is Square Foot Gardening.
Pictures are worth a thousand words.

Square foot gardening.

Square foot gardening.

SPIN-Farming on 2,500 sq. ft.

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, operations management framework and a business model. Its aim is to achieve progressively higher levels of revenue, with key
benchmarks provided.

# 4. 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.

There are many reasons to include perennial crops like rhubarb in a SPIN crop repertoire.

# 5. 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 making!

With SPIN's mix and match pricing, customers can grab and go...just ask Rex Landings of Cackleberry Farms.

With SPIN’s mix and match pricing, customers can grab and go…just ask Rex Landings of Cackleberry Farms.

# 6. SPIN-Farming is yardsharing.
Yardsharing is an option outlined in the SPIN-Farming system, but it is not a defining a component. To remove the main barrier to entry for new farmers, SPIN-Farming outlines a multi-locational model that has been used by SPIN’s founder, Wally Satzewich, for over 15 years. It is the same as yardsharing – a farmer secures the use of backyards or front lawns or unused lots instead of having to invest in farmland. Terms and tenure vary. The number of plots that comprises Wally’s farm have ranged from 11 to 25, with the total never more than 2/3 of an acre, or around 30,000 square feet. Terms of use have varied, and plots have come and gone, depending on various circumstances.

The point is that SPIN farmers can make cropland wherever they happen to be. Many SPIN farmers, however, have sizeable properties and do not have to resort to yardsharing. And those who start out yardsharing sometimes move on to a singe plot of land or buy traditional farms.

A SPIN-Farming land base is very dynamic. It can be scaled up or down,and can be owned, traded or leased, based on whatever the farmer’s needs are at any given time.

A SPIN-Farming land base is very dynamic. It can be scaled up or down,and can be owned, traded or leased, based on whatever the farmer’s needs are at any given time.

Here are negotiating points that should be addressed if you decide to do yardsharing. Its benefits are many – it is low- risk, and high-profile if the yard is visible to passersby. It can turn out to be a great way to market your produce!

# 7. SPIN-Farming is market gardening. 
SPIN-Farming’s scale and growing practices are no different than market gardening. What is novel is the SPIN-Farming system which standardizes how a market garden is planned, created and run. It provides everything you’d expect from a good franchise: a business concept, marketing strategy, pricing guidelines, financial benchmarks and a detailed day- to-day workflow. In creating a reproducible process it really isn’t any different from McDonald’s.

While most market gardening learning programs focus primarily if not exclusively on agricultural practices, SPIN emphasizes the business aspects and provides a financial and management framework for having revenue goals drive the agriculture, rather than the other way around.

While other market gardening learning programs address growing, marketing and management,the SPIN-Farming system ties them altogether to keep you focused on what matters most to generating steady, consistent, progressively higher higher cashflow so
that you have more control over outcomes and income. It also provides specific benchmarks to measure progress, so that you know if you are under or achieving.

Now that local foods represents an $11 billion+ industry, according to the USDA, the practice of market gardening is becoming professionalized and competitive. The SPIN-Farming system quantifies exactly how lucrative and rewarding success can be.

SPIN-Farming takes market gardening to much smaller plots of land and much higher levels of profitability.

SPIN-Farming takes market gardening to much smaller plots of land and much higher levels of profitability.

See these related posts:

Performance-based Farming: How Well Are You Doing?.

Revenue Is The Benchmark To Beat

# 8. SPIN-Farming requires tilling.
SPIN-Farming recommends the use of a tiller because in a business time is money, and a tiller makes very fast work of prepping and replanting. But using a tiller is not always practical or possible in some cases. And it is a significant investment. We are also aware of the fervent opposition to tilling among some growers who believe that it damages soil
structure. SPIN does not dictate any one method of soil prep or maintenance but recommends using local inputs and composting if you can. It is a production system, not a belief system.

mod-2-bed-prep-3
See related posts:

What Is The Best Way To Prep Land?

Working The Soil Is What Farmers Do

# 9. SPIN-Farming is a movement
Food and farming-related movements have sprouted like weeds over the last 10 years, and SPIN-Farming can be used to advance many of them. It’s a tool, not a cause. Whether it’s used as a mission, a business or for self expression, we’ve never heard a bad reason to grow food. SPIN’s only role is helping people find the business opportunity in something they feel passionate about and love to do.

sf-photo-movement-logo-fleet-farming-photo

No matter your purpose, it just makes sense to pay the bills by proving your cause.

# 10. SPIN-Farming is sustainable
This is a specious statement, as are any claims to sustainability. The reality is, Who knows?

Whether, and how, anything can be sustained can only be known in hindsight. To truly prove this claim you need to take the long view and base the answer on practice, not theory. It’s encouraging and gratifying that SPIN is helping to channel some of the new found enthusiasm for getting your hands in the dirt into new farming businesses. But the mark of success for SPIN will be how many of these growers have staying power. Check back to see how many SPIN farmers have started – and stayed – in business in another 10 years.

sf-photo-blog-ghotst-farm

Looking forward to seeing you in another 10 years….

 

 

SPIN Farming May Not Be All You Think It Is

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 # 1.

# 10. SPIN-Farming is sustainable
This is a specious statement, as are any claims to sustainability. The reality is, Who knows?

Whether, and how, anything can be sustained can only be known in hindsight. To truly prove this claim you need to take the long view and base the answer on practice, not theory. It’s encouraging and gratifying that SPIN is helping to channel some of the new found enthusiasm for getting your hands in the dirt into new farming businesses. But the mark of success for SPIN will be how many of these growers have staying power. Check back to see how many SPIN farmers have started – and stayed – in business in another 10 years. sf-photo-blog-ghotst-farm

Looking forward to seeing you in another 10 years…..

# 2. SPIN-Farming is a movement
Food and farming-related movements have sprouted like weeds over the last 10 years, and SPIN-Farming can be used to advance many of them. It’s a tool, not a cause. Whether it’s used as a mission, a business or for self expression, we’ve never heard a bad reason to grow food. SPIN’s only role is helping people find the business opportunity in something they feel passionate about and love to do.

sf-photo-movement-logo-fleet-farming-photo

No matter your purpose, it just makes sense to pay the bills by proving your cause.

# 3. SPIN-Farming requires tilling.
SPIN-Farming recommends the use of a tiller because in a business time is money, and a tiller makes very fast work of prepping and replanting. But using a tiller is not always practical or possible in some cases. And it is a significant investment. We are also aware of the fervent opposition to tilling among some growers who believe that it damages soil
structure. SPIN does not dictate any one method of soil prep or maintenance but recommends using local inputs and composting if you can. It is a production system, not a belief system.

mod-2-bed-prep-3

See related posts:

Working the Soil is What Farmers Do

What is the Best Way to Prep Land?

# 4. SPIN-Farming is market gardening. 
SPIN-Farming’s scale and growing practices are no different than market gardening. What is novel is the SPIN-Farming system which standardizes how a market garden is planned, created and run. It provides everything you’d expect from a good franchise: a business concept, marketing strategy, pricing guidelines, financial benchmarks and a detailed day- to-day workflow. In creating a reproducible process it really isn’t any different from McDonald’s.

While most market gardening learning programs focus primarily if not exclusively on agricultural practices, SPIN emphasizes the business aspects and provides a financial and management framework for having revenue goals drive the agriculture, rather than the other way around.

While other market gardening learning programs address growing, marketing and management,the SPIN-Farming system ties them altogether to keep you focused on what matters most to generating steady, consistent, progressively higher higher cashflow so
that you have more control over outcomes and income. It also provides specific benchmarks to measure progress, so that you know if you are under or achieving.

Now that local foods represents an $11 billion+ industry, according to the USDA, the practice of market gardening is becoming professionalized and competitive. The SPIN-Farming system quantifies exactly how lucrative and rewarding success can be.

SPIN-Farming takes market gardening to much smaller plots of land and much higher levels of profitability.

SPIN-Farming takes market gardening to much smaller plots of land and much higher levels of profitability.

See related posts.

Revenue Is The Benchmark To Beat

Perforrmance-based Farming: How Well Are You Doing?

# 5. SPIN-Farming is yardsharing.
Yardsharing is an option outlined in the SPIN-Farming system, but it is not a defining a component. To remove the main barrier to entry for new farmers, SPIN-Farming outlines a multi-locational model that has been used by SPIN’s founder, Wally Satzewich, for over 15 years. It is the same as yardsharing – a farmer secures the use of backyards or front lawns or unused lots instead of having to invest in farmland. Terms and tenure vary. The number of plots that comprises Wally’s farm have ranged from 11 to 25, with the total never more than 2/3 of an acre, or around 30,000 square feet. Terms of use have varied, and plots have come and gone, depending on various circumstances.

The point is that SPIN farmers can make cropland wherever they happen to be. Many SPIN farmers, however, have sizable properties and do not have to resort to yardsharing. And those who start out yardsharing sometimes move on to a singe plot of land or buy traditional farms.

A SPIN-Farming land base is very dynamic. It can be scaled up or down,and can be owned, traded or leased, based on whatever the farmer’s needs are at any given time.

A SPIN-Farming land base is very dynamic. It can be scaled up or down,and can be owned, traded or leased, based on whatever the farmer’s needs are at any given time.

Here are negotiating points that should be addressed if you decide to do yardsharing. Its benefits are many – it is low-risk, and high-profile if the yard is visible to passersby. It can turn out to be a great way to market your produce!

# 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 making!

With SPIN's mix and match pricing, customers can grab and go...just ask Rex Landings of Cackleberry Farms.

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.

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.

Square foot gardening.

SPIN-Farming on 2,500 sq. ft.

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.

spin-photo-gail-manitoba

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.

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.

 

Working the Soil is What Farmers Do

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA 

Farmers get attached to their soil for good reason. No soil, no business. They have to treat it right, and there are lots of groups and movements telling them so. They may be overstating their case, however, if farmers are starting to feel guilty, defensive or ashamed whenever they pick up a shovel or fire up the tiller.

A SPIN farmer in Hawaii recently wrote:
Aloha,

Quick question for ya’ll …

I grow arugula here on Maui as you know. You also know it’s essentially a quick crop to grow. I plant it in sections at different times, so I always have available product for sale. My question is with regards to overtilling. After each harvest, every 6 to 7 weeks, I till the area (depth of 5″ +/- inches, composting old plant into soil) and reseed for the next crop. I’ve been reading about the issues of soil disturbance in doing so, but how is this to be avoided? Mahalo for your thoughts.

Agriculture disturbs the soil, always has and always will. You can’t plant without some type of soil disturbance. If you think rototilling is too harmful to the soil, you can pull the spent plants by hand instead of tilling in. Then you can use a hand tool, such as a three pronged cultivator, to bed prep. Then rake the bed, so it is level. So using hand tools, even on acre-size plots is do-able, if you feel the trade-off in time and effort is worth it.

If the question relates to a decrease in productivity, you should consult with a soil expert. But most often it stems from a philosophical concern. Wally has been cropping some of his backyard plots with a tiller for over 20 years and the soil remains healthy and productive. He loses no sleep over soil disturbance.

If the thought of working the soil disturbs you, you might want to consider a different line of work.

SF photo do not disturb sign

Find out how SPIN farmers keep their soil healthy and productive in the SPIN online support group. Free trial membership comes with the purchase of any SPIN guide.

The Entrepreneurial Advantage Makes All the Difference

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA

SPIN-Farming and nonprofits are not a natural fit. Sure, SPIN’s planting plan can be used to maximize yields in a minimum amount of space. But SPIN is primarily a franchise-like business model. Those who have the most success with it use it to become self-employed business owners.

SPIN farmers are ambitious and have a lot, or sometimes everything, on the line. They are just as passionate about their work, and their methods are just as virtuous, as mission-driven growers. But at the end of the day, among their missions is to pay the bills. They have the entrepreneurial advantage.

Nonprofit growers have all their costs covered and they can count on a steady paycheck as long as the grant writers do their jobs. They aren’t vested in their own success. They are really social workers who happen to be growing food.

This differentiation is important when assessing the viability of small scale and urban farming. Skepticism is useful and criticism can be constructive, but it is frequently misplaced. The underachievement and failures of many of the new crop of small and urban farms is not because they can’t be viable. It’s because they lack the entrepreneurial advantage.

SPIN photo Kipp sign

IF YOU WANT TO HANG OUT WITH BACKYARD FARMERS WHO ARE GROWING PROFITS ALONG WITH THEIR VEGGIES, THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP IS THE PLACE FOR YOU. FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP COMES WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY SPIN GUIDE.

Farming Has a New Narrative

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA

Egged on by the ever-expanding ecosystem of farm advocacy groups, farmers seem compelled to explain how exceptional they are. Here is a recent example titled “Here’s What I Need You to Know About Farming.” As we’ve come to expect, it includes the oft-repeated narrative about how hard farmers work.

SF photo hard

Many people work hard. Think of your local dry cleaner. Hair dresser. Roofer. Plumber. Print shop owner. Their days are long, their stresses are rigorous. That is the reality of self-employment, but they don’t try to use that to promote their businesses.And what are customers supposed to do with that information? Should they feel respect? Sympathy? Guilt? If you want commiseration, there are support groups and services, including the SPIN online forum and Open Houses, where you’ll find plenty of understanding and even more problem solving.

Recent topics have included:

  • why yardowners want SPIN farmers to use their land
  • selling social capital along with your veggies
  • whether to go all-in or start part-time
  • why you have to sometimes say no to restaurants
  • how to grow more on less land
  • how to raise $2,100 through crowdfunding
  • binding customers to you via email marketing
  • growing lettuce throughout 100° summers

The new narratives that are emerging in the SPIN group aren’t about how hard farming is, or how exceptional farmers are. They’re  that you can build a business based on how exceptional your products are. They’re about what customers want, and the best way to
deliver it. And they’re about making farming easier in the process.

SPIN photo Wally straddling spinach beds

Have you heard? Farming doesn’t have to be as hard as it used to be.

 

Getting Back to Business

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA

Twenty six years ago, when SPIN-Farming creator Wally Satzewich started farming, the predominant model was own large acreage, produce in volume, sell wholesale. After a few very rough years of barely being able to hang on, he was told by other farmers that he’d eventually reach nirvana if he just kept getting bigger. But when he looked down the road his fellow farmers were on, he saw ruin not riches. He ended up going in the extreme opposite direction, and became an urban farmer.

Now new farmers are vulnerable to a similar type of magical thinking. Just change “big” to “sustainable”. Flocking back to the land, large numbers of them are starting farms in the belief that the superior logic and morality of their farming practices will somehow guarantee their success. Then they wring their hands when they find themselves working 12 hour days, the money doesn’t flow in, and they have to work outside  jobs to keep their farms going. But that’s the experience of anyone who starts a business.

Wally did not start full-time. He drove a cab. Other SPIN farmers drive buses, do research, teach jujitsu. They master their production skills until they can grow in significant volume, consistently, at commercial grade. They research their markets, build up a customer base, set  revenue targets and execute their plans. They transition to full-time farming once they’re reaching the income levels they need to support themselves solely by farming.

Most new farms don’t survive. That can be said of lots of other businesses. No one is owed a living just because they choose to farm a certain way. Those who are heeding the call to sustainable farming might also be surprised to learn that there has never been a real tradition of sustainable farming in the US. Our pioneer farming ancestors drained wetlands, cut down forests, decimated ecosystems, and polluted waterways. Even Dan Barber, celebrity chef and board member of the paragon of virtuous farming, the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture,  acknowledges, “We don’t have a history of peasant farming. We have a history of bad farming.”

Many of the practices being developed by the sustainable farming groups are worthy ones, but they don’t necessarily add up to a business. If you  have dug yourself into a hole, SPIN might help you get back back to business.

SPIN photo seed to cash invoice for restaurant

Here is some advice you might not hear from the sustainability crowd.