Flexibility Is A Farmer’s Most Valuable Asset

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA

Saskatoon is losing a farm many never knew was there, especially its neighbors. Wally Satzewich has sold the birthplace of SPIN-Farming, a suburban-style house that served as a backyard farm for over 25 years. Gone are the beds, the greenhouses and the basement grow room. The backyard farm that was built over a quarter of a century took just a few weekends to disassemble. That’s the beauty of SPIN-scale farms. When
life changes, they can too. Here today. Gone tomorrow.

Being rooted to the land is what has defined farming for generations. The practical reason is all the time and effort spent in soil building. But since SPIN farms are typically 40,000 sq. ft.(about an acre) or less, soil doesn’t represent a big investment. The plot in Saskatoon was only one of several Wally uses, and at only 1,000 sq. ft., it’s easily replaced.

Wally is still a full-time farmer. His home base now is Pleasantdale, and it meets two of his biggest farm requirements – municipal water service and a good Internet connection. His grow room is put back together, and the greenhouses may or may not be pressed back into service. He’s figuring out how to structure his new operation now that he has a 2 hour commute to market instead of a 5 minute one. His crop repertoire is getting a revamp.

But he’s got lots of options because he realized long ago that being tied to the land can mean having a noose around your neck. In a time when the ability to change quickly and continually is a competitive advantage, permanency isn’t at all useful. Flexibility, not land, is a small farmer’s most valuable asset.

SF photo fb mobility farm definition

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

 

Set for Steady Cash Flow

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

I picked up my onion sets today. Unit cost was  $1.388 per lb. for bulk sets, around $70 per 50 lb. bag. Total cost  was $416. Not the type of cash you want to lay out this time of the year, but if you want to make money, you have to spend some, and onions are a  guaranteed moneymaker. Sets are worth the cost because they give you a jump on production and get some cash flowing early in the season.  .

I  use several different cropping strategies, planting over the next few months for scallion, green onion, and mature. Onions are one of those crops that  produces a steady return on investment throughout the entire season. They contribute at least $10k to my total revenue target. Over the season those $10k’s add up..

Growing onions from sets is a good approach for early season production and for growers with short seasons.

Growing onions from sets is a good approach for early season production and for growers with short seasons.

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

 

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

 

In A Retail Frame Of Mind

Courtesy of Wally S., Saskatoon SK

Once farmers take on a year-round, permanent stand inside a Farmer’s Market building, they are in the retail business, whether they realize it or not. This presents some unique opportunities and challenges. On the plus side, you have less work because there is no setup and teardown on every market day. You can also invest in a more attractive design to give your stand huge curb appeal, which builds your brand and establishes you as a real pro.

And here’s what the pro’s know that beginners sometimes miss. Chances are your indoor market will be open multiple days per week, even in the winter. Some of these days the market can seem like a tomb. But to have a viable market means you have to maintain your presence, even during slow periods. This can be tough if you don’t have the right mindset. You need to think of your stand as a retail storefront. All retailers have slow periods, but they don’t turn out the lights and lock the door. They stay open even when the number of daily customers can be counted on one hand. The plus side at market is that, without the crowds, you can take time to forge deeper relationships with your regular customers.
SF photo blog empty market
The only way to sustain and grow a Farmer’s Market is to make it a place that customers want to come to, and can rely on, regularly. And that requires a critical mass of vendors being open. Beginning farmers, especially SPIN-scale ones, who don’t have a retail mindset, come and go at market, which is why I’m always glad to welcome and mentor new ones. Because the more of us who remain open, the stronger all our businesses will be.

LEARN HOW TO TOUGH IT OUT FROM THE BEST MINDS IN FARMING TODAY IN THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP. FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP WHEN YOU PURCHASE ANY SPIN GUIDE

2018 Trends and Who’s Setting Them

Here’s SPIN-Farming’s Alphabet List of 2018 Trends to look forward to, culled from all the presentations at this 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 2018 Trends
Agritourism – yes even sub-acre farms can get in on this
Brand building – important now that there’s more competition
Collaborative CSA – low-risk way to scale
DIY supply chains – ditto above
Exclusivity – new way to work a niche
Food Safety – take a course; it’s the mark of professionalism
Grocery stores – they’re courting small producers now
Herbaceous cocktails – bars are now customers
Inventory tracking – use kanban
Just in time delivery –  online ordering makes it easy
Kickstarter- works for expansion plans
Livestock – collaborate on this
Mix and match pricing – customers always buy more this way
Nursery business – yes, a few backyards can support one
Organic certification – in some markets it’s an advantage
Pet food – collaborate with veterianarian
Quackleberry eggs – duck eggs sell
Relative crop values – track it to increase your profitability
Specialization – easier to stand out with what you’re good at
Targeted revenue – always the starting point
Utility sink  – a farmer’s spa!
Videomercials – consumers remember then
Wholesaling – ask for terms that work for you or walk away
X-pansion – if demand is there, grow beyond your backyard
Yardsharing – see above
Zippy packaging – good-bye dull earth tones

SPIN Farming’s 2017 Star Performers
SF photo Trends 2018

Beth Hagenbuch, Penrose Market Garden, Detroit MI                                            Rob Miller, Trefoil Gardens, Woodstock GA                                                                  Mike Meier, Ground Floor Farm, Stuart FL                                                               Ray Derksen, Market Garden 434, Sylvania SK                                                 Lourdes Casañares, Masagana Flower Farm, Manitoba,                                     Mark Voss, Voss Organics, Madison WI                                                                        Max Valyear, Green Wheel Farms, Belleville ON                                                          Tara Callaghan, Little Victory Farm, Hunter River, PEI                                              Cale Sprister, Sandy’s Way Microfarm, Sedalia CO                                                      Rod Olson, Leafy & Lyre, Calgary AB

WANT TO LEARN HOW 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 our guides here which also comes with a free trial membership.Be on trend and in the money in 2018!

 

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.