Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA
Ever since SPIN-Farming was introduced seven years ago, one question has come up repeatedly. Entrepreneurs out to make a buck in such wide ranging places as Miami, Ulster and Nairobi ask, “Can SPIN work here?” The answer is that SPIN can work wherever there are markets to support it.
SPIN is a business model, not a growing method. It produces the net income levels of traditional farming, while eliminating much of its costs, complexity and uncertainty. It achieves this by recasting farming as a highly skilled service in a city or town. That is the point agricultural economists and consultants and academics who want to “scale SPIN up” miss. Sure they can apply SPIN’s intensive growing practices to 20 acres or 30 acres, or beyond. But in doing so, they run smack into the dis-economies of scale that have dug farming into a hole – long distances from markets, heavy debt loads, staggering land costs, significant overhead, the need for additional labor, high energy use. Not only is this dead ending many new farming careers, it is also exclusionary, keeping farming off limits to all but the privileged few who can afford land and access capital.
SPIN turns farming into a business opportunity that anyone can pursue right in their own backyards or neighborhoods. They don’t have to be interested in the politics surrounding food, sustainability or organics. They can quickly learn the SPIN system and get an income producing business in and off the ground in months, with a low four figure investment.
Not surprisingly, then, there is no one profile of a SPIN farmer. Some are young and just starting out. Others are on their third or fourth careers, and still others are retired and looking for extra income and something productive to do. Some are doing it in the urban jungle and others on the suburban fringe. Some have been avid gardeners, while others have never had dirt under their fingernails. Some always had the money they wanted. Others never had as much as they needed. They span generations, geography and socio- economic backgrounds, but what unites them all is a desire to make money by meeting the demand for local food.
If you are trying to scale up SPIN, we understand the temptation, but don’t waste your time. The optimal farm size is getting smaller, and the status quo is moving towards making more from less. What’s important is scaling up the number of new farmers. As I write this I see orders for SPIN guides coming in from Porterville CA, Bredbo NSW, Portugal Cove, NL, and Cape Coral FL. They are from people who see an opportunity to grow food and make money. And that, remember, is what farming is about.
LIFE DOWN ON THE BACKYARD FARM