Scaling Up SPIN-Farming to 4 Acres

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia, PA 

While SPIN-Farming may be most closely associated with an urban and backyard multi-locational model, its system of land base allocation, relay cropping and revenue targeting can be applied to larger land bases. Ed Garrett put on his SPIN glasses to take a look at 4 acres and here’s what he saw.

It is very hard not to get drawn into low return crops when you have the “extra” area. Once that happens, the farm starts committing too much time to low net production and loses operational efficiency. The “tractor” mentality assumes larger crop segments that destroy the produced “on demand” nature of SPIN-Farming.

If the same 4 acres was farmed SPIN-style, it would be organized in different sites as independent work units feeding separate markets or market channels. Production deficits at one site could be made up by trading with other production sites on the property.

Changing market behavior away from bulk purchases, especially working with retailers to trust on-demand refill of their stocks to increase freshness of produce is key here. Keeping production units relatively small while increasing their numbers
allows for daily harvest to meet day-to-day demands.

SPIN-Farming on larger land bases requires a more sophisticated strategy than “plant it and forget it.” But the reality of today’s markets is that the more things change, the more they keep changing. SPIN allows for frequent, continual in-season planting plan adjustments based on market demand and weather challenges. It presents a farmer with many decisions, continually throughout the season. It also presents him with opportunities for continual self-correction, and increases his options. And whether you are farming a few thousand square feet or 4 acres, that’s a huge advantage.

SF photo blog 4 acres.Just how big can you get with SPIN? Wally found that the size of his land base had an inverse correlation to the size of his bank account. That’s what led him to downsize to his backyard and develop the SPIN-Farming system. We don’t know what the optimal farm size is, but scaling up sure doesn’t make the same sense it used. to.

CONTINUAL SELF-CORRECTION IS WHAT THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP IS ALL ABOUT. GET A FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP  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.

 

 

SPIN-Farming in Plain Sight

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA 

The beauty of SPIN-Farming is that it can use spaces that are not suitable for traditional farming. Any remnant of land that measures at least 1,000 sq. ft. can contribute enough production and revenue to be worth a farmer’s time. So when you put on your SPIN glasses you start to see cropland everywhere.

But not everyone thinks farming is beautiful. In fact some communities have bylaws prohibiting the growing of food in front yards. So that means SPIN farmers sometimes need to get creative. Like here.

SF photo Rod Olson front lawn a

At this site, the backyard is a kale forest since the SPIN farmer, Rod Olson, owner/operator of Leaf & Lyre Urban Farms specializes in that crop (varieties: Curly and Red Russian), selling $15k a year to one restaurant alone. But he just couldn’t resist putting the front yard to use, too, so he created a “river of food.” It’s not your standard SPIN beds, but it provides food to the owner throughout the season in exchange for the use of her backyard space. So Rod gets his kale factory and keeps peace with the neighbors. And who knows? It may launch a new business designing food river gardens, once the neighbors see just how beautiful an edible garden can be.

SF photo blog kale

Leaf & Lyre Urban Farms specializes in kale. Other lucrative specialty crops include leafy greens, garlic, carrots and potatoes, and flowers.

GET MORE CREATIVE IDEAS ON FINDING NO-COST CROPLAND IN THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP. FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP COME WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY SPIN GUIDE. 

Grow Backyard Crops To Fund Home Improvements

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

The advantage to backyard farming is that you can ramp it up or down, depending on your financial needs at any given time. If you  don’t use it to provide your full-time income, you can use it to fund a short term goal.

Say you are looking to put in a hot tub in a corner of your yard. You can apply your farming skill to grow a crop that will fund it.

SF photo theme garden squash 500 sf $500

Here’s that corner where the future hot tub will go. It’s about 500 square feet. That’s half a SPIN segment.

If you plant 20 to 30 squash plants in that sub-segment you can sell it to friends and neighbors or to another farmer who can sell it to their customers. A good type to grow in this context is Golden Nugget winter squash, which is a prolific bush type plant that doesn’t vine out like other squash, so it’s good for compact spaces.

SF photo fb Suqash GoldenNugget

FIND OUT ABOUT ALL THE OTHER CROPS THAT CAN EARN THEIR KEEP IN GARDEN SIZE PLOTS IN THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP. GET FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY SPIN GUIDE.

Breaking New Ground – Across the Street

Courtesy of Jared Regier, Chain Reaction Urban Farm, Saskatoon SK

We are putting a boulevard space into production this season. It happens to be right across the street from our home and has full sun exposure.

SF photo blog Jared breaking new ground  1

It will take a bit of extra work to roll out and clean up a water line each time we irrigate, but we will save a lot of travel time. We are mindful of the risk involved in having our crops out in the open but we will avoid tempting crops like tomatoes and hopefully minimize theft.

Neighbours have told me that they have seen nothing but grass in this boulevard space for as long as they have lived there. In some cases this means up to 60 years. Some of them admitted to mowing it once in a while but that is about as much action as it has seen. The boulevard garden registration process with the city of Saskatoon simply requires approval from adjacent land owners and compliance with a few height restrictions and setback allowances from the curb. Thankfully, the neighbours have all been on board with our efforts so we have been able to march ahead steadily.

Once the plot was registered officially, I got to work. Here are the steps I followed to prepare the soil for vegetable production. These steps should work pretty well for any new ground if you are starting a garden with a similar piece of land.

Step 1: The ground was very compacted so I dug a large part of it by hand with a spade as a first step just to help our
rototiller get a little deeper. I did not remove the grass because it is still valuable as decomposing organic matter in the
soil.

Step 2: After spading, I immediately tilled the entire plot thoroughly, just letting the tiller go as deep as it could manage, which which was only 2 to 4 inches at this stage.

Step 3: I waited a couple of weeks to let any surviving grass use up some of its energy to get reestablished. There were a few areas with quack grass that required careful removal of the roots at this point.

Step 4: I broadforked the entire plot to make it possible for my tiller to work a little deeper. This was time consuming but made a big difference.

Step 5: I tilled the plot again thoroughly and was able to get much deeper this time thanks to the broadfork work.

Step 6: I measured and marked the standard sized beds. From this point on, I will never walk on the bed space.

SF photo blog Jared breaking new ground 2

Step 7: Next, I ordered 8 yards of screened compost and top dressed each bed with a layer about 4 inches thick. I simply spread the compost on the surface so it can act as a mulch to suppress new weeds and also still enrich the soil. Worms and water will slowly work for me to distribute the nutrients and organic matter from the compost into the rest of the soil below.

SF photo blog Jared breaking ground 3

There you have it. Now that the soil is prepped for planting, the only setup work left at this plot is the irrigation system. I will be trying a new style of micro sprinkler at this location which I am excited about, but the details will need to wait for another day. I will explain more about this system in the future after I have had some time to use it for a while.
reprinted from Chain Reaction Urban Farm newsletter.

Find out what other unconventional spaces backyard farmers use and how they prep them in the SPIN Online Support group. Receive a free trial membership with the purchase of any SPIN guide.  

 

Jumpstart an Herb Business on 1,200 Sq. Ft.

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

A SPIN member just joined the online support group looking to fast track some fresh herb sales. He wrote:

“Hello All. I plan to combine the sale of herbs only at two or three of my local farmers markets along with Pre-Packaged Nuts/ Seeds and Spices. My hope is to promote the sales of the nut and seed business with the fresh herb offerings. I have had success growing basil, chives, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage and lavender on a small scale over the past three seasons and am ready to commit approximately x 1200 sq ft of garden space to this effort. Any feedback on what to focus on in order to maximize my effort would be greatly appreciated. I am a one man show, growing in Northeast PA. Zone 6a. Thanks in advance.”

Herbs are a great addition to diversify or compliment a product line,especially for solo operators because they are easy to plant, harvest and prep. Cilantro, dill,and parsley are good bets. You can get 2 -3 cuts of cilantro before it goes to seed. So you will need several staggered plantings to take you through the season. You can get even more cuts from baby/green dill, but again, you need staggered plantings. Parsley is all season, so there is no need for staggered plantings.

SF photo blog herb dill cilantro

Plant cilantro and dill with tight spacings using an Earthway seeder in 4 – 5 row standard beds, using the chard plate. Use transplants for parsley.

You should target units of production on the 100 to 200 bunches in total of the three herbs on a weekly basis. If you have a 20 marketing week period, you’ll produce 2,000 to 4,000 bunches. At $2.00 per bunch, you can target revenue of $4K to $8K.

Herbs are very high value, are always in demand at market and their fragrance adds a sensual dimension to your stand. So if you have some unused space next to the barbie, or can rig up some containers on a patio, you can make profitable use of it by growing the useful plants.

SF photo blog herb parsely in tubs cropped

 

 

Early Spring Marketing Using Unheated High Tunnels

Courtesy of Adithya Ramachandran, Kaleidoscope Vegetable Gardens, Dundurn SK

Most farmers underperform at early spring markets. SPIN-Farming is based on generating strong cash flow by targeting $1,000 weekly sales – in late April or early May – regardless of your growing zone. To do that you need to ignore conventional gardening practices, and get into production early, in volume. Adithya Ramachandran’s Kaleidoscope Vegetable Gardens, is in zone 3. Here is what he went to market with May 7.

SF photo fb early spring market Adi

Adi is using unheated high tunnels..and improving his production strategy all the time. Read below.

This spring has been an interesting learning experience. There are some things I would do different next year, including increasing my staggering time for radishes, and a greater focus on beets, green garlic and kohlrabi to target late spring sales.

Something else that I would like to try out next spring is an early planting of broad beans for bean production. I noticed that the ones I seeded in March were flowering now. However I tilled them all under because they were planted densely for shoot production (I didn’t get around to harvesting them all), and they wouldn’t have done well.

I also plan to diversify my spring sales next year with tulips.

Find out how backyard farmers get off to strong spring production and sales in early spring in the SPIN online support group. Receive free trial membership with the purchase of any SPIN guide. 

Losing Land is No Tragedy for a SPIN Farmer

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

There was a plot I had been farming for about five years, and now it’s gone. The owner sold her house that it was attached to, and she had no interest in accommodating me as part of the deal. If this were a traditional farming story, I’d be playing the tragic hero-farmer being kicked off his land.

That’s not my story. I can actually say “Good riddance.” It was a good plot. It was about a half hour’s drive north of my Saskatoon home base. It was 7,000 square feet, so 7 segments. I’ve grown my longer season crops there – onions, potatoes, squash, and I could count on it contributing $7K – $12K to my bottom line each year. But over the years, its negatives started outweighing the positives. Traffic on the drive there got crazier, and I obtained other plots in the opposite direction, so logistics were more burdensome.

Now a friend at market has about 6,000 sq. ft. he says I can use which is only a couple of miles from another one of my plots. So I can manage both in one day. To make up the loss of the 1,000 sq. ft. I can intensify production. So this story has a happy ending: I am losing a peri-urban site that was becoming tough to manage, and getting a new site that will be easier to integrate.

That’s the advantage to being a multi-locational SPIN farmer. You have more options to access land (in the US there are 40 million acres of lawn), and you are less likely to get stuck in a rut.

SF photo blog Losing land

Goodbye plot. You served me well, but I won’t be crying in my beer over this breakup.

SPIN farmers have innovative strategies for accessing land. You can find out how they find and manage in the SPIN online support group.  Free trial membership comes with the purchase of any SPIN guide.

How to Determine Hoophouse Density for Tomatoes and Peppers

Courtesy of Adithya Ramachandran, Kaleidoscope Vegetable Gardens, Dundurn SK

When growing tomatoes in a hoophouse, think about how many plants you would grow on the same amount of space outdoors, divide that by 3, and plant only that number in the hoophouse. This is particularly important for tomatoes because they can get HUGE in a hoophouse. I learned that the hard way my first year with high tunnels. Not only does it make it difficult to work in there, but it also increases disease and pest issues, and they compete with one another for water and nutrients. You can improve your yield per square foot by planting fewer plants. This is particularly so if you don’t prune the plants (which I don’t do – too labor-intensive).

Peppers don’t get as crazy as tomatoes, but they also consume a lot of water and are very shallow-rooted, so again there can be competition if they are crowded.

SF photo fb wisdom Adi hoophouse densifty photo

LEARN MORE HOOPHOUSE BEST GROWING PRACTICES IN THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP. TRIAL MEMBERSHIP IS FREE WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY SPIN GUIDE.

Become Your Own Weather Forecaster

Courtesy of Adithya Ramachandran, Kaleidoscope Vegetable Gardens, Dundurn SK

High tunnels require farmers to become their own weather forecasters. In the Saskatoon area, tonight’s forecast low is -13 C (8.6 F). That’s a little too cold for most cool-season crops, so we spent part of last week laying down row cover – 8000 sq ft of it. The cover also accelerates germination.

I’ve kept temperature records in past seasons to determine the effectiveness of row covers. Based on variables such as afternoon soil temperature at a standardized depth, number of layers of row covers, soil moisture status, and height of row covers above
plants, I came up with a few formulas for determining what the overnight low will be.

For example, today’s soil temp. at the 4′ depth is 10 C inside tunnels. I expect it to rise to 14 C by late afternoon. 14 – (-13) is 27. For a single layer, I use a factor of 0.35. 0.35*27 is 9.5. 9.5 + (-13) is -3.5 C (26 F). That is my forecast low underneath the row cover.

For double layered row cover, I use a factor of 0.45. That gives me a forecast low of -1 C (30 F). Sunflower greens are the only crop to get double cover – all other cool-season crops should be fine with one layer.

SF photo guest blog Adi weather forecast

GET MORE ROW COVER TIPS OF THE TRADE IN OUR ONLINE FORUM. FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP COMES WITH THE PURCHASE OF THE SPIN GUIDES.