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.

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.