Seed Saving ROI – Would You Believe $250K?

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

Seed saving has been in vogue for some time now, and there are lots of good reasons to do it. Here’s one that surprised me. In crunching some numbers on garlic production, I figured out that from a $500 investment in seed garlic this year, I can grow this investment by 5 times, each year, so at the end of year 4, I’ve turned 250 heads into 125,000 heads worth $250k. The point is to replant the harvested garlic each year instead of selling it.

The calculations involve assuming 5 cloves per head. Planting the cloves multiplies your seed stock at a dramatic rate in a few years. Seed stock, especially for crops like garlic, can be initially expensive to buy, so replanting to multiply your stock has real impact on your bottom line.

Those of you with small yards, or maybe even no yard, are asking, “Yes, but how much land do you need to generate $250k?” Nowhere near as much as you might think.

This is where SPIN-Farming’s standard units of production come in handy. I figure I need about a half SPIN segment, or 500 sq. ft., for 1,000 cloves. 25,000 cloves requires 12.5 segments, which is around a 1/4 acre. 125,000 cloves will require 50  segments, just over an acre. That’s about 2 suburban backyards. So if you don’t have the space yourself, you can team up with someone else, using SPIN’s multi-locational model.

Seed stock multiplication is something I am going to start paying more attention to, because saving seed may save you a pretty penny, and help you generate lots of ’em, too.

Seed saving is virtuous, and a moneymaker too!

Seed saving is virtuous, and a moneymaker too!


New Cropping Strategy, Courtesy of My Local Chain Store

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK
My garlic cropping strategy has been dictated by the limited availability of garlic seed. But now I’ve found a way to support significant green garlic sales this time of year, thanks to my  local chain store. I have been buying California and Mexican garlic there for around $3/lb., which is a significant discount to the typical $5+/lb price, and it’s been performing well. The key is to test whether or not it has been treated. I put it into the soil, and see if within a week or so it sends out roots.

As long as I can continue to get untreated garlic, I can continue planting for green/fresh garlic sales all summer and into the fall. I planted this first bed in April and will start harvesting it soon.

SF photo Wally green garlic

I will plant every week going into mid/late summer, as long as the store bought garlic remains viable. I have about 15 SPIN beds in production now, and will try to plant about one bed per week.

I am harvesting the whole plant and selling it in bunches at $3 or 2/$5.

I’ll also be planting more garlic in containers, and selling them for $5.00, but they require a hard sell at market. You need to say they can be used as a cutting green. Stems/leaves give a nice robust flavor without the garlic hangover taste, so that’s the sales pitch. I give them a sample by cutting off with scissors a bit of stem. For your apartment/condo customers another sales point is that it can be grown in room light or on a balcony. You can sell to them many times in the season.

Thanks to SuperStore I am completely changing my green garlic strategy this season.

Edible Houseplants are a Good Indoor Crop

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

I am in hard winter here right now, so the only outside work I have is shoveling snow. Believe me, there is no market for that here in Saskatoon. Given that we go to three markets a week, year round, we are having to concoct money making ideas. One new product we have test marketed the last couple of weeks is edible house plants, specifically garlic. We sell them in the containers you see below for $5.00 each.

SPIN photo farm stand display

We plant 5 cloves per container. Three weeks later you have a marketable product. We use indoor grow table/racks for this production. Plants are sold with the idea that you harvest the green garlic, and it will regrow to be harvestable again. Given the low price point, people are willing to give it a try, and they are moving well.
Wally, Zone 3

Grow Tables for Bedding Plants

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK
Our spring was way behind schedule this year – still shoveling snow at the end of March and freezing temperatures throughout April. So I’ve had to  rev up indoor production. I built some grow tables in the basement and and put in garlic transplants. We test marketed them with surprisingly good success. We are now moving on to basil bedding plant production.Following SPIN’s mix and match pricing model, each plant is sold at $3.00 each, or 2/$5.00, with customers being able to mix and match with potatoes, greens, and micro greens. Instead of our sales crashing due to the uncooperative weather, we’ve got good steady income. I see lots of potential for grow table production.

SPIN Photo grow table garlic

SPIN photo grow table basil

Black Garlic

Courtesy of Bob G., Gardiner’s Gardens,  Fox Valley, SK

I have been researching “black garlic”, which is garlic fermented at medium temp for 40 days. The product is exotic, has a high retail price, and if you can find a way to prepare it,  it just might be both a high margin product and way to set you apart at a farmer’s market. Just Google black garlic and you will find a number of methods.  I will plant garlic in volume next fall with the idea of producing black garlic in 2014.

Spring Garlic Planting

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK
We didn’t have a chance to plant our hardneck garlic in the fall time, so we overwintered it  inside in cool/dark conditions in the basement. We did something ” crazy ” today and cracked it, and planted into jiffy pots. The garlic seemed to be breaking dormancy, and the quality of the garlic was degrading, so we figured the best way to save it was to plant it in jiffy pots, instead of waiting probably another month before we can plant outdoors. Will see what happens. Might even sell it as bedding plants at market.

Old time garlic growers tell me you can plant hardneck in the spring, so it should be
interesting. We will also be planting softneck in the spring. We get some cheap silver skin type garlic from the local seed store, for around $4.00/lb., if you buy at least 50 lbs. Good for green garlic, fresh garlic, and mature garlic sales.