Learning the Lesson of Sustainability

Courtesy of Roxanne C, Philadelphia PA

The biggest challenge to sustainability has been defining what it means and developing practices to achieve it. Big Food is starting to make big progress. Rather than just giving lip service to an abstract moral imperative, companies are starting to operate differently, by reducing water and energy consumption and cutting carbon emissions, and putting processes in place to measure and monitor these changes, and incorporating them into their marketing message. They are also starting to reduce waste by improving packaging and manufacturing processes, and blockchain is starting to be used to trace very player in the supply chain. The corporate food industry has learned that its economic sustainability depends on practicing social and environmental sustainability, so it’s motivated.

Since it’s launch in 2006 SPIN-Farming has been teaching this lesson in reverse to new farmers who have been inspired to enter the profession based on the mantras “Small is beautiful” and “The soil is sacred.” While they’ve been well-schooled in social and environmental sustainability, we’ve been showing them how to operate businesses. This really isn’t an option any more. Big Food has plentiful resources, and most importantly the will, to define and advance the cause of sustainability. Sustainability is no longer just a niche, it’s not a selling point that’s exclusive to SPIN farmers, and its meaning will become less useful as a differentiator and less valuable in the marketplace as it becomes the norm.

That means that while the corporate food industry is getting better at being socially and
environmentally responsible, SPIN farmers are having to get better at business. No matter which way you come at it, the lesson is the same: in the long term, the three pillars of sustainability – the economic, social and environmental – support each other and need to be addressed simultaneously. SPIN farmers need to become as obsessive about their bottom lines as their organic matter. Otherwise, the world will progress without us.

SF photo Sustainable LLC

LEARN HOW TO START AND KEEP A  FARM BUSINESS  GOING IN THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP. FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP WHEN YOU PURCHASE ANY SPIN GUIDE.

Payoff from Consumer Conundrum

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA 

Love it or hate it, the government is getting good at identifying food safety problems and
notifying the public when illnesses occur. Here is the latest. 

But it still lacks the ability to trace and identify the producers who caused the health threat.

At the same time, it’s also promoting more consumption of fresh foods, going so far as to identify PVF’s – powerhouse vegetables and fruits – based on a nutrient dense  measurement that not long ago was considered fringey.

The consumers who care about any of this now find themselves in the position of wanting to eat more healthy foods while being supplied continual reasons to mistrust the far-flung food supply chain that produces it. “Got romaine?” was the refrain at this month’s farmers markets, so more consumers are starting to connect the dots between local and safer. So we should thank the government for keeping everyone on
high alert, and if need be, use a food safety premium to justify our prices.

SF photo Recall

Remember, even though you may be using municipal water and do all the harvest yourself, you need to keep Food Safety top of mind. Farms of all sizes benefit from abiding by GAP standards, and attending a GAP workshop is a worthwhile investment for any farmer who is serious about their business. Take it from Wally. 

FIND OUT HOW BACKYARD FARMERS ARE KEEPING GOVERNMENT ON THEIR SIDE IN THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP. FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP WHEN YOU PURCHASE ANY SPIN GUIDE

Beautifully Easy Economics

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Market Garden

There’s an easy way to get into the habit of tracking and covering your cost of doing business. Itemize your expenses, like gas, seed costs, farm stand fees, plot rental, sales bags, and then figure out how many units of a crop you need ot sell to cover it. Here’s an example.

What a SPIN farmer sees here are beautiful bouquets and gas money.

What a SPIN farmer sees here are beautiful bouquets and gas money.

These are my gas money crop. Flower can bouquets. Cost to produce them is minimal. Most of the flowers are perennial or gathered from the roadside. Cans are brought to me by customers and other vendors at market. Time to gather and arrange is about 2 hours for 10 cans. 10 stems per can. Price is $10/can. Two hour round trip gas expense is about $50.

The point is to produce just enough units of certain crops to cover your operating expenses. So you develop the mindset of tying together your business goals to your cropping strategies to be sure whatever you grow is earning its keep.

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

 

SPIN-Farming Member Meetup with Cathy LeValley

SF photo PPT Cathy LeValley mailchimp healthy snacks

WHEN: July 12, 2pm ET

WHERE: Online

REGISTER: Members can register here.

LEARN FROM THE BEST MINDS IN BACKYARD FARMING TODAY, LIKE CATHY LEVALLEY, IN THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP. FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP WHEN YOU PURCHASE ANY SPIN GUIDE

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

 

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!

 

Long Haul Farmers

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA

Reporters who really dig into the local food movement ask, “Will this time be different?” We don’t know the answer. But those who do the research find that the long term track record of volunteer-based gardening efforts is not good, and the amount community gardens contribute to the food supply has never amounted to even a rounding error. Gardening advocates try to strengthen their case with the statistic that during World War II US Victory Gardens produced 40% of the country’s food needs. But the fact that these gardens went fallow after the war ended can hardly be claimed as proof of concept.

In the end success is defined by staying power, not growing power. It is easy to inspire people to grow food, and it is easy to help people grow food. What’s hard is to keep them doing it, in significant volume, over the long haul. Unless there is a way to keep lots of people committed and productive, this good food revolution will go the way of Victory Gardens – a temporary fix to get through challenging times that disappears as soon as economic and social conditions improve.

Observers of professional farming admit to the same challenge. Kelvin Leibold, farm and ag business management specialist at Iowa State University, is quoted in a recent article entitled “Challenges Facing Beginning Farmers” on Agriculture.com: “All of my life, people have been saying we’d run out of farmers. The big issue today isn’t getting more people started. It’s keeping those who started in the last 10 years profitable enough to stay in ag.” Mr. Leibold was talking about large scale farmers, but it’s a challenge we all share.

That leads to a point about SPIN-Farming that continues to be missed. SPIN not only makes it easy for new farmers to get started by removing the 2 big barriers to entry – land and capital – it also increases the chances of long term success. How many new farmers are defeating themselves by following the old model and being forced to give up, when they might otherwise have succeeded if they weren’t initially overburdened
financially by debt and operationally by large acreage and overhead?

As we have said before, what makes this time different is the financial incentive. So while we are focused on shortening the distance from farm to plate, let’s be sure we also help new gardeners and farmers go the distance. One way is to teach them how to make growing food pay.

SF photo prices on sign Mooseview Farm

 

This time could be different if the enthusiasm and interest in local foods leads to the establishment of businesses…

SF photo staying power

that have staying power. Peer-to-peer online networks,which provide ongoing support and continual professional development can help. SPIN-Farming is unbound by ideology or the status quo, and is market-driven.