SPIN and the Nature of Work

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Co-founder, SPIN-Farming, Philadelphia PA

The rise of female farmers is a trend that has been noted in many countries. What I find more intriguing is how the concept of work is changing. People are no longer tethered  to the same career for their entire lives. And in fact, some people have simultaneous careers.

Having to have an “off-farm” job was once viewed as a shortcoming of the profession. But people are combining SPIN-style farming with other careers, and it’s not just those who are in closely aligned fields, like chefs and doctors.  Web designers, accountants, teachers, and many others are becoming farmers because it suits their ambitions. SPIN-Farming is especially adaptable and flexible that way. It presents the option of weaving farming in and out at various times throughout what is becoming a much longer working life. Farming used to be “second nature” for many. It’s becoming that way again.


SPIN’s Revenue Targeting Formula

Courtesy of Roxanne C., co-author, SPIN-Farming, Philadelphia, PA

SPIN’s revenue targeting formula is where all of the SPIN concepts come together. Here are the steps to apply the formula:
1) Determine the number of standard size beds in the plot.
2) Determine which beds will be intensive relayed, bi-relayed and planted to single crops.
3) Calculate the income potential of each area, based on the worth of a high-value crop Example:

A farmer couple working a 1 acre plot, with help from 1 or 2 interns
1 acre plot = 480 standard size beds
100 intensive relay beds = 100 x $300 = $30,000 gross
100 bi-relay beds = 100 x $200 = $20,000 gross
280 single crop beds = 280 x $100 = $28,000
Total Revenue Target: $78,000 gross

SPIN-Farming is an exercise in figuring out how much money you want to make, and then determining how to allocate your land base to the different areas of cropping intensity to achieve the targeted income.

SPIN’s Land Base Allocation

Courtesy of Roxanne C., co-author, SPIN-Farming, Philadelphia, PA 

SPIN-Farming is frequently regarded as an urban farming application,and its advantages there are clear. It greatly reduces the amount of land needed for commercial crop production, which makes it easily integrated into the built environment. It is also non-mechanized and organic-based, which makes it compatible with densely populated areas.

But one of SPIN’s basic concepts – land base allocation – is of benefit to all scales of farming operations. Land base allocation is an exercise in allocating your land base to three different areas of cropping intensity and using the 1-2-3 layout to plan your production. The 1 area of your farm is the least intensive and is devoted to single, lower-value crops per season like melons or squash. This area does not typically use beds. The 2 area of your farm is devoted to bi-relay crops in which 2 higher-value crops, per bed, per season, are grown sequentially. And the 3 area of your farm is where you are doing your intensive relay cropping in which 3 or more high-value crops per bed, per season, are grown sequentially. Each of these areas contribute a different amount to your total income, with the 3 high- value area obviously contributing the most. The larger your land base, the larger the 1 and 2 areas will be. The smaller your land base, the larger your 3 area will be.

With the SPIN-Farming system you determine how much money you want to make, which is your revenue target, and then determine how to use the three areas of your land base to produce that amount.

SPIN’s Definition of a High-Value Crop

Courtesy of Roxanne C., co-author, SPIN-Farming, Philadelphia, PA

The commonly accepted definition of a high-value crop is one that generates more revenue per acre than a conventional grain crop. SPIN’s definition is much more specific: a high-value crop is one that is worth $100 gross per harvest per bed. Characteristics that make a crop high-value are:

  • it matures in about 30 days or less
  • has high market demand.

Examples of high-value crops include beets, leafy greens, carrots and scallion.

High-value crops are used in SPIN relays.

Advantages to SPIN’s Standard Size Bed

Courtesy of Roxanne C., co-author, SPIN-Farming, Philadelphia, PA

Knowing the advantages to the standard size bed will get you a long way towards understanding the SPIN-Farming system. A standard size bed measures 2 feet wide by 25 feet long. Its width is easily straddled with the legs, making hand work within the bed fast and easy. It also corresponds to the width of most rototillers. The length corresponds to the length of most garden hoses. It’s overall area of 50 square feet can be worked without tiring. It also is the basic unit of measure in SPIN’s revenue targeting formula, which is used to calculate a plot’s income potential.