Winter Markets Keep the Cash Flowing

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

My operation in zone 3 Canada has been a year round one for many years. Now I’m starting to hear from other SPIN farmers who are usually trading their tillers for a snow blowers about now, that winter markets are booming, and that they, too, plan to keep production going.

For instance, a nursery owner in Minnesota is setting up a room to do 36 10×20 trays indoors under lights, and is planning to provide microgreens to his customers from November to May. He wants to know what kind of yield to project from each 10 x 20 tray, and the pricing he should set.  Here’s what I suggest:

  •  Try doing about 10 trays per week for starters.
  •  Think about adding micro radish to the peas for a salad mix. Very popular. Can also sell them as stand alone greens.
  •  I get about 1/2 lb. of micro radish per tray. About 1 lb. of pea greens.
  •  Stay with SPIN’s mix and match pricing of $3.00 2/$5.00, and unitize accordingly, with the idea of targeting at least $20 of revenue per tray. [Note that in some markets SPIN farmers are reporting they have been able to push SPIN’s pricing benchmark to $4 or 2/$8].  
  •  To see if you can save on costs, try growing without lights initially, just room light.
  •  Add lights, say to a max of 8 hours per day, and observe what it does for your production, and determine whether you need them.
  • Some commercial growers grow pea greens/micros in darkness, to get a yellow looking product, which chefs like.

DDG5 photo 45 DSC00574

There are many ways SPIN farmers can continue to make hay while the snow flies. Here are the SPIN guides that can give you some more ideas on how to keep your cash flow going during the winter months:  Indoor Farming with MicroGreens  Four Season Marketing


Pushing the Limits of Micro Greens Production

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

I am finding that I can barely keep up with my quick greens production i.e. pea/sunflower/micro greens. Right now I have outdoor production on about 400 sq.ft. at my home plot, as well as a few dozen trayed indoor production units per week. This area here allows for five 20 ft. beds, each worth about $100 in less than two weeks. Beds are replanted to more quick greens, all summer. That’s about $500 every two weeks, or $1000 per month from about a 1/2 segment ( 1,000 sq. ft.) The math on this goes through the
roof. I think I will be expanding my outdoor quick greens production.

SPIN photo quick greens $1000permonth400sf

Learn how to grow and sell a new class of micro greens called Quick Greens in Dig Deeper guide # 3 in the SPIN-Farming learning series.   


New Product Line: Quick Greens

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

I’ve been developing a new product line called Quick Greens. Greens figure prominently in SPIN-Farming because of their quick days to harvest. So they are great for relay cropping  because different crops can be planted either before or after them. Thirty to 50 days from planting to harvest are common time frames for greens such as lettuce and spinach. But Quick Greens have even shorter days to harvest – 10 – 14 days.

Quick Greens include sunflower greens, grown in soil. They can also be planted in containers  on parts of your land base that would not usually see production, like decks patio or driveways. No specialty structures or systems are needed.  Dry seeds are broadcast into the plots. Days to harvest is under 14 days. This two row bed here is worth around $100.

SPIN photo sunflower greens in soil

I will be targeting steady weekly production of two to three beds. Harvested greens need to be washed, and a bit of time needs to be spent picking out any hulls, though most of the hulls will pop off before harvest if you brush the plants by hand or apply a gentle spray wash.

These are proving to be a great niche product for me, and a real draw at market. I recently bagged off $80 worth into .10 lb. bags. and sold them for $3.00 each, or 2/$5.00. I bagged another six .15 bags and sold them to restaurants for $7.50 per bag.

SPIN photo sunflower greens in bin

If you want to grow and sell Quick Greens, here’s the guide that tells you how.

Pricing Micro Greens

Courtesy of Brenda S., Thompson Street Farm, Glastonbury CT
Some micro’s leaves are heavier (per oz) than others. For example, sunflower shoots weigh more than horseradish and chia, so I get more money per oz for sunflowers than I do for horseradish and chia. On the other hand, if a customer wants lighter weight micros they are getting a great bargain from me because they are getting a lot of greens per oz. In general I get approx 4 – 6 oz per tray @ $2.00 per/oz depending on the green.

If someone asks for the whole tray, and I’m never going to see them again, its a flat $20.00. I re-use my trays and recycle my soil, so I don’t like to give up my trays. Trays and soil aren’t cheap and I realize I’m selling my micros on the low end so I really need to be frugal with everything that I do.

However, I have a customer that always returns my trays (and soil) every week faithfully so I just charge her the per oz amount.