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

 

Thinking of Spring, and Squash for Winter Markets

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

SPIN farmers are always looking ahead, so now that spring is coming, I’m thinking of winter squash plantings. I’ll use transplants, start them in mid – May, and put them into the ground in early June. Our short season here in Saskatoon ( zone 3 ) is often over in mid-September, at least for warm weather crops. So I find these things, called Kozy Coats or Walls of Water, help get squash plants off to a quick start.

SPIN photo squash Kozy Coats

They are filled with water and help keep the plants warmer at night. We place a tomato cage inside the coat which allows for extra support. Plants are watered with a hose once or twice a week, and the crater like depression around each plant means the water will stay around the plant. We have also had a problem with gophers at this site, and the coats keep these pests away. I keep them on all summer. The plants just explode out of the coats in a few weeks.

Squash is a good crop for winter’s farmers markets when offerings are more limited. Selling them in sections increases their per head value. Using the SPIN system you can target $1,000 – $2,000 gross per segment, which is 1,000 sq.ft.

You can see Gail’s take on turning squash and pumpkins into high value crops on SPIN’s youtube channel here.

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

Storage Crops Provide Winter Cashflow

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK
Finally got to unload the 8,000 lbs. of storage potatoes that we harvested from our peri-urban plot. Did it with a few friends in about an hour, just before market on Sunday. Gail says there are still about 3,000- 4,000 lbs. to harvest, but the weather is holding here in Zone 3, so hopefully we can get the rest out. These potatoes we have in storage is like money in the bank.

The key storage temperature for long term storage of root vegetables is around 40 F. , or just above freezing.  We use an above ground storage room in our heated garage. See photo below. We have an old compressor, probably dating from the 1960’s. Compressors won’t run in cool temperatures, so we heat the garage to allow for the compressor to run all winter. Basement storage can be good for short term storage, for a couple of months, but it is unreliable for long term winter storage.

Storage crops provide good cashflow in the winter when you can’t be growing, and if you want to do it seriously you should have above ground refrigerated storage capacity.

SPIN photo storage 8000lbs potatoes