SPIN Farming versus Market Gardening

SPIN-Farming’s scale and growing practices are no different than market gardening. What is novel is the SPIN-Farming system which standardizes how a market garden is planned, created and run.  It gives beginners  a framework for farm design, crop selection and income  projections so they can get growing, and cash flowing, without having to make it all up as they go along. SPIN’s relay cropping technique is the cornerstone of it all.

Relay cropping is the sequential planting of crops, in the same plot, throughout the season. This means you plant one crop in a plot, harvest the crop, and then replant the plot to another crop. There are bi-relays, in which 2 crops are grown one right after the other. There are also intensive relays , in which 3 or more crops are grown one right after the other.

Many market gardeners don’t do much in the way of relay cropping, or if they do, it’s done at a low level of conceptualization and execution. Meaning, they don’t use it as a way to design, structure and operate their farm.

Growing one crop per area is the rule for many of them. There is often what is called a main crop for an area, which might take up the bulk of the growing season. Classic example is tomatoes, which are typically planted after the Last Spring Frost date. That means this plot is not utilized until that point, and the grower misses out on virtually an entire growing season, namely early spring.

Even in colder zones, crops such as onion, spinach, and lettuce can be planted in early spring, and harvested before it’s time to plant tomatoes in that area. End result: the harvested early crops have boosted the revenue from that plot. Sometimes these early season revenue boosters can be worth more than the main season crop. So the strategic and systematic use of relay cropping is one of the ways SPIN differs from conventional market gardening. It’s what put the intensive into S-mall P-lot IN-tensive.