Now Is Always the Best Time to Start a Farm

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA

The hands down best advice on starting a farm is “Don’t wait.” This Colorado SPIN member’s situation is typical. “I’ve just had a few opportunities fall into my lap where I can actually start my operation (full time freedom status) within the next month. This is about a year earlier than I originally planned where I would have spent the next year interning before starting out on my own.

Bottom Line: I’m very very excited about being able to start my dream NOW instead of some point down the road and I want to make sure I’m making the best informed decisions I can at this point in the season (End of summer, early fall).”

Here’s what other SPIN members are advising him:

1. Lay out and Prep Your Beds. “An absolute rule of farming in general and intense SPIN farming in particular is that there is never enough time in the spring to get everything done you want to. So if you have an opportunity to start laying out your SPIN beds, preparing them, any fencing you need, etc. DO IT! You can then look at them over the winter and you might see where you want to change the layout etc. If you wait until spring it may be too late to make changes and you will have to wait a year.”

2. Plant Greens Under Cover. “In Colorado, greens will grow under a tunnel of some sort/greenhouse if you plant now. They will grow slow due to the short days but you’ll have greens take off after the winter solstice when the days get longer if we don’t get a brutal winter.”

3. Test Plant and Get in Seeder Practice. “Put in some test plantings of radish, spinach, lettuce, and possibly some quick greens. See at least if you can get germination, and see what happens. Try a bed of each. It will start establishing your farmers muscle memory. Do you have a seeder? Might be a good idea to get familiar with a seeder now.”

4. Do Market Research. Define your delivery radius and identify markets within it. Visit them to check out which ones are worth applying to. Or feel out you neighbors for a CSA. Or restaurants. Get your sales channels for next year identified now.”

Probably few would describe farming as low risk, high reward. But SPIN is exactly that. In removing the barriers to entry – land and capital –  it also eliminates all the excuses to not start. You can dream as if you’ll live forever. But farm as if you’ll die today.

SF photo feet up Northern Ice Farms

 

Just do it.

GET MORE TIPS ON FASTER AND EASIER STARTUP IN SPIN’S ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP. FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY SPIN GUIDE. FREE TRIAL SUBSCRIPTION TO THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP INCLUDED.

Season Off-track, Sales On-track

SPIN farmers work with Nature, rather than against her. Sometimes she returns the favor, and sometimes she doesn’t. That is what makes farming so thrilling. In essence, you’re working with a business partner that always keeps you guessing. For me, this spring has been a real nail biter.

What I can do in most years, and what my plan this year was based on, is to begin planting the first week of April. In go my crops for early season cash flow – scallion, green garlic and spinach. Then it turned rainy and cool right through last week and I did not get those crops in.

But thanks to my grow rooms and my strategy of always expanding my product line, I’m still on track to hit SPIN’s early spring sales benchmark of $1k per week, selling 3 days at the Saskatoon Farmers Market. In spite of not having outside early spring production, here’s what my stand looks like this week.

SF photo Wally early spring $1k market

Below is what I am offering – all grown by me. It’s represents full-out grow room production (four grow rooms, one in the basement, one in the heating room, and two in the garage; 300 sq. ft. of growing space total), and my storage crops from last fall, which are still paying dividends.

Crops:

  • Storage potatoes
  • Storage carrots
  • pea greens
  • Pea green/micro salad mix

Live plants:

  • Garlic
  • Beets
  • Cat grass
  • Onions
  • Sugar peas

Bedding plants:

  • Heirloom tomatoes ( 15 types)
  • Hot peppers ( 10 types )
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Rhubarb
  • Tomatilloes

Today is a glory day for a farmer here, sunny and in the 60’s.

SF photo Wally glory day at peri urban plot

We’re getting our peri-urban plot ready for the planting of two onion varieties. But you can’t base a business on being a fair weather farmer. When Nature does not co-operate, start the season without her.