Mix It Up

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA

It’s winter. Are you selling “Spring Mix”? What you call, and put into, your salad mix 
shouldn’t always be the same. SPIN farmers change their salad ingredients  to reflect the changing seasons and keep customer interest stoked. 

How much variety and creativity they put into their salad mixes is dictated by how adventurous their customers are, and how big a revenue generator it is for them. Some ingredients like chard and kale can be grown all season long. Other ingredients like Bull’s blood beets, mache, orach, purslane and radicchio are relayed at different times in the season. 

Edible flowers also add a wow factor. SPIN farmer Chris Kimber, owner/operator of of 3 Crows Farm, recommends  adding nasturtiums to a Mesclun Mix. Just 2 or 3 per bag near the top will distinguish yourself from other vendors. They bloom all season long,and taste great, leaves and blooms – zippy, peppery burst. Another plus is they grow well in hanging planters so you don’t have to take up valuable plot space.

In spring, Rob Miller of Trefoil Gardens, adds violets to his mixes. He is one of Georgia’s few certified foragers and he includes wildlings to his mixes, in addition to the crops he grows. Check out his Wild Salad Mix:

SPIN’s guide # 14 details how to build a $30k business with specialty salad mixes as a key part of a crop repertoire. Get it here, and remember that what distinguishes your salads from the assembly line salads in the grocery aisle are its ingredients. Make sure its name conveys the creativity and character that you put in it so your customers get the message. 



Revenue is the Benchmark to Beat

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA

We have said before that SPIN is performance-based, which means that success is measurable. The traditional and often used benchmark in farming is yield.

Certainly the amount of crops you produce is important. But to succeed as a business, what is most important is not the ability to grow in significant volume. It’s the ability to sell, at pricing that makes it worth your while.

Many don’t yet see how this applies to SPIN-scale production because up until the last 10 years or so, there were no markets to support it, so it did not have much of a dollar value. But now there is real money to be made. In the USDA’s 2012  agriculture census valued local food sales at $7 billion.

SPIN’s guide # 18 Crop Profiles is the first attempt to quantify just how lucrative backyard farming can be. These are numbers worth chewing on, and they give farmers different, and highly rewarding, benchmarks to beat.

DDG3 photo 9

SPIN’s small plots generate high yields, but the overall volumes are low compared to conventional farming. 

SPIN photo seed to cash restaurant delivery


What is important is that SPIN-scale production can be sold locally at prices that make it worth your while.  

SPIN photo seed to cash invoice for restaurant


Even big name hotels and institutions that rely on Sysco are deciding it is worth it to purchase from local farmers because they have less spoilage when they get crops fresh picked. Also, more and more of their customers are demanding it.  

The Secret Ingredient to Salad Mix Success

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

It’s high summer for many of us now, but go to your standard grocery or corner store and check out what is on the shelf. Chances are it’s spring mix. And therein lies the secret to creating the best salad mix. The most important ingredient is change. Selling the same product day in and day out, year round, is no way to get people excited to pay top dollar for a premium product.

Change is an economic driver, and it fits very well with a SPIN farmer’s highly dynamic production plan. Components for salad mixes should change frequently, reflecting the seasons, what is ready to be harvested, what seeds are available and reasonably priced. You should continually add unusual greens to your mixes, because they distinguish you at market and can lead to a best seller that you would not  otherwise have discovered. Many customers consider salad mixes to be a staple now, and buy them week after week. So marketing unusual greens as a salad mix breaks down people’s resistance to buying a new type of green that they might not be familiar with.

OK, so now that you have the concept behind creating successful salad mixes, what is the secret recipe? Pretty easy. There are 2 basic ingredients – base crops and novelty crops. Base crops are high yielding, quick to harvest crops like peas, radish and sunflowers. Novelty crops are inexpensive, and may be lower yielding or slower to mature, and are used to add color or texture, like red cabbage or broccoli. Right now I am just using peas and radish. I am also starting to grow yellow peas, which produces a “tendril“ pea. I have also added lentil greens, when I grow them.

Many a SPIN farmer’s career has been built on a signature salad mix. To find out how to get started, check out this case study and then start mixing it up.

SPIN photo Wally and salad mix