Expand Your Farm Without Acquiring More Land

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Market Garden, Pleasantdale, SK

This time of year farmers begin to think about how they can ramp up production for next year. It may be because of the pandemic but we’re hearing from a lot  who want to expand.  Their first thought is to expand their land base. Sometimes it makes sense to do this, but many times it is cheaper and easier to make better use of the land you already have. SPIN-Farming calls this intensification.

How  do you intensify your land base? You might tighten up your spacings, if they are too loose. That way you can plant more crops in that area. Or you might intensify by doing more relay cropping. Many times you will have land that isn’t replanted, after it has just been harvested of a crop. If you plant another crop there, and get two crops instead of one, on the same piece of land, that in essence doubles the area of that area replanted.

Let’s do the math like a SPIN farmer. If you have one acre of production, and just plant one crop per year on that land, then you are getting one acre of production. To expand production without buying more land, you can figure out a cropping strategy where you are getting two crops per year on the land you have. That now means you are getting two acres of production from one acre. Three crops per year means you are getting the equivalent of three acres of production. You don’t have to find or buy more land, you just ” intensified ” your production. So in essence, when planting more than one crop per year, which SPIN-Farming calls relay cropping, you are multiplying the size of your land base, without acquiring more land.

SPIN photo intensification spinach
Short season crops, such as spinach, which can be harvested in late spring are perfect crops for intensification. If you are going to plant a segment (1,000 square feet in SPIN-Farming)  to tomatoes on June 15, why not plant that area to spinach first, say around April 1? This will boost your revenue in that segment by possibly several thousand dollars. You can boost the revenue with short season crops in areas that will see long season summer crops.

Areas like this, which will have potatoes and onions planted, have plenty of possibilities for intensification. Once some early new potatoes are harvested, say in mid-summer, start thinking of crops you can plant for late summer/fall harvest. This plot is shown in early spring, so start thinking of  the relay potential. You should never have bare areas in mid- summer. As soon as something has been harvested, start setting up those areas for new plantings.

Once you do math the SPIN-way, you can get more from less, and you also can see why  SPIN stands for s-mall p-lot in-tensive. For a quick 5 minute primer on all of SPIN’s core concepts including relay cropping, check out the video series Let’s Talk SPIN on youtube.