How do I start SPIN-Farming on 16,000 square feet ?

The post below was in response to an opportunity many dream about, and one lucky guy has actually found. Tom answered a craigslist ad for a farm hand position, but it turns out there is no farm, just residential property that a landowner would like him to turn into vegetables. He explained SPIN-Farming, the practices, tools, expenses and labour necessary, and what is possible to pull out of the ground with that size plot. The landowner was all for it, and will cover the cost of  a BCS tiller, any soil tests/amendments, fencing, irrigation/sprinklers, seeds, starts, etc. Tom knows he’s giving up a lot of autonomy, but he’s also giving up a lot of risk. So after celebrating his good fortune, Tom asked, “Now what?” SF photo fb startup truck aCourtesy of Frank F., Mooseview Farm, Brookfield NH

From your photos it looks like this farm is right on the edge of housing tracts so Wally might call it Peri-Urban. It also looks like it abuts a major highway or road so you have a great opportunity to make it a show place. I would definitely plan on a farm stand. The folks in all those houses are going to look out their windows in mid May and see SPIN beds as far as the eye can see and they will be built in  customers for you.

You are also blessed with what looks like a mostly rectangular lot and the old paddocks with fences are also rectangular. So get out a piece of paper and lay out SPIN segments.

It looks like it is mostly rural going the other way so you will probably have to fence for small animal pressure like rabbits. The humans aren’t the only folks in the hood who will look fondly at your new SPIN beds.

I would start by getting beds for greens, starting with spinach, first. You can simply amend with compost and some light trace minerals even before you soil test. Get those beds going. Go out today and start 20 trays of spinach seedlings to transplant. If you start them literally today you will have spinach to transplant in 10 days and product to sell in say 40 days depending on where you are.

I would focus on early sales to jump start your operation. You have a month or so to worry about tomatoes, potatoes, cukes and the warm weather stuff.

Don’t spend time with hoops houses now – get them ready for the fall season extension. Just go buy a quick hoop bender from Lost Creek Greenhouse and a bunch of 1/2″ emt and have a bunch of hoops ready for early spring protection and some 18 or 15 pound remay row cover again depending on where you are and your elevation. (I saw mountains in the photos). Just plan where the permanent houses will go.

Again because this wonderful property appears to be mostly flat and square I would really suggest you take advantage of that and plan for movable hoop houses like Eliot Coleman. Just look in the front cover of his latest book for his plot map for Four Season’s Farm and copy it. If it were me I would set a goal of how many SPIN beds I would have ready for production every week from today on until you get the whole 16,000 sq ft covered. Make a goal of what ever will work – 10 a week? Stick to that, get them planted and you could be farming (that is selling stuff) in 40 days (greens).

Get your plan done. Find somebody who has some art skills and make up a pretty picture of the plan (again look at the sketches in Coleman’s book) and then make up a little tri-fold flyer or something you can take around to local restaurants. Let the chef’s know that you are coming on line THIS YEAR. Give them an idea of the basic crops you plan and ask them for suggestions. Find out if there is a ready supply of Baby Spinach or Arugula in your metro area and if not go for it.

Make sure your planning includes a prep area. The barn looks like the logical choice. Don’t forget about customer parking and access.

Let the local newspaper know what you are doing. They all need stories and if you get a reporter interested now they might follow you all summer as you build the farm and give you free press.

Get your website and Facebook page started TODAY. Start with the pictures you already have and call them a blank slate. ALWAYS have a camera or your cell phone handy and take and post a lot of pictures. People will be excited about what you are building. Share this gift with them via the web and they will become your customers.

OK, you asked. Gosh, I need to get off the computer and get busy with my farm!