If you are
in the business of growing and selling food, flowers, herbs or
plants, this book will help you make your farm more efficient
Market Farming Success identifies the key areas that usually trip up beginners - and shows how to avoid those obstacles. This book will help the aspiring or beginning farmer advance quickly and confidently through the inevitable learning curve of starting a new business. Written by the editor of Growing for Market, it condenses decades of growing experience from every part of the United States and Canada.
Market Farming Success focuses on the factors that are common to market gardeners everywhere and offers professional advice that includes: How much you'll need to spend to start a market farming business; How much you can expect to earn; Which crops bring in the most money - and whether you should grow them; The essential tools and equipment you will need; The best places to sell your products; How to keep records to maximize profits and minimize taxes; Tricks of the trade that will make you more efficient in the greenhouse, field and market.
Market Farming Success is the quintessential "insider's guide" that will make you a more professional and savvy farmer and speed you on the path to success.
Chapter 1 - Getting started in market gardening
How much money can you make?
Finding your farm
Pick a good name for your farm
Chapter 2 - The markets
Farm markets and destination farms
Pick Your Own (U-Pick)
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Natural food stores
Chapter 3 - The crops
What will you grow?
Chapter 4 - Equipment and tools
Chapter 5 - Planning your production
Chapter 6 - Planting and tending your crops
In the greenhouse
Into the field
Chapter 7 - From field to market
Pricing your products
Chapter 8 - Managing your business
Insurance: How much do you need?
Chapter 9 - Where to learn more
Thomas Jefferson was a landowner, politician, diplomat and president of the United States. But in his heart, he claimed, he really wanted to be a market gardener.
"I have often thought that if heaven had given me choice of my position and calling," Jefferson wrote, "it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden."
If you've purchased this book, you probably know exactly what Jefferson meant. For many of us, working with plants is a passion that can be satisfied only by a commercial-scale garden. At some point in your progress as a gardener, you have found yourself with far too many tomatoes or zucchinis or bedding plants to suit the needs of a single family. But it's as though you can't stop yourself from growing more and more every year. That's when the light bulb goes on and you think "I could be selling all this stuff!"
Welcome to the club. In the 15 years that I have been publishing Growing for Market, the monthly newsletter for market gardeners, I have talked to countless people who have been bitten by the market gardening bug. I won't name names, but I know of at least one Academy Award-winning actress, one major rock star, and one dot-com billionaire who have started market farms. I also know builders, college professors, computer experts, doctors, journalists, TV meteorologists, and others who achieved great status in their professions but still wanted to be market gardeners. I know big farmers who scaled down to market gardening - and got more profitable. I know young people who went to college for advanced degrees, then decided they would rather work on a farm. Market gardeners run the gamut from teenagers to people in their 80s. They come from all socioeconomic backgrounds, and every state in the nation, including many places that you don't think of as being hospitable to vegetable and flower production. Growing for Market has subscribers who are farming in Las Vegas, New York City, and the Yukon.
Whatever your background, wherever you are located, rest assured that you can be a market farmer.
What to call yourself.
You'll find there is a great deal of variation in the words commercial gardeners use to describe their occupation: market gardener, market farmer, direct-market farmer, vegetable farmer, and truck farmer are all part of the lexicon. There are no official definitions, but here's a distinction made by John Hendrickson of the University of Wisconsin:
· Market gardens have fewer than 3 acres in production, not counting fallow or cover cropped areas. Market gardeners use mostly hand labor.
· Market farms have between 3 and 12 acres in production, not counting fallow or cover cropped areas. Market farmers use a mix of hand labor and mechanization.
· Vegetable farms produce crops on more than 12 acres, which requires mechanization.
The phrase market garden was in widespread use in the late 1800s, when seedsman Peter Henderson wrote the classic book Gardening for Profit. (His book is well worth reading today, certainly for learning about your heritage as a market gardener but also because nothing ever really changes; much of the advice he gave in 1886 is still applicable.) Henderson refers to himself as a market gardener, even though he grew more than 10 acres of vegetables. To him, the term referred to someone who grew a wide variety of produce to sell.
The term "truck farmer" is not used much anymore but many older people will recognize it as referring to people who farmed on the outskirts of cities and trucked their produce into the city to sell. "Direct-market farmer" is an all-purpose phrase that describes anyone who grows something that is sold directly to customers, rather than into a wholesale or processing chain. Most people who grew up on farms, even large commodity crop farms, remember some direct marketing activities taking place. Their mothers may have sold eggs or milk from the family's hens and milk cow, or the children may have sold garden extras at a roadside stand. That is uncommon now on large crop farms because rural population has declined as farm size has increased, meaning there are not many neighbors to buy products directly from a farmer. But many large vegetable farms in recent years have created a direct-marketing sideline by selling at farmers' markets in nearby cities.
The phrases "destination farm" and "entertainment farm" have recently cropped up to describe operations that attract customers to the farm with retail stores, pumpkin patches, hay rides, and more elaborate attractions such as mazes, festivals, and pizza gardens.
What does it take?
Whatever their age or background, and whatever they call themselves, people who get into market farming have more uniting them than dividing them. Everyone quickly finds out that market gardening is one of the most complicated and challenging jobs you could ever hold. First, you have to be a good farmer, which is no simple matter itself, given all the considerations of soil, scheduling, variety selection, crop management, and harvest. And you have to be able to handle all those tasks not for one or two crops, but for literally dozens of crops.
Then you have to be good at marketing - to know how to advertise your produce, price it, display it, educate people about using it, and cross-market with other products you're also selling. Finally, you need to have a head for business - to know how to keep records, pay your taxes, know your costs of production, stay informed about relevant laws and regulations, buy insurance, hire help, and much, much more.
This book isn't going to tell you how to do all those things, because if it did, it would be as big as the Bible. There are already many fine books and free publications that tell you how to do each and every one of the jobs required of a market gardener. You'll also want to subscribe to Growing for Market, the monthly news magazine for market gardeners, which will keep you up to speed on news and new ideas about the whole range of market gardening issues.
Instead of attempting to cover all aspects of market gardening, this book will do two things:
1. Identify the topics you need to know to get started; in particular, it will explain the issues that make the difference between success and struggle on a new farm.
2. Identify the resources that already exist on each of these topics, and tell you how to find them.
What will you find in this book?
As a market gardener myself and the editor and publisher of Growing for Market since I started it in 1992, I have found that most beginners don't lack knowledge about growing; what they do lack is an understanding of how to grow on a commercial scale. They don't understand the planning, budgeting, marketing and management aspects of market gardening. They don't know the inside secrets of the business such as where to get the best deals on supplies and equipment. And they don't know what information is already out there to tell them.
I wrote this book in an attempt to cut through some of the mysteries of commercial horticulture. When we started market gardening in 1987, we didn't even know the names of greenhouse companies or packaging suppliers - and we didn't know how to find out.
Today, of course, the internet makes it possible to find virtually anything, and I encourage you to use it often as you search for suppliers and information. But the internet has the disadvantage of giving you too much information, especially if you don't know the exact name of the product you need, or the commonly used term for a problem you're having. If you put "greenhouse" into a search engine, for example, you are going to pull up 77 million web pages, which is not a great help.
This book will introduce you to aspects of market gardening that differ from backyard gardening. It will give you the language of commercial horticulture, and explain the terms that you are expected to know. It will tell you how to find your way in this new undertaking.
My hope is that you will be a more sophisticated market gardener after reading this book. I hope the information here will help you move quickly and confidently through the inevitable learning curve, and give you a quick start on the path to success. -- Lynn Byczynski, November 2006
Market Farming Success:
An Insider's Guide to Market Gardening and Farming