The business of organic gardening and farming
Well you’ve got your customers, what’s the next step? Organic gardening and farming can be a successful and profitable business, if you treat it like a business and not a hobby!
Now that you have actual numbers to work with, we suggest you go back and check your assumptions - i.e. your projected income and estimated expenses - and make sure this will actually make you money! If all looks well, then you take the next step, confirming how much of each vegetable to grow.
We suggest you review the following:
- How much of each vegetable do you plan to deliver for each share?
- How frequently will you deliver it?
- When do you need to start the plants?
- Will you direct seed or transplant?
- When can you expect to harvest?
- How often should you replant it for a continuous harvest?
- How much land/how many growing beds will you need?
New Terra Farm developed the Bootstrap Market Garden Planner and the Cash Flow Planner to help figure out this information. We ‘plug in’ the number of shares we plan, how much of each vegetable we want to deliver per share (e.g. 1 head of broccoli per week per share), our last frost date in the spring and our first frost date in the fall, and it calculates the rest. This saves us a lot of time, and forms the basis of our work plan each week.
With this plan in place, you can then figure out if you will need help to grow and deliver these farm goodies. Organic gardening and farming tends to be labour-intensive. The following may help you estimate labour needs:
Our first year, we had 4 families that wanted full shares and 12 that wanted half shares. This is equivalent to 10 full shares. We hired one part time garden helper, mostly for working on pick and deliver days.
During the busiest part of the season, she worked about 25 hours per week on average. Suzie and I each put in about 30-40 hours a week. So out total labour peaked at about 85-105 hours per week, to look after our 1/3-acre garden.
Big point: Start your hunt for help early! We found it surprisingly hard to find good help, and we were willing to pay above average wages for the area. Ask all your friends, co-workers, teachers etc if they know someone interested in healthy, outdoor work for the summer.
You will need the most help on your ‘pick’ days (harvest consumes about 60% of the labour required to grow a crop.). At New Terra Farm we deliver on Mondays and Fridays, so our main pick days are Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday. We strongly suggest you schedule all farm help to work your pick and delivery days.
Now is also the time to make sure you have the equipment and supplies you will need. The advance payment from your customers will come in handy here! You can actually start your organic gardening and farming business with no money out of your pocket (except for paying for that first flyer).
Managing your business is as important as managing your garden. Finish setting up your business, if you haven't already done so:
- Register your company
- Set up a business chequing account
- Set up a phone line for your farm business
Establish your record keeping system. We suggest getting advice from an accountant that is knowledgeable about farm business. Keep track of all income and especially expense items e.g. seed, fuel, equipment and supplies, tool rental or purchase, labour. One of the benefits of being a small business owner is that many of these expenses are tax deductible, but you need good records.
Buy your seed, set up your plant starting area, and away you grow! Congratulations, you are ready to start organic gardening and farming!
New Terra Farm books for the (very) small farmer.
Specifically for the property owner with one to five acres . . .
Bootstrap Market Gardening
How to Raise Meat Chickens
Save over 30% on organic gardening and farming books
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