Management practices for successful organic vegetable farming
Organic vegetable farming can be profitable, but you need to approach it systematically to be successful. 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!
With your plans confirmed, you can then figure out if you will need help to grow and deliver these farm goodies. 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 in organic vegetable farming.). 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 ,b>advance payment from your customers will come in handy here! You can actually start the 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:
Establish your record keeping system. 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 a market gardener!