Why did we create our bootstrap market gardening model? Well, one dictionary defines 'bootstrap' this way:
v. To promote and develop by use of one's own initiative and work
Adj. Being or relating to a process that is self-initiating or self-sustaining.
I think those definitions are the essence of our small farm approach. Suzie and I found a way to start up our market garden without a lot of money or equipment. In fact our customers helped us with money to launch the business! You can do the same thing if you follow our approach.
You know that farmers have been getting lots of bad news lately;
everything from mad cows to falling commodity prices to food scares to
the threat of imported food products. And the cost of everything from
fuel to fencing wire keeps going up. Lots of my 'city friends' wonder
why I want to be a farmer with all this negative stuff going on.
Here's my reason - the absolute satisfaction I get from finding a way to do something I really like (i.e. growing stuff) and then getting paid for it!
I get a sense of fulfillment when I'm walking around my small farm that no other 'job' has given me. So I have to make a profit to pay for my 'addiction' to farming! There are worse addictions to have.
Here's the good news: your small farm is worth more than you think. A few years ago I read a really great book titled 'How to Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres', written by a gentleman named Booker T. Whatley. This book (and a few more like it by Eliot Coleman, Andy Lee, Joel Salatin, Gene Logsdon) inspired me to think differently about my small farm.
It inspired me to think that I actually could make my little place profitable, perhaps even provide a full-time living. And having done this for a few years, and figured out the system we now follow, I believe that $100,000 (or even more) is achievable on even 2 acres!
Suzie and I are on that path right now. We are building a small farm business that will provide us a good full-time living. And when we are ready to 'hang it up' we will be able to sell that business to help fund our retirement (no rush, though, I like doing this stuff!).
Along the way we won that ‘Premier's Award for Agri-food Innovation Excellence’,
so I guess we are doing something right. By the way, I hate the term
'agri-food'; where else would food come from except agriculture? But
they gave me a nice plaque (and a nice cheque) so I will live with it.
In my 'straight job' I did business planning and process analysis and improvement, and I'm considered an expert in performance management (I once wrote a book about that topic). So it was natural for me to want to document what we were doing, and to want to pass it along to others.
I honestly believe that ANYONE can adapt the things we have done and make their small farm (or even a big back yard) profitable. Of course this does not mean it's easy; farming will always be work. But I have not found any job that is more satisfying.
Let me show you the key elements of New Terra Farm Bootstrap Market Gardening that took us from ‘beginners’ to ‘winners’ in one year.
The first element to understand is that our customers pay us in advance for vegetables they will receive. In effect they subscribe to our farm; you may have heard this kind of farming referred to as Community Supported Agriculture or CSA. In return we deliver them a basket of farm-fresh veggies every week throughout the season.
This is a guaranteed cash flow; essentially all our produce is sold before it is grown! This advance payment lets us buy equipment and seed, construct a greenhouse, and hire farm help, with no out of pocket expense! And we will show you how to do the same thing to ‘bootstrap’ your market garden!
The second key element in our model is the order in which you do things! If you want to be successful, there are three activities you must undertake before you start throwing seed in the ground:
1 – Planning: setting goals and targets
2 – Marketing: finding customers and get your message out
3 – Management: putting the processes in place to make your own Bootstrap Market Garden a success
We harp on this a lot, because this process if what separates a 'hobby' from a 'business'. One of the major strengths of our bootstrap model is the ability to establish a demand for your produce before you grow it!.
And all your other decisions - what to grow, when to grow it, how much land you need, now much help to hire, how much equipment you need etc. are driven by this demand. Powerful stuff!
NEXT: Farm planning consists of setting targets for sales and projecting cash flow and expenses. You also need to establish a price for your produce that will ensure you can make a profit more . . .
Money grows in your garden! If you like getting your hands dirty, at some point you've probably thought about starting a market garden. Here are some tips to get you started
A good farm business plan does more than just aid decision-making and priority-setting. It should also inspire and motivate the farmer to pursue the goals that are important to her.
Every small business needs customers; this includes your small farm business. Customers come from marketing. Here are some simple, smart ways to market your farm business to keep that flow of customers coming.
If you are a market gardener (or want to be one), there might be good reasons to stay away from the farmers market.
What does the future of farming look like? Will we see an increasingly centralized, industrialized and commodity-driven model win out, or will a local and sustainable network of small farms become the main source of our food in the future? Here's how I think the future of farming is going to shape up
So what does it take to start your own CSA market garden? I put together this Get-Started Checklist
I like reading old farming books; much of the market gardening advice given 50 or 100 years ago is still valid today. Here's some tidbits from a market gardening book published in 1882 called Gardening for Profit .
Garden Planning for a Bootstrap market garden is a little different than planning your home garden. There are several factors you must consider to develop a good market garden plan.
Bootstrap Market Gardening, my first Bootstrap Book, shows you step-by-step how to start-up, market and manage an organic market garden based on CSA principles.
New edition includes my Garden Planner spreadsheet. Get Bootstrap Market Gardening
Now on sale, only from New Terra Farm.
Or get Bootstrap Market Gardening as part of my Complete Start Farming Pack and SAVE EVEN MORE!