How to Start Market Gardening if you are an Absolute Beginner

by Steve G

Hi Scott - I never did thank you for all the explanations you provided after I reviewed your new, THANKS!

I also purchased your Bootstrap Market Gardening book... also very helpful and detailed. I have a quick question...

I have no farming experience. None at all. I hope to get into farming in the near future, but, as you know, start-up costs are always a concern. On page 19 of 'Bootstrap Market Gardening' you mention:

"Cover your costs: your customer base the first year should be big enough to actually produce some net cash after all costs at the end of the year."

My instinct would suggest that I need to take a season to learn the ropes and make some mistakes, so as to not lose any customers by failing to deliver due to inexperience.

I also am not sure how I can sell my product/service if someone were to ask about my gardening experience up to that point.

You stated that you had more interest in your initial CSA than you needed - did you have some experience that gave you and your customers confidence that you'd be able to deliver?

Thanks in advance!


ANSWER: Excellent question, Steve (and thanks for buying my book.) When we first started out, we had home-gardened on a large scale for a couple years, and sold some surplus produce at a market stand.

Our confidence mostly came from thorough research, and planning for redundancy - i.e. we did our best estimate of how much of each veggie we would need, then added a 'safety factor' of about 50%.

If you are an absolute beginner, perhaps the best approach would be to recruit a neighbour/co-worker or two, and see if you can be 'their' farmer in exchange for them helping with costs and perhaps some payback for your time.

You can tell then you have done your research but are still learning the ropes and therefore are offering a good deal this first season.

Then figure out your start-up costs (should not be high for a small garden for 3-4 families, probably only a couple or three hundred bucks, depending on the equipment you already have) and get a payment up front to help cover it. You could then institute a second payment when goodies start becoming available.

Keep good records,especially with respect to planned and actual seed starting and plant harvest dates, the amount of time you spend in the garden, and the yield for each crop. A pocket notebook should be sufficient for this purpose. This will help your expansion plans for the following season.

regards, and happy growing


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