Completely new to this

Discussion in 'Market Gardens' started by madness, Dec 29, 2006.

  1. madness

    madness Well-Known Member

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    I’ve just purchased a plot of land where I hope to have a thriving garden this year. I live just a few blocks off a major highway in Austin. It turns out that my land is zoned “urban farm”. Along with the cute title, I’m allowed to sell “farm products” from my property with no special licensing. I have considered selling extra produce and eggs.

    My street is the major street for the neighborhood, but it isn’t a throughway, so people would have to make special trip (just a few blocks) to stop by. I was thinking I could be “open” on weekend mornings and then let regular customers call me and stop by whenever was convenient for them. I would probably do this all through word of mouth. Start off with my friends in the neighborhood and probably start an email list so I could tell people what I had “in stock” for the coming week.

    I guess I just want to know what I’m getting into. Has anyone sold from their property? I also have no idea how much to grow. But I guess that also depends on how many people I can get to buy my produce! I figure I’ll start somewhere and see how much more I’ll need for the next season. Any thing I need to start thinking about now? What are the best “cash crops”? I generally grow a lot of heirloom varieties and I figure those will go over well.

    Tell me everything you know!
     
  2. bob clark

    bob clark A man's man

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    make sure you throw your name in the hat for the farmers market book, and if you dont get it, go out and get one yourself.

    only offer the best.

    have regular hours

    dont spend too much on packaging

    homeade displays are by far the best

    develop a relationship with your customers
     

  3. tinknal

    tinknal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Donate your excess to a local food shelf, and don't be shy about it. Ask the food shelf if you can post flyers.

    Add value to your product by raising organic. Print up recipes for your produce and give them away. If you have an over abundance of something find someone who raises and sells something you don't have and work out a trade. You will add variety, and customers by doing this.
     
  4. mommagoose_99

    mommagoose_99 Well-Known Member

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    How much to grow is an important question. Basically it is related to how much room you have and how much money you want to make. This next year I want to make $6000. My crops are melons and cucumbers which I wholesale. I know that 2000 plants will earn me a set amount of money. It is similar for each variety.
    Do not plant 500 zucchini plants because you will have a million zucchini and no one wants them. A 200 foot row of beans will make you more than $100 in sales but the time you spend picking that many beans will give you a backache. I have planted 5 pounds of shell bean seeds and made a whole lot of money and because you pick them in early fall when its a lot cooler , its much more enjoyable.
    Give me an idea of what varieties you would like to plant, and maybe I can help you guess how much money you may be able to make from yur choices. Oh and how much land you would like to commit to the Market Garden. Maybe how much time you are willing to invest in picking and selling would help too.
    Linda
     
  5. landmoswalt

    landmoswalt Well-Known Member

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    I would like to learn more from mommagoose 99. I would love to make $6000 this summer from my garden. Please share. I really love to grow beans,tomatoes,potatoes, and zucchini. We use the zucchini for everything we cook in the summer and freeze for the winter. My kids use it to cook for fair because we always have so much. maybe if I sell zucchini I should include a recipe and may samples??? Lori In Kansas
     
  6. HilltopDaisy

    HilltopDaisy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Linda, would you share with us what sort of shell beans you grew, and who you sold them to? Oh, and how did you actually plant them? I would love to know more. That sounds really interesting.
     
  7. anniew

    anniew keep it simple and honest Supporter

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    Madness,
    If you are going to start off with neighbors are your first customers, ask them what things they would like to be able to buy on a regular basis. Ask them how much they use in a typical week to get an idea of what and how much to grow, then multiply by the number of families you hope to attract to your stand.
    You might also consider (depending on your neighborhood) having the stand open more hours but have it on an honor basis. I've done that for several years in this location, and for a couple years in another location. I've rarely lost anything...maybe two things in a season, but any income you get while you are not attending the stand is a real profit.
    Good luck.
    Ann
     
  8. mommagoose_99

    mommagoose_99 Well-Known Member

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    Since I began working full time off the farm to better pay my daughters college bills, I have given up going to the farmers markets and instead concentrated on growing produce to sell wholesale. When I sold at 6 farmer's markets a week ,we grew and sold 3 acres of veggies. The best sellers were actually potatoes ( included unusual varieties purple peruvian, rose finn apple, banana, all red and all blue plus the standard red skinned and white skinned varieties) Onions grown from seeds( Walla Walla, Kelsae Giant, red onions and Sweet Sandwich) Tomatoes ( Celebrity, Black Russian , Matt's wild Cherry and a little golden cherry, Super San Marzano for Sauce) I bought sweetcorn from a neighbor and got a great deal. He charged me $1.50 a dozen and I sold my corn for $3.00 a dozen. I grew watermelon and cantalopes. They are a great additive to the stand ( yellow doll and Sweet baby , french melons and Israeli melons and fast break etc) Cucumbers ,mostly pickling ,sold for 32$ a bushel at the market, I sold them in quart baskets for one dollar each.
    This year, We will be wholesaling cucumbers, melons, pumpkins winter squash eggs and maybe broilers. I seem to still have my full time job off the farm so that will be all I can handle. I am toying with the idea of going to 2 farmers markets a week to inhance my cucumber sales but I will check with my doctor first. I become a senior citizen officially in two weeks :)
    Linda
     
  9. farmer kate

    farmer kate Well-Known Member

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    Hi Madness. I sell at a market now but started by selling from our farm. I still have a few regular people who come once a week or so, since my market is prety far from where I live. Word-of-mouth brought me as many customers as I could handle at that time. We have a couple of old fridges in the garage, and people learned to check there and on the counter to see what was available. Re Mommagoose's comment about the bush beans - I'll second that, you can't charge enough to make it worth bending to pick the little monsters in summer heat....but you could charge your customers a lower rate and let them pick their own. I do the same with shelling peas. We have recently had an influx of new people in a development of McMansions up the road, and for them, picking peas is a....I believe the term one woman used was "primal, elemental experience." Okey doke.

    There are some downsides. I genuinely liked my customers and usually stopped to talk a few minutes. Those minutes really add up, and most people stopped often and only spent a few dollars each time, so financially it wasn't great. I had official hours, but no one really paid attention to that - they knew where the produce fridges were, after all, and helped themselves. But what happened was that I'd be alone in the house and I'd hear a car in the drive and I'd have to check and see who it was......it ended up being more on an inconvenience than I'd expected. We are not set up in such a way that a farmstand by the road would be practical - that might have solved the problem. Also, when we did an honor system pick-your-own (people would check the chalkboard every day to see what, and where, they could pick) we did have problems with a few people who did not supervise their children.

    On the plus side, if we go away for a few days I knew I can count on my regular people to keep things picked (I offer a special price to people who promised to harvest on those days) and despite getting me sidetracked, I truly enjoyed having people stop and visit. Sometimes I'd need an extra hand for a few minutes and everyone was cool about pitching in. In fact, I've been considering switching back from a market to a sort of modified CSA where the customers can pay less if they pitch in regularly with chores. I'd thought about it ten years ago but no one around here knew what a CSA was then, and I think the idea has caught on now. And one other thing that is a plus for me might sound weird, but it is very real: having people stop here to buy produce really, really helped me feel like I was really a farmer in my small way, and it truly encouraged me to get my butt out there and get the work done. When customers stop at your place, you want it to look good.

    kate
     
  10. TedH71

    TedH71 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    There is a couple in Austin (used to live in Austin 15+ years myself) that did just like you did...it took them 5 years to finally be profitable enough for the lady to quit her day job and they both work on the farm. They hire part timers to work with them and very few full timers. Keep in mind, they didn't advertise much which didn't help them grow faster. I forget their names but if you google it in the Austin Statesman newspaper online, I'm sure you could find it there somewhere. I believe they have less than 20 to 30 acres and live in East Austin where cost of living is much lower. Good luck! I wish I could move back to Austin to do as you are doing but high cost of living in Austin plus allergies made me change my mind a long time ago and I moved to Wichita, KS where farming is considered the norm and not unique but I will check out the farmer's market this year and grow my own veggies to see what I can get away with because the soil here retains water big time compared to Austin in which the water is drained and dried within 30 mins usually. Lots of limestone in Austin and super hot temps help dry it fast!

    Forgot to add that if you have a sign up list, you'll have repeat customers. People in Austin are crazy about organic veggies and you'll probably sell out fast. Just a warning.