The best garden type for you is a...
So what does this mean exactly?
Watch the video below for a brief description of your garden type and read on for some specific steps to help you start taking action.
Result summary video
Why is a MARKET GARDEN the best choice for you?
A market garden is in a league of its own. The simple fact that you'll be taking your produce to market changes the game entirely, so before we move on, let's get clear on a couple of things.
Based on your quiz responses, this is the best garden style for you because…
You want to earn an income from your garden space. That means devoting some or all of your space to growing food that you'll sell to other people.
You are prepared to treat the task of growing vegetables just like a part-time or full-time job, because you understand that success in your market garden depends entirely on your level of commitment.
You've got a significant amount of space to work with and you're ready to learn how to fill that space with high value crops and optimize your production with intensive growing methods.
Not quite right? Take the quiz again.
If that sounds like you, let's get to work!
Since we are on the same page now, I have lined up some specific suggestions to help you start to take the right first steps. Here are six tips for making your MARKET GARDEN work for you.
Sell before you grow.
Most growers produce a crop before they try to sell it, so I realize this message might seem a little strange, but it's really the only civilized way to operate a market garden. When you gamble with unpredictable sales, you commit yourself to a high degree of waste in your operation. You waste growing space, you waste your time, and you waste food. Your produce has a very limited shelf life and you need to set up dependable systems to move it all to your customers while it is fresh. The best way to guarantee sales is by pre-selling memberships to your farm and offering these members periodic subscription boxes filled with regular portions of your freshly harvested produce. We sold the majority of our farm produce this way and it was my favourite sales format by far. Your farm members are rewarded with guaranteed access to the best food your farm can offer, and you are rewarded with guaranteed sales for the food you grow.
2. Know your numbers.
Never devalue your produce.
You want to share great food with the world. I get it. Remember that you also want to earn an income growing food so that you can keep doing it. That means you will be challenged with charging a fair value for your work.
We live in an era where an industrialized food system can bring vegetables to people at lower prices than ever before. Those low prices may come with hidden costs like lower nutritional value, pesticide contamination, and environmental degradation, but in the grocery store, the consumer only sees cheap carrots. If you are growing food with your own human power and other sustainable methods, you have to value your produce higher than the other produce you'll see on the market. Trust that you will be found by the customers who care about the value you offer. Then have the courage to stick to your prices. That means no pop up sales or after market discounts. At your scale, you'll never be able to compete with anyone on price and you shouldn't even try. That's just a race to the bottom and you really don't want to win that race. You'll only drive your business into the ground and devalue good food in the process.
Remember that higher pricing can also work in your favour. Consider the thoughts that go through your mind when you're making a purchasing decision. Imagine you have a choice between two t-shirts. One is $3 and the other is $30. Which t-shirt is higher in quality? You can inspect the fabric and the labels, but the only clear way to really differentiate between the two products on your end is the price. It's natural to assume that the $30 t-shirt has the higher value and it's even natural for you to feel more satisfied with your $30 purchase because you paid more for a higher value item. Give your customers that same experience.
Quality is the novelty.
Ok, after reading Tip #2, you're probably thinking that if your prices are higher, no one will want to buy from you. Am I right? Allow me to massage that dangerous thought out of your mind.
First, I have to emphasize that as a small market gardener, you are in the business of quality, not quantity. You may have become quite accustomed to your own high quality produce after years of enjoying great food yourself, but to others, food of this calibre is still a novelty. Exceptional quality is all you really need to stand out.
Next, I want reassure you that you don't need to grow an odd collection of freaky vegetable varieties to attract and keep your customers. We dabbled in a few unique varieties in our earlier years, but annual surveys with our farm members showed us over and over again that people really just want to eat vegetables they recognize. In other words, ditch the kohlrabi and stick with the favourites.
Once you understand that your exceptional quality is enough, think about how you will differentiate that quality for your customers BEFORE they take a bite of your tasty produce. The trick here is that there needs to be a way for your customers to visually elevate your produce into a league of its own. Is it cleaner, bigger, or crispier than anything else on the market? Is the packaging unique and personalized? If not, you may find a few good willed supporters, but if you want your customers to rave about your food and do your advertising for you, make sure your produce stands out far above your competitors.
Our farm members frequently commented on the quality of our produce. The most common phrase we heard was, "It's just so beautiful!" Did they care about the flavour too? Of course they did, but their whole experience with our produce was influenced by their first impression. One of the ways we gave them the best first impression was with personalized handmade boxes for each of our farm members. Construction of these boxes took some time initially, but they added value to every single item of produce they held over many years.
2. Know your numbers.
Intensify before expansion.
One of the biggest rookie mistakes in small scale vegetable production is to assume that you need to increase your land base if you want to scale up. If those are the thoughts that tend to run through your brain, then I'm glad we met. I'm here to tell you that biggering is not always bettering. Sure there are efficiencies to be gained when you increase your production volume, but if you do so simply by increasing your land base, your costs escalate as well. If you're not careful, you're just as likely to increase your inefficiencies too, and that means all of those increased sales go towards covering your higher costs. This just leaves you with the same net income and increased exhaustion.
It took about three growing seasons to beat that lesson into my brain. From that point on though, I decreased my land base every year and increased my income per square foot. The lesson here is to be the absolute best grower you can be before you consider expanding. If you are still making mistakes and carrying inefficiencies with you in your operation, the last thing you want is expansion. Instead, practice intensifying your growing with increased use of transplanting, relay planting, interplanting, and succession planting. There may come a time when you've got those skills firmly under your belt, meaning that there's not a bare patch of soil on your land all summer long and you find yourself twiddling your thumbs with a touch boredom, but only then do I give you permission to look for more land.
Know your numbers.
You can stroll through any food market and quickly see how much a vegetable costs to buy, but you need to know how much a vegetable costs to grow.
This isn't something you can just look up in a book. This aspect of your business will totally depend on your unique context, growing methods, and work rates. That means it's time to pull out your stopwatch and a notebook because you need answers. How long does it take you to prep a bed? How much does it cost you to irrigate and fertilize a bed for one season? What yield can you expect from each bed of beans? How long does it take to harvest and wash a full bed of carrots? How much time does it take to pack 50 bags of lettuce? Get the idea?
Every repeated task on your farm needs to be accounted for, and with that information you can figure out how much each crop costs you to grow. These numbers will help temper your idealistic tendencies of yours and ground your farm in reality and profitability. If you want to be in this business for the long run, it's not good enough sell your tomatoes for the same price as the farmer down the lane. Know your numbers.
2. Know your numbers.
Share the load.
If my farm could be considered a failure in any area, this would be it. I intentionally kept our operation small because our land base was limited and I wanted to keep my income and the quality of our products as high as possible. This allowed me to maintain full control of every aspect, but that came with full responsibility too. If anything broke, it was my job to fix it. If anything needed to be harvested on any day of the week, it was me who had to get the job done. Vegetables don't take breaks but humans need breaks, so it was challenging for me to balance this level of responsibility with the rest of life.
That's why my final tip for you is to plan to share the load. As soon as you develop consistent procedures in your operation, consider ways to enable someone else to do that work for you. The first tasks to cross off your list are the ones that you do the same way every time like pruning trellised crops, daily harvests of cucumbers, routine microgreen plantings, and packing to name a few. Outsourcing even one or two of the jobs on your list will allow space and time in your role that you can use to build your business or simply recharge your human batteries.
It's time to take action.
A good plan is critical to making this dream of yours a reality, so if you’re serious about growing your own food and taking it to market, I want to invite you to join us for our upcoming GARDEN PLANNING BLITZ.
In this live 4 part workshop, I will walk you through the process of defining your garden type, help you lay out your garden plan, and show you what it takes getting results you can count on. These training sessions are free and they will be taking place inside our online Classroom. Request an invitation below and I’ll send you everything you need to know to join in the fun!
Join us for the 2021 Vegetable Academy
SEED TO TABLE COURSE
A step by step guide to creating the vegetable garden of your dreams.
The Seed to Table course will help you navigate the wild world of vegetable growing so that you can approach your garden with confidence and finally achieve dependable results for your family.
Get to know your instructor...
Jared Regier is an urban farmer and educator from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan who is passionate about building a more sustainable future. He loves teaching people how to grow their own food because it is such a powerful vehicle for positive change in individuals and communities.
Today, Jared runs an award winning urban farm so he's obviously pretty comfortable in the vegetable world, but his life experience doesn't begin there. His first career as a high school teacher also helped him develop an ability to simplify and communicate complex ideas. So when the farm started to get noticed and people began to ask if they could learn how to grow vegetables like that in their own backyard, it was only natural for Jared to answer the call. Now, his teaching and farming experience have found perfect harmony here at the Vegetable Academy where he aims to put the knowledge and tools of the vegetable farmer in the hands of the home gardener.
Jared's approach to teaching is organized, logical, and light hearted. He loves to learn and enjoys passing on these lessons to his students and watching them experience success. His practical lessons are always rooted in first hand experience and/or scientific studies because there's no sense in passing on misinformation. Jared delights in helping others take responsibility for growing their own food, and the limitless number of learning opportunities in the vegetable garden are sure to keep this work interesting for years to come.