Factors to Consider:
.Food and money requirements
The income you receive will depend on what you choose to grow, on how well you follow through in the growing process, and on how well you handle the financial and marketing aspects of the job.
Consider carefully a) your family size, b) the standard of living expected, and c) the debt load you expect the garden to carry. A home mortgage plus car and credit card payments of $3,000 per month requires a much greater effort to cover than if you’re debt-free.
Warm climates may require lots of water and even a little shade at the hottest times, while cold climates often require more greenhouse seedling production and the covering of garden crops in spring and fall to extend the growing season.
You will improve your garden’s production in any location or climate using the Mittleider method.
You must understand the commitment involved with market gardening, and be willing to do it right. Our grandparents grew gardens, and often owned animals. They had to work every day to feed, water, and care for their animals and plants.
There is very little time available for vacations, etc. during the growing season. A successful market garden requires your attention on a daily basis!
A hundred years ago, most growers used manure, and it was a fairly level playing field between the family gardener and the market farmer. Not so today! Your competition includes hydroponic growers with over $1,000,000 per acre in buildings and equipment, and paid employees doing the work. And by feeding and watering their plants many times a day they’re growing 330 tons of tomatoes per acre each year!
Tips for Getting Started
1.Start small! Don’t plant more than you can care for properly, and sell or use.
2.Determine the market or markets you will sell to: a) Wholesalers, b) small grocery stores, c) restaurants, d) farmers’ market, e) roadside stand, or f) home delivery.
3.Learn what vegetables you should grow by determining those that: a) you can grow readily, b) sell well, and c) at a good price.
4.Build proper facilities including a) a seedling greenhouse with tables, b) T-Frames for growing vertically, and c) a good watering system. These all are essential for success at this level.
5.Set up a formal accounting system, including account names and numbers for every category of asset, liability, equity, income, and expense. Get help from your CPA or other competent accountant.
6.Stock up on tools, seeds, fertilizers, and provide for pest and disease control.
7.And be sure to include all those costs, as well as your labor, in figuring your market prices and your expected net return.
You may have to beat the competition to sell your produce at the beginning. However, by growing more, bigger, fresher, tastier, and healthier produce than others, you will develop a loyal customer base, and then you can adjust your prices as needed.
Choosing What to Grow
In choosing what to grow, consider a) the ease of growing, b) the cost and risk of loss, and c) the value of the crop. Let’s look at some scenarios of what could be grown and sold from one acre of ground with good care and decent weather, with minimal losses from bugs and diseases that are achievable by strictly following the Mittleider Method:
Estimated Yields and Income at wholesale of a single crop from a One Acre Mittleider Market Garden of 250 30-foot-long by 18 inch-wide soil beds
150 plants/bed, 1.5#/plant, $.60/# = $33,750
61 plants/bed, 2#/plant, 2 crops, $.20/# = $12,200
92 plants/bed, 1.5 ear/plant, $.20/ear = $6,900
46 plants/bed, 8 lb/plant, $.35/lb = $32,200
92 plants/bed, 2.5 lb /plant, $.20/lb = $11,500
41 plants/bed, 10 lb/plant, $.50/lb = $51,250
The above examples are estimates only, and actual results have been much higher or lower, depending on many factors including experience, weather, direct retail marketing vs. wholesale sales, etc.
If you are growing for the retail market using a roadside stand or farmers’ market booth, you will probably want a fairly wide variety of produce in order to attract customers.
While corn has a low yield for the space required, it is very popular with customers when it’s fresh, so you may decide to treat it as a Loss Leader and have it available.
A Word of Caution
Don’t try to plant too many vegetable varieties. Ten or twelve are far easier to handle than twenty to thirty. And three varieties of tomatoes are usually enough. I like Big Beef, Italia Mia, and Grape tomatoes. One planting of Blue Lake pole beans will allow you to sell beans all season long, but bush beans will give you an earlier single crop.
If you sell to restaurants, you’ll need to grow the specific things they use, such as specialty lettuces, tomatoes, Ichiban eggplant, small red potatoes, etc. And you may need to plant a few beds of single-crop varieties every week, to have them maturing throughout the season.
If your primary market is large grocery stores or wholesale suppliers, they will usually want a large steady supply of a few things, so you may be able to plant everything to the money crops of beans, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes, or multiple plantings of lettuces and other quick-growing crops.
Remember: You have a big advantage over others!
By following the Mittleider Method accurately and consistently you can produce much more in less space than other small market growers are doing, and be successful!
The books, CD’s and videos available from the Food for Everyone Foundation will teach you the gardening principles, procedures, and techniques you need to grow your own successful market garden. In studying these things, remember that this unique gardening method has been proven highly effective in thousands of situations, in dozens of countries all around the world. It’s a recipe! It WILL work to give you a great garden in any soil and in virtually any climate but you MUST follow the recipe.