More Than 100,000 Dollars per Acre
Many an aspiring first-time farmer or aggressive market gardener can get discouraged when running the numbers for the first time on a prospective farming operation. Or worse, they get into it without running the numbers, only to realize after the fact how difficult it is for them to turn a profit.
Urban Farming and SPIN
Curtis Stone gave this inspirational talk at the permaculture voices conference. It seems a bit ironic because he plants almost entirely high value, high turnover, high maintenance “annuals”. “SPIN Farming” actually stands for s-mall p-lot in-tensive. You can read more about it here. The idea for Curtis is to get up and get cash-flowing ASAP. The next objective is to have fast maturing crops that he can turn over many times a year — between 4 and 7 crops a year.
Curtis has focused in his production on the most profitable subset of what he can grow locally in his small plot urban environment. That tends to be high value salad greens, micro-greens and similar crops. For his CSA and his restaurant clients he has started importing from local farmers enough to round out his product offering and focusing almost entirely on his most profitable crops given his small plot sizes.
He operates on what he says the average field size is only 2,000 square feet. That’s insanely small, so lower value crops that take up a lot of space aren’t something he will bother with. He focuses on high value crops that have high yields that he can crowd into small, standard-sized beds which typically sit 53 feet long and 30 inches across.
He sells at a number of farmer’s markets, only he has standardized the pricing matrix such that he will offer something for 3 dollars and will offer two products for 5 dollars. That simplifies his offering and makes it easier to get rapid transactions accomplished in the garden market.
This urban farmer has identified the two biggest cost centers for any young grower to get his operation off the ground and that is;
- land costs
The cost of arable farm land can be a huge headwind for most growers when they are getting started. Curtis has found an ingenious way to get around this obstacle that is made up of several components. The first is that he reclaims ground in his local suburbs. These are typically backyards that are unused or growing grass or weeds. He goes a step further by making the property owner a member of his community supported agriculture group. Essentially, his land costs are zero. He needs to turn the land into arable farm land from a yard, but once he’s done so, he continues to farm there rent free by simply making the land owner a member of his CSA.
By keeping his operation focused on high value crops that take a minimum of infrastructure to plant grow and harvest he’s able to do most all of the farming with simply himself and a part-time employee. In addition, recent innovations in harvesting his crop have led to even less need for labor above and beyond the grower.
If you’re one of the many aspiring growers who would like to find a way to turn your dreams into reality, watch the video for Curtis’ inspiring story. He shows that with a little determination and some ingenuity you can overcome the challenges that every startup faces and be on your way to growing food locally for your family, your community, or yourself.