A Front Yard Gardener's Tales and Adventures

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sub-Acre farming

I read somewhere in a book lately (either in Crisis & Opportunity or It's a Long Road to a Tomato) where a well-managed farm can produce a 15-20% return (i.e. $100,000 in gross sales, $20,000 take home profit). SPINfarming.com states that 'the aim with SPIN-Farming is to keep expenses at 10% to 20% of total sales. So if you target $50,000 in sales then you should target $5,000 to $10,000 in expenses.'

Why is there such a huge difference in possible income between a full-scale farming business and a 'sub-acre' farm? Land and Capital (and to a lesser degree, paid labor). It is feasible, then, that someone with a backyard can grow vegetables for a profit, if they so desired. It would be rather hard to wake up one day and say, 'hey, I want to buy a forty acre farm and make a living.' Most of us do not have the capital to make that happen, much more the skill set to run a full on farm. But if that same person only desired to never mow their lawn again, changing their manicured lawn into rows of produce, it is realistic to propose that they could sell their produce and come out on top.

For me, I can't dig up my entire lawn. Nancy, the landlord, would probably not like that. Nor do I have the thoughts of selling my produce to other people. I am, however, going to sell it to myself. Lord knows, I will be my best customer. If I can truly become a Spinner, I will be able to save hundreds of dollars by growing my own produce. If my expenses end up totaling $100, I hope that my savings come in at between $500 and $1000.

Let's take tomatoes for example. Sure, it is possible to start tomatoes from seed, but ideal conditions are necessary. It is much easier to go to the Ginormous Plant sale, run by Growing Gardens, and spend $3 for a tall, sturdy plant. A high yielding tomato plant can produce between 10-15 pounds of tomatoes in one growing season. If I am lucky enough to produce eight pounds, then my expenses will be in par. This is assuming a $3.75/pound price, which would beat the local farmers' market.

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