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1 acre market gardening for profit

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#1 dfar


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Posted 12 April 2010 - 03:02 PM

Hi Topia

Recently I was proposed an offer to use 1 acre of land to create a market garden. With this opportunity I will be payed a certain hourly wage for my time spent in the garden and get 50% of the profits from selling the vegetables during the summer months (sounds like a win/win to me!!!). I don't have to put any money into it, only my sweat, time and tears etc.
I will have access to some farming machinery (not sure what type yet) and will be growing in zone 3A climate.

I haven't seen the land yet so I can't give any information about it. I know that a river is close by and the earth is quite fertile and since it is so fertile the are weeds quite overgrown.

This is pretty short notice i know, but I'm reaching out to topia in the hopes that there are some experienced gardeners/farmers on the board that can help me out with planning how I should go about this type of operation if I do indeed decide to take on the project.

This will be a vegetable garden looking to grow marketable crops to individual consumers.

I'm not even really sure what I should be growing... I've started to come up with a business plan/model and will try and get a feel for the type of vegetables/herbs people are most interested in purchasing.

would love to have melons (anyone know of any type that are suitable for colder climates?)

anyway any direction to some sites, books, or just general tips would be much appreciated



Edited by dfar, 12 April 2010 - 04:18 PM.

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#2 Tripp



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Posted 12 April 2010 - 03:44 PM

Not sure I can help, but sounds amazing! Would be a very cool thing to do I think. Pretty sure a bunch of people here can help :) Good luck!

#3 TastyBeverage


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Posted 12 April 2010 - 04:40 PM

I moved this thread to the Animal Farm forum as i think you will get more traffic there.

I have a few ideas for you, but i am on and off right now running around trying to get some shit done...

#4 DarkLestor



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Posted 12 April 2010 - 05:43 PM


i think you may have stumbled on my dream, though i'd like to OWN an acre for a market garden.

melons: MN midget, small, tasty short season.

best of luck!

#5 shroom57


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Posted 13 April 2010 - 01:47 AM

dfar, I've been doing the research on this exact same thing...

I've got reams of research on this, rather than me try to post it all, just ask some specific questions.

I can probly find the wholesale prices site that the USDA maintains, show you some prices or I've got a local co-op site that lists what they're willing to buy.

I'm doing the same thing only in 7a, guessing I have a longer season.

Think about salad.

#6 Libre



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Posted 13 April 2010 - 01:48 AM

And broccoli.

#7 heritage ranch

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 08:17 AM

definately going to need more info. mellons in zone 3 will be tough, but not impossible, maybe.

zones are based on worst/average winter temps. not much good since you will be growing spring/summer/fall. more important is first last frost and average temps during growing season, both daily high and night time low. if you dont have that info let me know what city it is or is near, pm if you want to keep it private.

most melons are fairly long hot season items and i suspect if you want to do well with them you will need hoop houses or at least low tunnels of some sort. i can give you more ideas after i know what sort of growing conditions you will be dealing with. they also dont like wet feet, need to have well drained soil.

in general you need to check out the soil. is it clay sandy loamy a mix? you should do the jar/shake test for sure fill a quart jar half full of soil from the site then almost fill the rest of jar with water and shake the crap out of it. then place somewhere overnight or longer and wait for it to settle. the different size particles will segregate with the larger gravel/sand on bottom and clay on top, might also notice organic debris floating.

you will want to know what the history of the land is, has it been monocropped for years with no rotation and lots of chemical ferts and pesticides?

will you have irrigation available? what type. you can do an acre with a hose and spigot but drip would be better, or is it set up for flood maybe sprinklers? this info makes a big differance in how and what you plant.

are you going to go green, ie no chems ferts or pesticides and such

how are you going to market this produce, farmers markets, CSA, wholesale to someone else? if it is whole sale i would grow 1 or maybe 2 things so you have plenty to supply them with, deffinately find out what they want. nothing worse than growing an acre of something only to find out they dont want it, then your screwed. if doing a farmers market you will want a bit more variety but still enough volume so you dont run out of stuff early in the market day. if doing a csa then even more variety is important, especialy a variety of succesion, you want to be harvesting different stuff so your members dont get tired of beets each week, also need early stuff and late stuff

i have been doing farmers markets and local direct sales for 3 years now going into my fourth i would be happy to share any info that would ba of help. i currently raise hogs chickens and goats and crop about 3 acres dry land, so the yeilds are much less than can be achieved with irrigation. i am strictly green, so i could not help with chem ferts and pesticides. i am in zone 4 but at 8000 ft our last frost first frost and night time lows kick my ass, i had a hard/killing freeze last year august 8th. but still did well with things like squash (winter and summer) beans, peas, beets and am planting these again this year along with kolrabi and cabbage family stuff

what sort of farm equip will you have access too, i am a big fan of no plow farming. (plowing is where you "turn over" the soil and repeatedly doing this creates hard pan and can be a nightmare for weeds in a green grow

i disc the first of the season to break up the cover crops and then i use a walkbehind tiller to prep each indavidual row/raised bed. this is more time consuming that nuking the field with a plow and tractor but gets you in touch with what you are growing.

the best way to get rid of weeds, is kill them before you can see them!

get me some more info and i will do what i can for you.

#8 Sidestreet


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Posted 13 April 2010 - 08:40 AM

Hell yeah, heritage, good info.

dfar, what kinds of markets are you getting into? Are you going to travel to a city or a well-off suburb, or out where people have a little less?

The farm I worked for went to a market in a well-off area and specialties did really well (and we could charge for them, too). Things like melons, summer squash, unique and beautiful varieties of head lettuce and flowers sold as soon as we put them out. Staples were fancy mesclun mix, broccoli (sp?), new potatoes (but they had to look good, watch that skin when you're harvesting), and certain radishes/turnips. I reccomend french breakfast radishes and hakurei turnips.

Appearances go a long way at market. People will be drawn to your stand if you make it look good. Nice wicker baskets to hold your produce, good signage, and a good use of the naturally beautiful colors in your vegetables are all techniques to bring them in.

Also, going "green" is in fashion. If you adhere to natural methods, don't use pesticide and such, you can say that you're "organic practice." You don't have to be certified to say this, it just means that you didn't pay a big wad of cash and go through the hassle to get certified. I think going organic is a good idea in a marketing sense, especially for a small project like yours. You can justify charging a little more. Plus it's more sustainable and I think probably cheaper, too.

Good luck, I'll be keeping up with this thread for sure.

Edit: Oh yeah, and for seeds I recommend High Mowing (all organic) and Johnny's (awesome varieties, reliable seed)

#9 eastwood


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Posted 13 April 2010 - 10:38 AM

Hey dfar sounds like a great opportunity you have there.1 whole acre for gardening :) your going to love that.The growing season in zone 3 is short.Cucumbers,tomatoes,carrots,onions,chili peppers and radish sounds like some good options.Keep us updated on how it goes for ya.Gardening is hard work but it is very rewarding.

#10 SilvrHairDevil



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Posted 13 April 2010 - 10:42 AM

Here are some ideas that I incorporated into a garden a few years back.

Raised beds covered with black plastic to keep weeds out.

Five gallon pails (some may recognize the wine juice pails) are sunk into the soil and have 3 one-quarter inch holes near the bottom for watering. The water seeps out over a period of 3-4 days and gets the roots down deep.

This garden produced like a little factory. I got a good 350 lb of long English cucumbers from 2 plants.

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#11 dfar


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Posted 13 April 2010 - 12:06 PM

WOW!!! what a wealth of information, you don't know how much I appreciate all your help:bow: :hugs:. Topia Rules!!

well I'm hopefully going to go check things out this week and get the history of the land, the type of equipment I'll be using, and test the soil (Thanks heritage ranch for the tips!!). I know this land is on a strawberry farm so irrigation may or may not be available (I'll find out)

So far this is the situation:

avg last frost: June 1
avg first frost: Sept 15
avg growing days: 105
avg hours of sunlight: 15h
will be growing organically (owners preference)


I will most likely have access to a disc plow and cultivator. Was thinking of plowing first then using the cultivator to mark the rows that way I can space my rows so I can also use the cultivator to weed until plants start getting to high (at least that what I'm thinking, haven't seen the equipment or if I have enough room to turn the tractor etc.)
I'm hoping I'll have access to a rototiller for later weeding between rows and such but not certain as well.


With this situation I'm going to have to see if there is a certain type of seed the owner wants to use i.e heritage. If it were up to me I'd be using hybrid early varieties but this type of garden is "designed" by the owner as a research project to see what type of vegetables will be appropriate for this area. I'll hopefully get some more info on this later in the week.


haven't really thought about this to much (which I really should be) I am leaning toward farmer markets and selling out of the back of the pick-up on the side of the road. I totally agree that stuff has to look good or else people aren't going to buy it and presentation is vital to sales so I'm trying to work on different ideas right now as well.

I'll hopefully have a lot more info later in the week so I can give you guys a better idea of the situation

Again, a thousands thanks for the help thus far!!

#12 heritage ranch

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 12:35 PM

sounds pretty good, you might consider a high wheel cultivator for weeding and such http://www.lehmans.c...ator___13310214

i use one of these along with a tiller. and then just the high wheel later in the season. you can cover a lot of land with these guys

see if you can find what your night time lows are during the growing season, this is very important for fruit set on thinks like tomatoes and peppers and such

#13 TastyBeverage


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Posted 13 April 2010 - 12:39 PM

Great info in this thread!

Tagged for archives! :thumbup:

#14 DarkLestor



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Posted 13 April 2010 - 06:42 PM

last frost june 1st!? OUTCH!

utilize floating row covers, dark mulch (comthing organic and compostable, in preference), ect to extend your season a week or two in each direction.

most vegies have variaties that are "short-season". google "organic seeds" and the sky's the limit. i would recomend seeds of change, high mowing seeds, and park seeds to start.

best of luck!

#15 heritage ranch

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 07:45 PM

avg last frost: June 1

sadly, my average last frost date is 7/4

typical average means it can be off by a week or 2 each way.

the truely sad thing up here, is that we CAN have a frost any day of the year. last year i had a frost on august 8th

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