Growing For Market - Trumpeter Swan Farm

Growing For Market
March 26, 2011
Phil Hannay and Kathy Kubal
Trumpeter Swan Farm
Buffalo, MN
About Us
• Market Gardening since 2003
– Farmers Markets: Buffalo, Maple Grove
– CSA shares last 3 years
• Fruits and Vegetables
– Perennials: Asparagus, Strawberries, Raspberries
– Annuals: Greens, onions, peas, beans, tomatoes, etc
• Processed Goods
– Canned Goods, Baked Goods
Land: Size
• Size
– You can start smaller than you may think: an
acre (200x200) can grow a lot
– If limited space, eliminate expansive crops like
winter squash
– If limited space, eliminate low buck crops like
corn, potatoes, storage onions, peppers
Land: Layout
• Layout
30” rows: wide enough for a 24” tiller
5’ rows: tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash
10’ rows: winter squash, pumpkins
50’ length: so you don’t lose hope while
weeding or picking
Land: Planting
• Succession Plant: less than 25% at a time
– Continuous supply is important for market
– Plants decline as they age
– Care is more manageable: In early summer, weeds
grow like weeds
– Example: 2 robust bean plants yields 1 qt of beans,
20 plants = 10’ row; 10 quarts @ $3 = $30
– Every week: peas, beans, green onions
– Every 2 weeks: broccoli, cucumbers, basil
– Every 4 weeks: summer squash
Land: Rotation
• Crop Rotation is important
– Every year you want to move your crops around,
just like in a home garden
– If you have enough land, plant the same crop in
two different places just in case weather or insects
make trouble.
– You can hold some land fallow, planting a cover
crop - or if your cover crop is weeds, just be sure
to mow them a few times, and then till before they
bolt to seed in the late summer.
Land: Best Use
• Bang for the Buck
– Think productivity: strawberries $10,000 per
acre, non-irrigated corn $2000 per acre
– Think demand: products that just aren’t the
same in the store like strawberries or tomatoes
– Think labor: green beans vs. dried beans,
tomatoes vs. potatoes
– Think soil: carrots in sandy soil vs. carrots in
heavy soil
Land: Weed Control
• Weed Control
– Mechanical: tiller in between rows
– Accept your fate: hand hoe and pull along rows
– Hoe each side of row when plants first emerge;
then after plants are bigger, cultivate aisles.
– Mulch is effective but takes resources
– Mow and later till fallow areas
– Glyphosate (Roundup) and 2-4D are fairly
benign chemicals for perennial weeds
Land: Pest Control
• Pest Control
– Potato Bugs - potatoes, eggplant: scout
frequently, hand pick, spinosad is only organic
spray that works
– Asparagus Beetle Larvae - Sevin or spinosad
– Cabbage Worms - BT powder or spray, or just
wash well
– Other Bugs - small plantings, multiple
plantings, move things around
Equipment: Starting Out
• If I had $3000...
Rear tine tiller - do not skimp ($2000)
Earthway seeder ($100) - accept no substitutes
Stirrup hoe ($10)
Backpack sprayers - 3 gal, Hudson ($50) - or
two, 1 for herbicide, 1 for fertilizer/insecticide
– Greenhouse ($300)
– Post hole digger - for transplanting! ($250)
– Push mower ($250)
Equipment: Big Time
• If I had $30,000…
Everything in previous slide - really! ($3000)
Tractor ($17,000)
Disk and Plow ($1000)
High Tunnel ($3000)
Cultivator ($2000)
Transplanter ($3000)
Tractor mower ($1000)
Plants: Selection
• Selection
– Focus on market varieties, think twice about
heirlooms or traditional garden varieties
– Ask fellow growers and extension folks about
recommendations - go to a conference or two
• MN Fruit and Vegetable Growers - Jan 21-22, St Cloud;
• Midwest Organic - Feb 24-26, La Crosse, WI;
• Minnesota Organic - Jan 14-15, St Cloud;
Plants: Perennials
• Perennials
– Asparagus: good sell and long harvest, 3 yrs to
first harvest, 5 yrs to full harvest, long-lived, easy
maintenance once established - “our retirement”
– Strawberries: easy sell but short harvest, 1 yr to
full harvest, short-lived (4 yrs), hard to keep out
weeds, do new plantings every 2 years
– Raspberries: harder sell but extended harvest, 1 yr
to full harvest, long lived with moderate
Plants: Perennial Sources
• Perennial sources
– Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers
Association: group buy strawberries and
– Ag Resources, Detroit Lakes, David Birky,
(800) 288-6650
– Daisy Farms,
Plants: Earliest Annuals
• Annuals - Earliest
Greens: high demand, labor intensive
Radish, Turnip: fast and easy
Green Onions: easy, but low demand
Broccoli yes, Cauliflower no
Row Covers: help a lot, but labor intensive
High Tunnel: helps even more, but costly
Plants: Early Annuals
• Annuals - Early
– Peas: Sugar Snap (edible pod) great seller,
Snow Peas and Shell Peas sell okay as well
– Summer Squash: Zucchini is fastest, 30 days
after transplant
– Green Beans: transplanting will work as well
– Succession planted Broccoli
Plants: Mid-Season Annuals
• Annuals - Mid Season (August)
– Tomatoes: always in demand, careful not to
start too early
– Sweet Corn: unreliable if not irrigated
– Succession green beans and summer squash steady sellers
– Cucumbers: sell picklers by the quart, more
money than by the peck
– Melons are tricky, but sell well
Plants: Late Season Annuals
• Annuals - Late Season
– Winter squash, brussel sprouts, storage onions,
potatoes, turnips, beets
– Some produce if close to mature holds well on
plant in the cold, and if covered in frost: green
beans, zucchini, peppers
– Push the envelope: our last plantings of beans
and zucchini are in early August, plant extra
– Forget peas: August heat, mildew, and people
don’t expect them
Plants: Annual Sources
• Annual Sources - some we like
– Rupp: good variety, value, small and large
quantities; minimal catalog, helpful sales reps;
– Johnny’s: regular and organic, reasonable prices;
great catalog;
– Stokes: good variety, more expensive, great
informative catalog
– Jordan: local (Woodbury), professional, good
reputation and value;
Plants: More Annual Sources
• Annual Sources - some more we like
– Dixondale: onion plants, they really price it to get
you to buy a case (30 bunches) - that’s a lot to plant
by hand (1800) - see if you can share with
someone; www,
– Menards or Walmart: watch for sale on onion sets
(bulbs), seed packets are cheaper than mail order.
– Cub Foods: seed potatoes and onion sets (bulbs).
We get better price on potatoes from Cub than mail
order - as long as you are fine with their varieties
Planning and Records: Plan
• Planting Plan
– Spreadsheet - helps with date calculations
(succession planting), sort by plant type for
data entry, sort by planting date for “this week’s
– Estimate harvest date -- later, over years, you
can fine tune that estimate
– Add actual planting date and other comments as
you plant the plan
– Keep a copy each year, it’s a great resource
Planning and Records: Map
• Field Map
– Start with blank outlines of your field(s)
– Write in what you plant with rows and planting
date - you will know what's coming up where
– When you first harvest from a row, write a
harvest date (I circle the date to indicate
“harvest date”) - good info for next year’s plan
– I also like to write a synopsis of the weather
and growing conditions each half month
– Keep a copy each year, great resource
Planning and Records: Sales
• Sales Book
– Record what you sell, when you sell, and how
much it sold for
– We use a spiral bound notebook
– One page for each market day
– One page for “home” sales, plus balance,
reconciliation and bank deposits
– Much better than relying on memory of what
sold well or when, or what prices were last year
Parting Thoughts
• Don’t quit your day job just yet
– There are tax advantages when starting the farm
(deductible losses)
– Resist the temptation to buy equipment - keep it
simple, stuff you still could use if you decide
not to farm
– Its takes awhile to make even a “half living” off
the farm
– It’s a lot of work
Parting Thoughts
• CSA or Wholesale is your future
– Do Farmer’s Market first - see if you are cut out
to farm, sell week after week, and run your own
– CSA or Wholesale sales provide a more steady
income and customer base - after a few years of
Farmer’s market, move into one or the other or
– CSA is “retail, people oriented”, Wholesale is
not: some farmers can do only one or the other
Parting Thoughts
• Keep it Simple
– Lots of resources on the internet - MN Dept
Agriculture (sales guidelines), MN Dept of
State (business guides), MN Dept of Revenue
– You can do your own taxes (use a PC tax
program) and you can hire people (including
your children) but make sure you research both
MN and Federal regulations and processes
• Phil Hannay, Trumpeter Swan Farm
– 3612 40th St NE, Buffalo, MN 55313
– cell 612-308-2664
– copies of this
presentation and others, go to the “Community”

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