Prairie folk, your opinions please (a poll of sorts)?

Slimy_Okra(2b)July 21, 2011

This is not really a gardening question. I am thinking of starting a vegetable farm in Saskatchewan to produce veggies that are uncommon here. I would like your opinions on the following:

1. Am I crazy?

2. What new vegetables would you love to see available in farmers' markets and/or ethnic grocery stores?

3. Leaving aside root veggies and cabbages, would you be happy to see locally grown veggies available for a greater part of the year (as opposed to the June-September period) at reasonable prices, or is this not important to you?

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Are you talking about greenhouse growing?

Would you be using chemicals and pesticides?

What part of Saskatchewan are you talking about?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 3:57PM
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Unheated greenhouses (which would correspond to low prices)

No pesticides apart from organic ones. Chemical fertilizers...I could certainly do without them. I'm not against them though.

Saskatoon and area.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 4:12PM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

Oooohh..Saskatoon and area - that's me! Yum.

1. Hmm..not sure. How much experience do you have with the killer work that comes along with greenhouses and market gardens? My sister worked in one for a summer, and she said it was a dawn-till-dusk kind of situation, Market days were kind of horrible, and she would never want to do it herself. The veggies were awesome, but it sounded very intense.
2. I don't go to market gardens very often, so this stuff might be very typical: those yellow summer squash that look like flying saucers, eggplant, melons and cantelope - including prairie variaties of watermelon, sweet potato...and so on.
3. Yes, that would be great. I'm not big on preserved veggies for the most part, so fresh would be amazing.

On the other hand, I am working on digging raised beds for my own gardens, and I do intend to grow most of what I listed myself. Still, in the winter I'd be buying.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 9:38AM
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I'm sure you can grow vegetables not normally found locally. The question is can you market them profitably. You are asking here; but, you need to check your local markets and talk to local produce managers and restaurants.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 11:59AM
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I'm not your target market since I haven't been to a farmer's market for years. I grow a lot of our summer veggies and fruits at home, for what I don't grow and for what is out-of-season I buy at the chain grocery stores where I focus on a blend of quality and price, local doesn't enter into my consideration. That said, there is no doubt that local is a concern for many, and it is gaining in popularity (being a "locavore").

Our local farmer's market has a stipulation that produce should be local unless it isn't available locally, so if you have a farmer's market near you with a similar stipulation you might be able to largely corner the off-season marketplace.

I guess my one caution would be do you know your competition? I understand that running a heated greenhouse near Saskatoon in January would require huge heating costs, but are there perhaps competitors who produce veggies locally in greenhouses that are heated from say April 1 to Oct. 31, where heating would be fairly inexpensive but where they could out-produce and quite possibly undercut the retail price compare to an entirely unheated operation?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 2:35AM
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mytime(3/4 Alaska)

I'm also not your target market, as I don't live there. But I am curious as to whether or not you presently have an unheated greenhouse. I do, and I find that it doesn't extend the season that long for me, unless I heat it. Of course, that might have something to do with having shorter days, so there is more night time for the temps to cool off. I'm wondering what kinds of crops you could grow outside of June through September...

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 12:06PM
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Thanks for all your opinions. You've given me lots to chew on for sure. Don, you make a good point about the benefits of slight heating. I will have to carefully plan all this out!!!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 11:14PM
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mytime, I was thinking of trying out mache and claytonia for starters. I've already had success with kale well into the fall but it's very susceptible to pests. I use ground-hugging row covers inside the greenhouse.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 11:22PM
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Sherwood Botsford(3a)

You want a mixed strategy. Greenhouse plus field. E.g. Start lots of plants in smaller pots in the greenhouse. Transplant to garden after frost danger is gone. Inside greenhouse, plant into raised beds.

YOu will need some heat in the green house. A GH + double poly only gives you about 4 degrees of frost protection. Lot warmer during the day, but only a bit warmer at night. Good row covers can give you another degree or so.

Read up on high tunnels at U of vermont.

Avoid staple veggies. The stuff that is in the store is too cheap to compete with. Consider the oriental cabbage group (bok choy, su choy...) for very early spring, and late fall. They are very cold tolerant. Some of the exotic lettuces work well when it's cool. (They bolt when it gets hot, and then they are bitter.)

Do it without a green house. See if you like being at the farmers markets.

Put a partition in your greenhouse and heat part of it.

Look at the restaurant trade. I've heard of one gal who does live herbs. She grows them in 1 gallon pots, takes the pot to the restaurant, and they chop it as needed. Comes by once a week and swaps pots. Lets the harvested one recover for a month, and it goes out again.

Edible flowers are big in the restaurant trade. Pansies, nasturtiums. Pick, and pack in cold water, I guess.

It will be a lot of work. And since it's food, you have to really really clean. Check with the health department on regulations. Some places the regulations are so much, it just isn't worth it.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 1:42PM
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It's nice to "meet" you. I'm not in your area, I'm in the Yorkton area so this doesn't really apply to me, unfortunately.

I would be really interested at some nice juicy, sweet watermelon and some luscious, heavenly sweet corn. :)

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 9:14PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

These are long season and one of the toughest to grow.

I would grow beans, beans and more beans, why? ..because
I love beans LOL
I'm sure this would sell good in specialties..ethnic food stores.
One season I had tons of tomatoes grown outdoor,...sold a little
to a pizza place...could have sold a ton, they couldn't get over how tasty they were.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 11:56PM
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Thanks, Sherwood, Konrad and Sweety. Konrad, those tomatoes look great! Sherwod, those are some neat ideas. My wife also suggested edible flowers, and she's very knowledgeable about flowers in general. We are attending a few 'practise' days (well that's what we call it anyway!) at the farmers' market over the next few weeks to see how well different products are received. I'm not growing watermelon this year but I am trying muskmelons for the first time.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 11:59PM
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First year that I planted a garden. Had help from my mother. Went a little too crazy on the miracle grow and have too much stalk on the beans. Other than that I am happy with the first attempt.

So far we have had all the lettuce and 2 more ice cream pails of beans so far totaling four. We still have some growing season left. Tomatoes are slow. Good year for peas. They are not woody. Beets were picked early for thinning purposes only. Will eat fresh but the flavour is a little under developed.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 7:52PM
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To answer the original question, I think you could plant anything, no one I know eats vegetables anymore. Therefore any vegetable will be exotic. Then again, most of the people I know cook for themselves only like twice a month and that is out of a can.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 1:52AM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Yea your'e right LOL.

People don't want to spend money on veggie,.. flower yes.
This reminds me of Hole's Greenhouse in St. Albert [spelling?]
When they started out selling Vegetable...soon they found out
that flowers is the way to go.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 8:55PM
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