Working on developing a concept: feedback appreciated

popeyedoyleApril 13, 2013

Basic Info: We have access to a 300,000 sq ft warehouse with it's own hydro electric plant ( super cheap electricity) as well as it's own well.The warehouse ( an old mill building ) is in a suburban/almost rural area of Massachusetts( town population 10K) within a short drive to major urban population basis. I can probably get gross rents ( includes heat/electric/taxes ) at $3/ft/yr with the ability to provide "micro" spaces of 500-100,2000 sq ft. or large spaces at 50,000 sq ft or more ( the mill is empty )

Concept that I'm "toying with": Basically creating an indoor community garden, year round.

On an initial basis, I would like to keep things cheap and simple ( let things develop and let the group decide it's coops, more advanced systems, etc

So: couple initial questions: if the systems were BASIC (ie: lighting/water/beds) how much space would an average family of 4 use? 500 sq ft? 1,000 sq ft?

If the cost is $3/ft/year...can there be a return to the family on production VS buying at the market?

What are your thoughts on this concept?

Next: eventually, we have access to fairly large wholesale contracts to purchase the produce...pretty much whatever can be produced can be sold locally at wholesale prices.....our base cost is $3/ are the economics?

Thoughts? feedback? Again, this is just an initial thought process. Wondering if it has legs!

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I don't know if you could grow just under lights.

I live near a town of about the size you're talking about, but it isn't a great source for farmers market. Most people have their own gardens and trade with neighbors.

You might have better luck since 'out east' there are as many gardeners (IMHO) and the larger cities nearby.

I'm not sure if I would feel comfortable about spending $3/ft/yr and still need to have the investments of lighting, beds and such. Any garden (outside) needs about 1" of water per week evenly on the surface. If you have a high water bill, that could eat you alive.

For my garden needs (family of 2 that preserves) I would need about 1,000 intensively gardened. That would be $3000 plus seeds and everything else, plus all the work. Around here, if I shopped carefully, I could buy most of everything I would need for the same price. Just my thoughts, and of course, around here prices are not nearly as high as I've heard they are 'out east'.

For an extra $3000, I could buy an entire beef, not from a feedlot, AND enough eggs for the year, PLUS possibly a pig. All butchered to my liking.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 9:15AM
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While I think it is an admirable project I don't see this working. I think most conventional community gardens have trouble attracting participants without the added difficulties that your environment poses.

To be honest I think you have the optimal set up to grow hydroponic tomatoes. In my area a regional supermarket chain announce plans to buy from a Canadian grower who is building a greenhouse in state to produce local tomatoes year round. See the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Meijer to sell tomatoes grown in Michigan greenhouse year-round

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 11:43AM
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Our supermarkets are buying Canadian greenhouse tomatoes year old and have been for several years.

Our community gardens are expanding year after year, but the gardeners only pay $25 for the season, and all water is furnished, along with the hoses needed.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 3:32PM
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Thanks for the feedback:

The community gardens in this area have waiting lists and fill rapidly.

I was thinking of adding a weekend 'Farmer's Market' that accepted wic and so forth.

Again: This would be indoors under grow lamps going 24/7.

The feedback is highly appreciated.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gateway

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 6:44PM
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how much power do you get out of the hydroelectric system?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 9:12AM
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I think you would have a better time doing the farmers market concept. You could be year round. You could make the $3/ft/yr pretty easily.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 10:14AM
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I was thinking of setting up a farmers market at the site. That way, I was thinking, people can earn at least what it costs them ( for rent ) plus get a bunch of food for the family while developing a sense of community.

Assuming yr round: $25/weekend, times 50 weekends, that's $1250 that it would cost to "join" a farmer's market as a vendor. So, if that would be a "toss in" (ie: part of the rent or included in the $3/ft).

Here is a link that might be useful: Gateway Consulting

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 10:49AM
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Where I'm at, our market is just starting to check out having a year-old market. Our season should be about the same as your areas. What we've thought about is not have markets in January, when it is so cold, but each week on the other 11 months. Ours doesn't have a building at this time, so they still have alot of work to do on that front. We do have a few vendors that are attempting to grow 'out of season', but the vendors are having alot of problems growing much besides 'greens'.

At this time, there is an ongoing year round market in Indianapolis. they have little 'stores' inside the building and during the summer have a weekly outside farmers market. I haven't checked out what their prices are for the inside stalls.

Looking at your site, you could probably do the same at several of your 'towns'. You will need to find vendors,which might be the hardest thing. Vendors WANT a good market, but to have a good market, you need customers. Customers want a good market, but need vendors. Finding those people to try and support a new market is sometimes the hardest thing.

Good luck to you.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 11:12AM
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Great idea about the vendors. I would do the same at several sites in Mass, BUT you couldn't even imagine how much political BS I run into. That's a different issue however. One of the buildings at this site, we plan to use as working artist studios and rehearsal studios as well as an Artisan's Collaborative ( a maker space for artisans )

Here is a link that might be useful: Gateway Consulting

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 11:27AM
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The main market that I attended, I've decision that there was too much BS to attend even with the difference of sales. And that isn't all government BS. I wish you well.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 9:40AM
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