New to the Market

dogwood_starJuly 23, 2010

Hi everybody, I have been reading you older posts to learn as much as I can on market gardening.

My family has recently purchased 10 acres which we will be moving onto next summer. We are planning on using .5-1 acre for our garden.

Our main goal is providing for our family and preserving for the winter. I would like to use the market is an outlet for surplus veg, berries to offset cost of seeds, canning materials and possibly pocket money for the kids. (2-11 yo's and a 9 yo who are very excited to do the market!!)

I know the director of our local market well, we get all of our milk and eggs from her, so she is helping on getting in.

My question is does this sound like a reasonable idea on that small of a garden? We will also do eggs but that will take a bit.

Thank you all for any info/ideas!!!!


Dogwood Farm

Midwest Star Performance Horses

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Yes, go for it. I start out with an less than a 1/4 acre, planting ONLY what our family would eat. That way, IF things did not sell (or not as high of quality), I could preserve it. I didn't plant anything that we could not use. Use this year as a learning year, watch the vendors at your market to determine who sells what and HOW. Determine the vendor that you would like to be in the future and learn from them.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 6:36PM
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I read once that you should grow at least 100' of whatever you are going to sell. Seems like alot but isn't much harder to take care of than 50'.

Set up a reliable watering system.

Find your own 'thing', so you are selling it a little differently than everyone else. Don't copy, be inovative.

Keep in mind the local food bank for excess and grow something you have never grown before, live on the wild side a little. I never would eat green beans until I grew my own. Wow, what a difference.

Think about a greenhouse, you have the room. That opens up a whole new market area. Good luck, fresh veggies are the best.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 2:52AM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I grow intensively on about 1/2 an acre. I also have about 5,000 square feet in high tunnels. Don't think you have to have huge amounts of acres to produce vegetables for sale. Unless you are a really up for some preserving, 1/2 an acre will give you much more than you could every can, freeze, or dry.

The amount of produce I raised last year was measured in the tons! Remember, to be effective, you will need to have succession planting of crops. This means you will have them over an extended period of time. One example is green beans. I planned on 6 planting this year, I lost the first one to bugs and the last planting in going in next week. I plant about 200 row feet for each planting. I have the space for 2,600 row feet to be planted all at once, but there will never be enough time to pick all that and I will never be able to sell that many beans in one week. I would rather grow smaller, more manageable amounts over an extended time.

Check out my blog, it will give you an idea what you could do on 1/2 an acre.

Here is a link that might be useful: High Farming Blog

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 6:43AM
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Thank you so much for the comments! We are really excited and i hope to have fall plants in next year after the move. We are going to use blueberry bushes as ornamental around the front yard, and instead of flower beds we are going to do herb beds.

Where do you guys get your seeds and how long do seeds "hold" when you have them on hand? can the same pack be used for more thank one year? So far I have been looking through the Burpee catalog for our stuff. Are they a good company to order from?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 2:56PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I my opinion, I don't use Burpee. They are way overpriced and you don't get much seed in a packet. Great for a homegardener, but if you are going to be planting 1/2 to 1 acre, you will need alot more seed than that. Now, they do have a few varieties that I like, but I find them elsewhere. There are many seed companies out there and everyone has their favorites. Here is my list.

#1 Choice: Johnny's Seeds
Why, Choice, Selection, and fast turn around. I know anytime of the year I can order on Monday morning, before noon and have it in my mailbox on Thursday at 12:30. They have done that so many times, I am use to it now.

#2 Tomato Growers

Good selection, a little pricey, but I have always been happy.

#3 Jung's

#4 Baker's Creek for Heirloom Seeds.

These are the places that I ordered from. Others may be cheaper, but I have found that you get what you pay for. It has been my experience that when I have an off type of seed, it has always been from a cheap seed house or packets I bought at a store.

What I would encourage you to do is find out what varieties others are growing and what grows well in your area.

Also, seed can be kept from year to year as long as it is stored properly. Some say in the freezer, I just leave mine in an airtight container in our cool basement. I have several packets of seeds that are 3 to 4 years old. They germinate just fine.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 3:28PM
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Jay, I don't order from any of those companies, except Tomato Growers occassionally. I use Jordan's out of MN, good seed and very reasonable prices. I also compare their prices with Hummert (formerly Chesmore). One or the other usually have better prices than other companies that I have checked out.

As far as keeping seeds over, it depends upon which seeds and how you keep them. I use the Blue canning jars with lids for most of my larger seeds, and baby food jars for the smaller seeds.

I have found out, the hard way, that corn, onions and lettuce doesn't keep very long. I can get a couple of years from the lettuce, but not even 1 extra year for the corn and onions. I have been able to keep tomato seeds for 5-9 years, peppers for 2 years, beans and peas 3-4 years. Squash, both summer and winter, usually keep for 3-5 years, maybe longer but I usually use up the pounds that I order by then. Those are my normal planting items.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 6:12PM
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I love Johnny's have been a happy customer of theirs for 18 years.

Jungs I will never use again. Ordered over $500 in plants from them many years ago and 90% died (and we knew what we were doing as we had been dealing with such for years and years). they gave us a store credit, got more plants and around 60% died. This time we forced them to give us a refund. Have since ordered the same types of plants from other places and got much, much, much better quality usually at less cost.

I also like Seed Saver Exchange and Fedco Seeds.

I love Baker Creek's philosophy but have has way too many mistakes-either seed than do not work, wrong varieties or they mailed the seeds too late to use for the year. I also know most people have had better results from them so well worth a try.

I agree that Burpee is not for market growers, too expensive.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 6:03AM
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If you ever plan to get into fruits, I learned the hard way to avoid the big mail order companies. Their plants are generally small and lack vigor. And NEVER buy those big potted trees at the big box stores. Order bare root specimens from reputable sources. You cannot believe how fast they will catch up with and surpass those bigger trees, bushes, vines, and canes.

For a market garden, you'll find yourself buying seed by the ounce or even pound. Buy locally in bulk, if possible, at your local feed stores. However, selection is usually limited. For specialty crops, you have to look online--ie. Johnny's and Pinetree are both good. For large orders, tho', I've been mostly using DeBruyn out of Michigan. Some years, I may get a hundred pounds of seed from them. I go in with several people to share shipping.

As Jay noted, you don't need a huge amount of land to grow tons of food. Getting a customer base can be challenging at first. Local Harvest has been very good at getting me regular customers---but YOU have to work at it. They will be interested and contact you, but YOU usually will have consistently follow up to keep it going. I also like selling to restaurants. You may not get market price, but it can certainly be an outlet for volume or leftovers after the market.

Best of luck,


    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 12:02PM
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