How many are full-time market gardeners?

timintexas(z8 E.Tx.)December 28, 2006

Just many of you are stay home year round people? If you then do something to generate money during the off season? For those of you who are full-timers, how much acreage did you have to devote to this? I guess the real question is ARE there any full-time market gardeners?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm in Maine. I'm full time part of the year. Greens will start growing well in the hoop houses in March. The greenhouse and direct seeding start in April. We close down at the end of October except for a few minor sales so that I can concentrate on a fast and furious Christmas wreath season from November 1 to mid December. We're still harvesting in early to mid December but it's only enough to feed our family.

From January through March I write and edit full time.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2006 at 7:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mark_brown(7 NC)

Giving thought to full time, will make that decision for this year by the end of january. Wife has a very good job with regular check just no medical for me. but we are talking about me going full time.

The reason for it is we see growth and the need and my job is not so good for my health and the family i work fri sat and sunday at my regular job. this has been the thinking until this moring and i got let go from the regular job so will still decide exactly what happens by end of january. going to relax until jan 2 every one have a good new year

    Bookmark   December 29, 2006 at 9:47AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
timintexas(z8 E.Tx.)

Myself, I think this will be the last year of me being "split". I am going to do all the last expensive things during the up-comming year..while I still have a "real" paycheck. After that...if all goes ok, I will disconnect from my other life. Besides, the two "lives" have been merging closer and closer every year.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2006 at 1:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

My husband and I are both full time market farmers and have been for the last 7 or 8 years.

We bought our first farm last fall which is 9 acres, 2 to 3 acres of which is in production.

We do not generate a lot of money during the off season, maybe $200 to $400 a month most months but what we do is plan for this dearth of money and make sure we have enough in savings/checking to get us through January and Febuary. oh and we both are very thrifty and know how to stretch a dollar to death and we carry no debt other than the farm mortgage. if we had credit card debt or other loans i do not think we could both farm full time right now but with no debt it is possible.

We do grow all winter most years (and this winter so far has been lovely for winter growing-warm and wet enough) our markets are lacking. We do a once a month farmers' market and off farm sales by appointment. I am thinking about developing a couple of small wholesale accounts to a couple of health food stores in the area so we can generate a bit more money (though health food stores generally have not been lucrative as most people around here go to thses stores for vitamins/pills, not whole foods) and get rid of some of our harvest-we have a good amount of cabbages and kale right now.

Winters are for regrouping, repairing and putting plans into action. We plan on opening up more 4' x 50' beds (probably another 100 or so), planting more perennials such as rhubarb and grapes, some fruit trees (we had deer girdle all our new peach trees this fall during rutting season) and maybe cranberries. we also want to get back into the egg business and need a strong coop for the hens and that is on the list of things to do this winter.

An important reason we can farm full time is we have developed a pretty large customer base and we grow for the most part high end crops that bring in a lot of money. We also have invested a lot of time developing new markets around here. I was a founder of the Saturdasy FM we use and the farm we bought is on a federal highway and came with a store building that we will be developing over the next 2 to 4 years.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2006 at 6:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I basically market garden full time from May through October, with one day a week thrown in for a part time job (year round).
This past year was not profitable due to the local heavy rain/flooding problem in June and continued wet season. All the growers in this area had the same problem, so I don't think it is just my management skills.
I market through a small CSA and a farmers market. I did not open my stand in 2006 due to a shortage of crops (due to weather), but plan to open it again this year.
I have no debt at all, and live pretty frugally. The gardens fill up my freezer so that is a plus. I have poultry also, and sell eggs, but don't I break even on them as half the flock is not chickens, and more than half the chickens are older girls. But I like them, and in the summer my CSA takes all the eggs that I have a available.
I hope to get back more into growing cut flowers this year, too, as they add to the bottom line.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2006 at 10:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here in S. Louisiana, I am fortunate to be able to plant and
grow 12 months a year. 2007 is the beginning of my 21st year
as a market farmer.
I can't bear to think of doing anything else.
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2007 at 10:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
kydaylilylady(z6 KY)

I am not a full time farmer. I work a 40 hour week and do all the market chores in the evening and weekends. My markets close the end of October and the week before Thanksgiving. I do a little Christmas baking but not much. By Thanksgiving actually I'm ready to take a little break from working getting up at 5:30, baking two batches of bread, going to work, coming home and then baking again until 11-11:30 4-5 nights a week. Then there's working in the gathering of produce. My kids do help with the picking and breads packaging but it still gets a little hectic around here.

I'm considering going full time in a few years when I retire but that will be at least four, possibly five years away. At that point I will probably start hybridizing daylilies in addition to the on farm and internet daylily sales. People like to see your own introductions.

I'm continuing to plant more thornless blackberries and asparagus. I'm trying to get a rhubarb bed established but so far it doesn't seem to like my soil. We'll keep trying I suppose.

In the two markets that I work there are only two full time farmers. There's a third that has a town job but hires 3 employees in addition to his evening and weekend work to produce a large amount of produce. He grows only veggies that can be mechanically planted and have plastic mulch, etc. put down. The other crops are too labor intensive in his opinion. That leaves most of the green market to the smaller producers in the market.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 8:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Husband and I just started market gardening last year, I have had a 1 acre garden for about 5 years and grew up in a large family of "big" gardeners. We always have way too much for ourselves and ended up giving away half our garden. In our desperation for me to be a "stay at home mom" we decided to try selling our veggies and doubling our garden space and adding 120 blueberry plants, saskatoons, black currants, cherries, a little of everything we can find that will grow here. Our season is very short here and market runs from July 1st to the September long weekend. Population in our resort area goes from a village of 500-1000 to 15000-20000 in the summer. Our first year went really well and my husband and I would love to have it be my full-time job and its getting there faster than we thought. But mainly its just me working my butt off, hubby working a full time job and child slave labour when I can convince them (they're getting better though). We decided that if I could cover the costs of our little greenhouse and our seeds that we would continue. We managed to make triple that so on we go.
We saved tons of money though by not buying a single bedding plant and starting everything ourselves. What we spent on seeds was 1/3 of our normal seed/plant costs for just our garden and we had twice the garden size.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 10:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Do any of you full-time market garden just flowers/ornamentals?


    Bookmark   February 5, 2007 at 3:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oh, that's an easy question. Yes. We are full time flower farmers. We use hightunnels for season extensions at both ends of the growing season. We specialize in dahlias. After the tubers are dug in the fall, they are divided, inspected, and stored for the winter. Our surplus dahlia tubers are sold via our website. Orders for the tubers begins January through April when we start shipping. By then, we have already started planting our flower plugs in the hightunnels, and started the seedlings in the greenhouse that will go out to the field in May. Lilies are another crop that are grown in crates in a heated greenhouse for market. This crop is planted beginning mid-February. Plantings are staggered to ensure lilies are available pretty much all season. So, again, yes, flower farming for us is a full time job.

Banner Flower Farm

    Bookmark   February 5, 2007 at 7:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
iloveroosters(zone4-5, NH)

I would love to be a full time farmer, and the way things are going, I think I just might be. I am currently out of work and not having much luck finding something that will make enough money. I was in education, so I had the summers off to do my farming/gardening, which was very nice. I am starting all my tomatoes from seed tomorrow and some more herbs too. I wish the snow was gone so I could do more outside. We just had to evacuate our 20 chickens from the barn to the garage last weekend because the barn flooded with 5 inches of water. One thing about this life is that there's never a dull moment!!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 9:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dirtdigging101(7 - NC)

iloveroosters, I am in the same boat, been working towards full time then no job. Wife is very supportative and has a very good job so i took a part time job from 5 am to 8 am 4 days a week [buys the gas and pays insurance]

so hoping the crop of early and late tomatoes will prove worth while and launch me into full time.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 6:11AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
timintexas(z8 E.Tx.)

Everyones answers are so different yet all the same in a way. Myself? If everything goes well, this is my last year of off farm employment. It is that "everything goes well" part that never goes well, lol. I am sinking every last cent I make into this (while I am working) so that once I am poor, I will not be faced with a huge expense of something I should have bought while I had the ability!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 9:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I guess I consider myself full time part time; its full time in the growing season but very little during winter. I am on disability so there is another small income + wife teaches. I do about 2 acres of veggies and expanding the perennials, lillies(lilium) and Iris(Sibes + Ensata) mostly. I do breed bantam Sumatra & Hamburg chickens & several species of pheasants and sell them and their eggs for hatching, shipping to most states. There is a small profit in the birds which adds some income to late fall and spring. I could expand the veggies but then would need to hire labor so wont go that route.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 1:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
iloveroosters(zone4-5, NH)

I think I might expand my vegetable garden this summer if I can. Right now it's only about 20'x 8 or 9' and not big enough for all the tomatoes I am going to grow this year. I went a little crazy with the Totally Tomatoes catalog :) ordered 40$$ worth of tomato seeds. I also ordered about 12 berry bushes. I do very well with berries at the Market, but they are usually blueberries that I pick from our camp at the lake. I do get a few raspberries from my own yard, but I like to keep those for my own purposes!

Dirt digging, I wish you luck in finding something you love to do! My husband is supportive too and has a job that pays the bills, but until I find something besides subbing at the schools, we don't have too much "fun money".
Living in NH, it is really hard to make a go at farming full time, especially if all you have is vegetables to sell. My dream is to have about 5-10 acres, a farm store on my property and lots of animals, plus a registered dairy so that I can make cheese to sell at places. Sigh...maybe someday.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 6:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dirtdigging101(7 - NC)

yes i am lucky but full time is different , everything is riding on what i do

but it is very exciting

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 7:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've been full-time for four years, right from the start, this is my fifth coming up! It's great. Luckily, I am able to do some freelance computer work (web site stuff) right off the farm, so I've been able to supplement my income a reasonable bit (and that has been necessary!), but without really affecting my day hours and full-time focus.

It's not for everyone, especially if you're starting from scratch as I did. Money is a big pressure, and there is just so much to learn, so many bases to cover. I had "consulting" help, a lifelong farmer to ask and help with some things like equipment repair. You have to be flexible and very focussed to organize and follow-through, but once customer feedback kicks in, that provides an amazing amount of real in-field energy to keep going (your veggies have to be good, but they tend to work out if you give 'em the basics).

In my very humble opinion so far, the most important thing is that you have to unlearn a bunch of insidious little habits from "consumer society", like hopping in a vehicle to drive 20 miles to a hardware store because you need a couple of bolts. Things like that. If you can get into the flow of market garden work (which fully includes marketing your stuff) to the exclusion of pretty much all else, it's unbelievably excellent: sanity-inducing and maintaining and!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 9:56AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm happily part-time with no intention of ever becoming full-time. I have a M-F day job that I enjoy. It pays enough but not great. Most of all is that it is stress free, I do have to stare at computers all day long in an office without a window - BUT, I get to bring my dog to work with me and there's a park nearby.... and the co-workers will buy what left overs I have from market day (this year - Saturday mornings).

I enjoy growing things and cooking food from what I grow and I like to talk to people about gardening so selling at the local farmers market is a win win win for me. I make a little money, the work involved keeps me busy. Because this is one of many part time ventures I'm involved in it forces me to be very focused and stick to a schedule which sounds un-fun but it has far reaching consequences - all good.

Many people that also sell at the market often comment that I should consider doing this full time, since I enjoy selling so much. But the truth is that at my last job I worked outside allday and by my mid thirties I developed skin cancer (even with heavy duty sunscreen). So I learned my lesson - my body isn't designed for outdoor everyday work. So my desk job may make me fatter but my skin looks a lot better.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 4:14PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
The new season has started
First planting of carrots are planted. Sorry the picture...
jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)
Hoss seeder
Anyone using a Hoss Seeder? Please post a review. Thanks...
Normally I have a restaurant that buys 150 lbs/week...
Mara des bois strawberry?
I have just discovered Mara des bois strawberry and...
Kalettes / Flower Sprouts
I'm sure a lot of you have heard the recent hype, or...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™