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Next Level Farming

Courtesy of Wally S, Pleasantdale SK

How can I make more money? Being asked this is a sure sign our training is working. It means Backyard Riches members are staying in business long enough to get to that question. The key to this kind of staying power is to resist expanding your land base too soon. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way when I first started out 30 years ago. Back then, the dictate was to “Get big, or get out.” I downsized, and have lived to tell the tale.

When you want to make more money, the better option is to intensify production to max out your current land base. That way, you reap the rewards of more production, without taking on the debt and overhead of owning more land. That’s why relay cropping is the power train of the SPIN system – it enables you to at least double or triple the amount of crops that can be grown from a single plot of land, and hence your revenue.

Another way to get more revenue from your current space is to figure out ways to get better prices. I can usually get better prices than other vendors because I unitize all my produce and sell at a certain price tier on a mix and match basis. I’ve been able to raise my prices over the years, and my current average is $4/unit or 3/$10. Not too many farmers use this approach, and it works to get shoppers buying more from you than they otherwise would.

Another way to increase revenue without expanding the size of your farm is to drop out under-producing crops. Over time you will develop the most lucrative crop repertoire. I have narrowed my crops down to 10 over the years, and they include beets, carrots, fava beans, garlic, microgreens, onions, pea shoots, potatoes, rhubarb, and squash.

You should also add new crops every year on a test basis. If they grow and sell well for you, then you can expand plantings in subsequent years, knowing they’ll be a reliable moneymaker. Niche crops that I have added to my repertoire over the years include rainbow carrots,herbs, fingerling potatoes, sunchokes and heirloom tomatoes.

The next way is to extend your season. You don’t need expensive structures to do it. Instead, plant crops that can take the extremes of early/late season weather, like cilantro, which is surprisingly frost tolerant. You can also over winter seed in the ground for early spring crops, like spinach. It can be also be planted later in season for fall harvests when you might see frosts. It is super hardy, and does not need to be covered.

Once you establish your business by putting all these options into play, you can expect to pull in at least $1k per week within 3 to 6 years of startup, depending on your growing skills, how much time, effort and resources you can commit, and how well-developed and lucrative the local food market is.

When you do want to make more money beyond that, then go shopping for new plots. Thinking in terms of 1,000 sq. ft. segments makes it easy and cheap to find more land. And with all the experience you have under your belt, along with the SPIN system’s benchmarks, you can quickly figure out how each of these plots can add $1k – $3k to your revenue. Getting from $50k to $100k+ becomes a series of calculated expansions, calibrating your cropping intensity, and choosing your crops. The permutations are endless, but when you farm by the numbers, your rewards are very clear.

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Seed to Cash enables you to earn a living on land you don't own. I grossed enough to replace a full time job in my first year, with no prior growing experience.