From a business standpoint, how can I get started in market gardening?
Answer: The amount of land that is put in to production should relate to your markets and, overall, to your targeted revenue. These components are configured in a business plan in which developing a business plan is the first big step in starting a farm operation. The plan will not only serve as a road map for managing towards your goals, but it will also guide you in making decisions. And while the business plan will help in getting you started (and possibly helping with funding from lenders and/or cost-share programs for any start-up costs), it is important to keep in mind that a business plan is something that should be monitored and evolve alongside your business. While you may have enterprises in mind that you would like to start with, starting a farm should be market driven. This includes the need to address the following:? What are the problems you want to address?? For whom do the problems exist?? How will you target those who are affected by the problems?? Can you effectively solve the problem economically?? How much will it cost and will the market pay that cost? Researching the market(s) and creating a market plan can assist you in tackling these questions. The research that you do to create a market plan will help in identifying the dynamic factors that influence markets. This includes:? Where am I going to sell/who is customer?? Size of customer base?? Location of customer base and influence?? Sell directly to consumers or wholesale to commodity markets?? Who is my competition?? Seasonal price fluctuations to expect?? Quality standards to meet?? Time and fuel to reach markets?Legal or food safety considerations?And while selecting which crops to grow should be market-driven, it is important to evaluate your skill level and other personal and farmland criteria, as well as your understanding of costs of production. While you may find which specific crops in your area/markets are best for you to grow, the profits won’t necessarily correlate unless the costs of production and expenses are low enough for you to achieve your targeted revenue. Understanding the true costs of production for each crop and/or enterprise can be achieved through the completion of a crop enterprise budget.Finally, it is important to be realistic about your operation, especially in the beginning years. It is all too easy to plant more than what is needed for your identified markets; however, issues tend to arise in trying to stay on top of the weeds. In other words, your scale of production needs to relate to your management skills. So it is advised to start small, learn your markets, and gradually expand over time. For more information, consult the following ATTRA publications: ? Tips About Farm Business Structures ? Market Gardening: A Start-Up Guide ? Basic Accounting: Guidance for Beginning Farmers? Understanding Organic Pricing and Costs of Production