How to start a market garden

Now that there are proven practices for extending the season, Coleman recommended Mainers and other market gardeners in cold climates take advantage of them and continue to experiment for themselves to find out what works best for them.

“Extend our season from our traditional warm New England months and do so by innovating ideas for growing in unheated greenhouses, sticking to crops like spinach and green onions which are very resistant to cold, that’s one of the best things we’ve done, ”Coleman said. “I recommand it.”

Wolff said you can save money on gardening supplies by building your own infrastructure, like greenhouses and other season extenders.

“You don’t really need to invest that much money in a market garden,” said Adrienne Wolff, co-owner of Buckwheat’s Market Garden in Central Lake, Michigan. “You can create tools in-house. We’ve found YouTube to be one of our best friends in this area.”

Step 5: Find a market

Finding a market to sell your crops is also an essential step in starting a market garden.

“Check around to see what your market will be,” Coleman said. “If you are on a road and there are four other farm stands in your route, a farm stand probably won’t be your best choice for marketing. You want to check out and see which stores you might want to sell to.

Coleman said there are a few surprising sources for the markets, including local supermarkets.

“Few of the local producers even think of selling there because they think, ‘Oh, supermarket – that’s something that’s way too big,’” explained Coleman. “Many of them are very determined to buy local food if they can find it.”

The market – and the most profitable crops to grow – will also depend on your location.

“Know where you live,” Coleman said. “Try to plan your growing program to match the reality of where you can sell it and who you can sell it to. If you’re in northern Maine say you don’t want to specialize in rocket and mesclun because no one there knows them. You want to specialize in Swiss chard, green onions, and carrots.

Step 6: Determine what you want to grow and sell

In the first few seasons, find out what you really like to grow.

“I think when people start out they want to plant a million different things because they’re so excited,” Wolff said. “If you want to do something for profit, it’s good to start experimenting and see what you like to grow. “

These first seasons of experimentation will help you determine which crops are the best to grow for money.

“We’ve taken out some things that aren’t effective for us, like peas and green beans,” Zeigler said. “The amount of work it takes to harvest them doesn’t always balance out. We don’t grow a lot of corn either. It takes up a lot of space in the garden and they can grow it much cheaper on large farms. We’ve narrowed it down to the top selling in the market and added some fun stuff like tomatillos and peeled cherries

Choosing what you like to grow will also help you mark your market gardening specialties, which is essential for finding the most profitable markets where you will sell your produce.

“Determine what type of vegetable garden you want to be,” Wolff said. “If you want to sell for a profit, I would grow things that you are proud to sell, and I would plant things that can be planted or seeded close to each other so that you use your space to its full potential. “

Step 7: Manage Your Expectations, But Don’t Be Discouraged

Wherever you are, managing expectations is essential if you want to start a market garden. Zeigler said not to compare yourself to others at first.

“The other thing we try to do is not compare ourselves to other farms or market gardens, especially in the age of social media,” Zeigler said. “We find that if you work hard and try not to spread out too much, you can actually make a pretty decent little profit on a market garden. “

Coleman said it could take a while to make a market garden profitable. Finding the right job, he said, is the most important way to stay motivated early on.

“You don’t want to go into this thinking it’s going to make you a fortune, because it doesn’t,” Coleman said. “It’s hard work, but it’s satisfying work. I’ve never done anything more satisfying than trying to grow the best, most nutritious foods possible for people.

Terri S. Tomasini