Posted on June 9, 2014 @ 09:35:00 AM by Paul Meagher
I'm 3 chapters into a book called The Market Gardener (2014) by Jean-Martin Fortier that describes in detail how he is able to generate $140,000 in revenue from vegetables produced on 1.5 acres of land. He is a farmer from Quebec, an hour outside of Montreal, and he uses french intensive methods to grow enough vegetable crops on 1.5 acres of land to feed 200 families (via CSA Shares), supply local eating establishments, and sell at farmers markets. His system of farming not only encompasses sophisticated small scale intensive food production methods, but also addresses how to manage input and production costs so that they are very low (principally because he has no role for a four wheeled tractor and
associated attachments in his farming system), and how to manage cashflow effectively using a Community Shared Agriculture
model that provides financing early in the season when he has to purchase most of his inputs and equipment. Other methods of
direct selling (to eating establishments, farmers markets) means he is taking most the potential income from his food production
efforts, and not losing over half to food distributors and retailers.
The concept of "Market" and "Gardener" encompasses both the production aspect of food production (the Gardener) and the
economical aspect of food production (the Market). When you can put the two together effectively, you have the basis
for a successful food-production enterprise. What is useful about "The Market Gardener" is that it doesn't just focus on the food production aspect of farming as many farming books do, but also addresses how to significantly reduce startup and ongoing costs, and how to market and sell food in a way that maintains cashflow and produces good profits in an industry ("Farming") that has not been very profitable as of late (e.g., most farmers have to work off farm to sustain themselves and the farm).
The book offers lots of practical advice for farm startups that might also contain useful ideas about how to manage startups in other industries (e.g., keep startup costs low, keep ongoing costs low, find as many direct markets as you can, buy labor saving equipment as early as possible, beware that going big may be less profitable, finance operations through
multiple direct sales channels, time income with expenses to maintain cashflow, etc...).
I'll end this blog with the idea that it might be useful to refer to a startup in a more verbose manner as a "Market Startup" by analogy with "Market Gardener". The "Market" prefix is meant to signify that the startup is producing something for a market and not just producing something for the sake of producing it or producing it for oneself. A market startup has identified direct sales channels, has minimized startup and ongoing costs as much as possible, has found a way to make more money using fewer resources, has created a branded product that keeps customers paying year after year (CSA clients), etc... All businesses produce a consumable of some sort, for a market gardener the consumable is literally consumable, for a market startup, the consumable is metaphorically consumable. Perhaps similar principles apply for keeping the customer fed and happy.
The Market Gardener book was originally published in French as Le Jardinier-Maraîcher (2013), did very well as a French language gardening book, and was translated into English through financing from a crowd-funding campaign. You can read the book in either French or English.
Here is some creative market gardening that is trending on YouTube. Thirty seconds into the video it gets interesting.