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Old June 6, 2017   #1
adewilliams
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Default Starting a market garden. What do I need to know?

Hi gang! My husband and I are closing on the lot next door to us late this summer. It has a tiny house (it was probably the original tiny house) on it at the back of the lot and very large frontage. I've been kicking around the idea of starting a cut flower market garden for a couple years now, and I think now could be the time and the lot would be perfect for doing this. However, I'm not really sure how I should get started (other than growing!). I should mention this lot is smack dab in a residential neighborhood in the city of Atlanta. Fortunately, Atlanta is pretty forward thinking when it comes to urban agricultural, but I want to hear from experienced growers. What should I consider? What's the best way to get started? Am I just crazy? Thanks for your input!
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Old June 6, 2017   #2
Worth1
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The demographics of your area are the moist important thing of all.
What will people spend their money on and what will they turn their nose up at.
Flowers are a winner in any demographic.
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Old June 6, 2017   #3
PureHarvest
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Check out and/or Subscribe to the online magazine Growing For Market.
They are a tremendous resource for cut flower info for the market gardeners. Years of archived how to articles and info.
For inspiration and ingenuity on urban farming and market gardening in general, check out urban farmer Curtis stone on you tube.
Finally, and not least, think like a business person. We all get a little lost in our dreams of a farm and sometimes forget to plan properly or don't know how to. The best book for me was The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook by Richard Wiswall. The most helpful part was understanding how to set up a crop budget. He includes a cd with templates that you can copy or modify.
2nd finally, don't try to be all things to all people your first year. Pick small variety of species and get a base system set up. Learn from year one and expand from there in species variety and volume.
Best of luck. You can make it happen if you can put in the time!
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Old June 7, 2017   #4
clkeiper
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Get rid of the weeds first... before you plant a seed or plant. it will make your life soo much easier. organic matter, and a good well to start with. drip tape irrigation if you are growing a large quantity,, but it takes a lot to supply a market weekly, plan on picking packing and transporting as a job not a hobby to do the markets.
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Old June 7, 2017   #5
Salaam
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I'm far from a market gardener, but the book The Market Gardener is quite good, as well as his web site: http://www.themarketgardener.com/
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Old June 7, 2017   #6
imp
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I'd suggest checking with the local tax offices and for any licensing or permits you may need or not but that you will need to know if you need them, and also the requirements for selling at which market.

Plenty of good advice, Carolyn does beautiful flowers for market so she does have first hand experience.
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Old June 7, 2017   #7
Salsacharley
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Find out what the government wants from you before you get in too deep. Registrations, regulations, inspections, permits, fees, taxes....

I only sell at one local market now that has minimum red tape.
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Old June 7, 2017   #8
clkeiper
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thanks Imp... regulations for flowers are non existent for me.
the compliance is with cottage laws for food here in ohio. so, if you are growing only flowers just check with your cottage laws for your county & state and ask at a farmers market if there are any licenses you need. I have none other than my vendors license from the state so I can buy wholesale and file taxes on the flowers/plants I sell here at the house. for the market it is a very small amount of my sales so I dont' fret too much over it... maybe 25 or 30.00 at a market. hard to keep track of 1.00 or 2.00 in taxes. I don't fret over pennies at a market. it is too much fiddling for change. everything is bases on quarters. I just do a rough guesstimate at the end of July for the sales and just include it when I file my vendors taxes.
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Old June 7, 2017   #9
BigVanVader
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Do your market research before even buying seeds. You need to talk to the flower shop owners and see what they need and what they would be willing to buy. Most markets will be saturated with certain varieties so you want to set yourself apart. Long stem roses for example are typically something in demand because of the time & effort involved in getting to a commercial scale. Visit farmers markets and take note of what is for sale and how much. Get business cards, look at their sites, visit their farm if they allow it, see how established growers do things.
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Old June 7, 2017   #10
adewilliams
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Thanks, everyone! This is great information. I already get Growing for Market and I will look into Curtis Stone.I think what concerns me the most is the licensing and regulations. I feel like it could be easy to mess that stuff up. It's a lot to chew on, but I'm certainly interested in it. Of course, there's the fantasy of growing and then there's reality, and I'm sure they're very different.
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Old June 10, 2017   #11
bower
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Picking, packing and transporting... The amount of labor involved in harvesting for market is something that blew me away when helping out at my friend's farm. I just couldn't imagine it until I was out there on harvest day. Growing is really a small part of the effort, compared to getting the stuff ready for market.
Ultimately, your wages will come down to: How fast can I make a bouquet.
I wouldn't personally invest heavily in this sort of plan unless I had already done a trial run of the time to pick/pack what I needed to earn a decent wage from the trip to market.
But for me I guess that's hindsight 20/20... I am not so quick with knife or scissors as it turns out. I enjoy the work but my livelihood doesn't depend on it... the full time farm workers are fast like the wind to make just basic wages.
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Old June 10, 2017   #12
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In Mexico they use teen and young labor for much of this flower arrangement making.
It is a lot of work for very little pay much of it if not all piece work.
Like the cucumbers.
The smaller the cucumber the more money you get per sack you pick.
Watermelon is a team effort.
My friend got conned into driving the truck.
Little did he know he got paid by the load too and had to wait in line.
Nobody wants to drive the truck.
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Old June 10, 2017   #13
Cole_Robbie
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From what I read, there are over 40 farmer's markets in the Atlanta area. That's a lot to research. Like others have said, you need to know your competition. If you can find a product that no other vendor is selling, or find some way to make your product different, that is the easiest way to make sales.

As examples, many vendors at my market sell tomato plants in the spring, but I am the only one with dwarf and other rare heirloom varieties, which came from trades with the generous members of this web site. With pepper plants, I am usually the only vendor with super-hots and ornamentals. After that, I get a couple weeks of business selling dwarf sunflowers, which once again no one else sells at my market. I am now starting to branch out into dwarf zinnias and other, more unusual potted plant flower varieties.

It's important to focus on what will sell. I think a lot of plants look fun to grow - succulents are one example. But there is a member at my market who already grows them, and she probably has a 20-year head start on me in learning how to do so. There's no way I can compete with that, so I don't even try.
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Old June 10, 2017   #14
Worth1
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Marijuana would go over with a bang big time.

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Old June 12, 2017   #15
My Foot Smells
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cole_Robbie View Post
From what I read, there are over 40 farmer's markets in the Atlanta area. That's a lot to research. Like others have said, you need to know your competition. If you can find a product that no other vendor is selling, or find some way to make your product different, that is the easiest way to make sales.

As examples, many vendors at my market sell tomato plants in the spring, but I am the only one with dwarf and other rare heirloom varieties, which came from trades with the generous members of this web site. With pepper plants, I am usually the only vendor with super-hots and ornamentals. After that, I get a couple weeks of business selling dwarf sunflowers, which once again no one else sells at my market. I am now starting to branch out into dwarf zinnias and other, more unusual potted plant flower varieties.

It's important to focus on what will sell. I think a lot of plants look fun to grow - succulents are one example. But there is a member at my market who already grows them, and she probably has a 20-year head start on me in learning how to do so. There's no way I can compete with that, so I don't even try.
Seems like you could bring pepper plants to market and let buyers pick off the plant for the freshest, as opposed to day old fruit. Often times, many buyers are restraunt owners who want the freshest pick.

Esp. with the super hots. That would certainly separate the men from the boys.

Even one day old picked pepper loses so much compared to fresh picked. I pick a pepper nightly to go with my dinner. Cut up a spicy banana pepper last night, julianne style, to go with my fajita.
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