[Market-farming] High Value CRops was CSA start-up

Susan Houghton susangivingtree at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 26 20:02:43 EST 2007

We have been experimenting with a variety of crops in 4 big hoophouses.  We
have muck ground, and so can grow the best carrots in the county (and maybe
the state). Our sugarsnax carrots were over 15 inches long, some weighed a
pound and a half, each one was enough for a meal!  So everyone (CSA,
restaurants, co-op and farmers markets)  buys our carrots.  The coop is
paying us $1.50 a bunch for rainbow carrots now - 4 carrots probably weigh
about 1 1/2 pounds, so $1.00 a pound really makes them worth the space,  we
planted them with the old pinpoint seeder, so thinning was minimal. (and
saleable as mini-carrots). We also grow the rainbow carrots - and they
really do attract attention.   Next year we will have a storage room for
carrots, and so won't use hoophouse space for them. 
We also have grown some of the smaller colored watermelons, trellising
them, starting them in seed blocks, using remay for extra heat when we need
to, etc.  Probably more "baby-ing" than they are worth - but they sell for
.50/pound or $5.00 each, which makes it worth it for us. 

We have grown spinach - it seems to be the one crop that does not winter
kill - even at an outside temp of - 23F.  Last fall it was an incredible
crop, but this year we didn't want to hand pick that much, so decided to do
head lettuce instead, and will plant spinach the end of Jan for spring

Beets we sold at the market in early June went for $3.50 a bunch - and we
didn't have enough.  Onions - Ailsa Craig went for $2/pound in late June
and early July, before the sweet onions came from the south. And by then we
had a customer following that demanded ours, even if others were cheaper. 

Our most profitable and easiest crop to grow is Romaine lettuce. We seed in
soil blocks, transplant, water, cut and wash and have it down to a science.
Two people can do 500 heads of lettuce a week with ease. We are
wholesaleing it for $1.80/pound, and the buyer supplies the transportation
and the boxes. (so the $1.80 is for our on-farm expense). Not glamorous,
just paying attention to detail - no head goes out the door dirty, buggy,
or bolted.  I do taste tests, we pick early in the morning, we water at the
right time of day, and we are dependable...........Since lettuce is our
"bread and butter" it takes priority, and every thing else is second..

We also interseed, or transplant one crop into one that is already growing,
overlapping the growing seasons considerably.  We can transplant beets
inbetween lettuce in the spring for instance, or transplant parsley in
between onions. (Always lots of options here when using soil blocks). 

The biggest challenge is the planning - how much space, how many plants, do
we have the timing close enough so that we are not wasting space, and yet
far enough that if the weather is too warm or too cold the transplants can
hang out another week?

We also have a small CSA - now down to 15 members that really want to
support the farm and the farmers.  We used to feel guilty about not having
all the variety they wanted, but now we go to a farmer's market to do the
delivery, and they can buy from other farmers and from us, so we keep our
price down, limit the variety, and make sure other farmer's are also
participating in the buy local push.......works for us and for everyone

Susan Houghton
Lansing Michigan

> [Original Message]
> From: Allan Balliett <aballiett at frontiernet.net>
> To: Market Farming <market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Date: 11/26/2007 1:52:57 PM
> Subject: Re: [Market-farming] High Value CRops was CSA start-up
> >I'm always amazed at how profitable and easy beets can be.
> Sean - What do you get for beets? And what varieties do you grow? I 
> agree: people WANT beets!
> Alison - What do you ask for mesclun and spinach? Yes, spinach is 
> 'making it' for us in this late season! -Allan
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