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How to Make a Living From a 1.5 Acre Market Garden  RSS feed

 
William Horvath
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Maybe you heard about Jean-Martin Fortier or not but he is the model to follow when it comes to commercial veggies growing.

A lot of people would say it's not possible to make a living that way, but he definitely shatters that myth.

Check out the math about his operation: http://permacultureapprentice.com/how-to-make-a-living-from-a-1-5-acre-market-garden/

Cheers,

William
 
Chris Lyons
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John Wolfram
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William Horvath wrote:A lot of people would say it's not possible to make a living that way, but he definitely shatters that myth.

Playing devil's advocate here, I'm not sure it's the best idea to hold up a guy selling 15,000 copies of his book each years as the example of someone who shatters the myth by making a living from a market garden. Guessing at $5 a book profit, that would mean that market garden makes up less than half of their income.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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This is the break down they put up on the Web:
Here is a brief summary of the numbers from their 1.5 acre operation for 2013:
•Revenue: $140,000
•Customer sales breakdown:

CSA operations (140 members): 60%
Farmer’s markets (2): 30%
Restaurants/grocery stores: 10%
•Staff: 2 paid employees plus the Fortiers
•2013 Expenses: $75,000
•2013 Profit: $65,000 (~45% profit margin)

Ok, so this proves that it is possible to have a career in market gardening. In fact, one can envisage making a pretty decent livelihood.
Their initial start-up costs were in the $40,000 range.
They did, however, receive financial aid in a form of a government grant of $30000 because of their sound business plan.
With this additional support, the chances of market gardening success improve greatly.
But grants or no, one fact remains: keeping costs low when starting a business reduces financial risk and ensures profitability over the short-term.

Notice they started out with 70,000 capital.
The site states: "The farm became profitable after only a few years, and he claims they have never felt the pinch of financial pressure."
They have now been in business for ten years.
This was not an instant success story.

I'm rather amazed that they have a 60% CSA market, but they probably have a greater number of folks using CSA's in their area.
Here in Arkansas, CSA's don't seem to be that profitable because of low numbers of people willing to sign contracts.
We can do much better by selling to small markets and restaurants than we can doing a CSA program.

We also do better with a limited number of crop items for sale, it makes us able to supply the quantities needed by our customers on time, every time.

Since we are still building our business, I can see that their model is a great one to follow, our business model is very similar.
I wish we could hire two helpers, that would put us on a faster track to performing as well as they do.

Planning is almost everything for this type of business (just as it is for any type of business) but you still have to follow that plan and keep plugging towards the end goal.
I've seen many people start strong only to falter later on because they forget how much hard work it is, or decide they don't want to do the hard work of farming.
The real key to success at farming is to do the work, do the work, do the work.
We don't get a full day off, ever.
We get time for us a few hours at a time every few weeks, but there is always something that has to be done.
If you like the 7 days a week 52 weeks a year work ethic, then you might be good at small farming.
 
R Scott
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He does make a bit of money on speaking and books now, but no where near $5 a book. Maybe 50 cents or less average, Amazon really screws authors.

They did the work. They made sacrifices. They did the work. They planned well and analyzed ruthlessly and adjusted the plan. They did the work.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Indeed, they did and do the work. They simply show what can be done when you take the time to plan properly, execute that plan and stick to your guns.

They are impressive! They are now at the point Buzzard's Roost will be at in five years.
 
John Wolfram
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R Scott wrote:He does make a bit of money on speaking and books now, but no where near $5 a book. Maybe 50 cents or less average, Amazon really screws authors.

Can you cite your source for that? The Market Gardener is available for $14 as an ebook. Amazon's royalty structure can be found here. If he went with the 35% royalty rate, he would make $4.40 in per sale in each area with a 10% VAT. If his book is 10 megabytes in size and he went with the 70% royalty rate he would get $8.75 for each book he sold in the US.
 
George Meljon
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I always wonder: are the Fortier's in the expenses or do they get paid from the profit? Are the 2 other workers in the expenses?

•Staff: 2 paid employees plus the Fortiers
•2013 Expenses: $75,000
•2013 Profit: $65,000 (~45% profit margin)
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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The website says they take their "salaries" from the 45% profit margin.
 
Martin Jelenc
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We really need more info here...if the salaries come from the "profit" they are speaking another financial language. How many hours do 2 hard workers with great planning skills work per year to earn $45K? How are startup costs repaid? Does the book give better info?
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
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Apparently what they do is count the profits as their own money to spend, with the workers pay is included in expenses.
This is not how I would run business books, I was taught by an awesomely knowledgeable CPA how to do book keeping and that means all salaries, insurances, permit fees, etc. get debited against the gross income, profit is what is left over after all deductions.
I am going to purchase his book since it is supposed to be a complete road map of what they do, how they did it and step by step instructions, including their business plan which got them the extra money for startup.
I think it will be an interesting read and it may even become a reference book for me, I will have to wait till I have read it through to make that determination.
 
Miguel Laroche
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I heard in an interview that they have gotten to the point where they can treat their farm job as a normal job, 40 hours a week and they have 3 months off in the winter.

Also 1.5 acre is on the smaller side of what a small farm can be, if you have a little more land you have more flexibility with crop rotation and more space for the money crops.

I think the numbers in the book are very impressive and inspiring. 35000$ of tomatoes on a total of 400 feet long rows (if I recall correctly) is hard to believe. This figure would be even higher on the West Coast, this is in Quebec where the price of food is overall cheaper than here in BC. Regardless, this book was probably the most helpful book I have read when it comes to making a living at farming. I highly recommend it.
 
John Wolfram
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Martin Jelenc wrote:We really need more info here...if the salaries come from the "profit" they are speaking another financial language. How many hours do 2 hard workers with great planning skills work per year to earn $45K? How are startup costs repaid? Does the book give better info?

Based on a few articles/interviews I've seen, they say they work regular 8 hour days, 9 months a year. Of course, when someone is selling a book advocating a particular lifestyle I generally take their numbers with a grain of salt and skew the given numbers in a way to opposed to the view they advocating. Assuming each one of them works 50 hours a week during the nine month season, that is a combined total of 3,750 hours that they work per year. If they were able to keep all of that $65,000 as income, that would work out to $17.33 per hour they worked. I don't know the tax structures in Canada, but in the US you have to chip in the employer contribution for social security/medicare, so the actual per hour amount would be less. Also, their numbers are probably in Canadian dollars, and in Ontario the minimum wage is CAD$11.

So, my guess is that they are making a bit more than minimum wage, but not a lot more.
 
Miguel Laroche
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Except you dont build equity on minimum wage, plus they provide work and good food for the community.
 
George Meljon
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John Wolfram wrote:
Martin Jelenc wrote:We really need more info here...if the salaries come from the "profit" they are speaking another financial language. How many hours do 2 hard workers with great planning skills work per year to earn $45K? How are startup costs repaid? Does the book give better info?

Based on a few articles/interviews I've seen, they say they work regular 8 hour days, 9 months a year. Of course, when someone is selling a book advocating a particular lifestyle I generally take their numbers with a grain of salt and skew the given numbers in a way to opposed to the view they advocating. Assuming each one of them works 50 hours a week during the nine month season, that is a combined total of 3,750 hours that they work per year. If they were able to keep all of that $65,000 as income, that would work out to $17.33 per hour they worked. I don't know the tax structures in Canada, but in the US you have to chip in the employer contribution for social security/medicare, so the actual per hour amount would be less. Also, their numbers are probably in Canadian dollars, and in Ontario the minimum wage is CAD$11.

So, my guess is that they are making a bit more than minimum wage, but not a lot more.


Using your numbers, it would also be fair to put a dollar value on their free time, which is 3 months a year. So, 65k/3 quarters*4 quarters = 87k a year split 2 ways. They're just forgoing the 4th quarter in terms of financial capital. I'm sure they spend some time doing prep work for the next year, though. What they do with 3 months off a year is quite likely priceless.
 
John Wolfram
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George Meljon wrote:Using your numbers, it would also be fair to put a dollar value on their free time, which is 3 months a year. So, 65k/3 quarters*4 quarters = 87k a year split 2 ways. They're just forgoing the 4th quarter in terms of financial capital. I'm sure they spend some time doing prep work for the next year, though. What they do with 3 months off a year is quite likely priceless.

But why would you not value ALL of their free time? If combined they work 3750 hours, that means they get 13,780 combined hours of free time. Valuing that at $17.33 an hour that works out to $303,000 a year split between the two of them! But, since they would actually die within about two weeks without that free time I would say it should be valued much higher than their working wage (triple time?), so let's call it ONE MILLION DOLLARS a year split between the two of them.
 
George Meljon
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John Wolfram wrote:
George Meljon wrote:Using your numbers, it would also be fair to put a dollar value on their free time, which is 3 months a year. So, 65k/3 quarters*4 quarters = 87k a year split 2 ways. They're just forgoing the 4th quarter in terms of financial capital. I'm sure they spend some time doing prep work for the next year, though. What they do with 3 months off a year is quite likely priceless.

But why would you not value ALL of their free time? If combined they work 3750 hours, that means they get 13,780 combined hours of free time. Valuing that at $17.33 an hour that works out to $303,000 a year split between the two of them! But, since they would actually die within about two weeks without that free time I would say it should be valued much higher than their working wage (triple time?), so let's call it ONE MILLION DOLLARS a year split between the two of them.


Yes! They both get at least a million billion a year in money they don't get if they don't die, but we all die so it depends when they die, and when they do die they will have never gotten the money they got that wasn't money! Finding the value is not hard here!
 
R Scott
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John Wolfram wrote:
R Scott wrote:He does make a bit of money on speaking and books now, but no where near $5 a book. Maybe 50 cents or less average, Amazon really screws authors.

Can you cite your source for that? The Market Gardener is available for $14 as an ebook. Amazon's royalty structure can be found here. If he went with the 35% royalty rate, he would make $4.40 in per sale in each area with a 10% VAT. If his book is 10 megabytes in size and he went with the 70% royalty rate he would get $8.75 for each book he sold in the US.


That is what the publisher gets. Yes, if he self published an ebook and got $14 per book.

I was going from friends in the business, maybe their hard luck stories were somewhat exaggerated.

But anyway, the numbers in the market gardener excluded writing and speaking fees. Or consulting or anything done during the 3 months off.

The sacrifices they made during startup were more than many would tolerate, or are even legal in some places anymore.
 
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