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03.09.2014 admin
March 22, 2015 by papprentice 73 Comments Picture the scene, you‘re awoken by the morning sun, grab yourself a coffee and step outside. So, today I want to introduce you to Jean-Martin Fortier (JM) and his wife Maude-Helene, Market Gardeners.
Founded byJean-Martin Fortier and his wife, Les Jardins de LaGrelinette, is an internationally recognised 10-acre micro-farm.
The farm grosses more than $100 000 per acre, with operating margins of about 50%, enough to financially sustain the family. For the last decade, the Fourtiers have had no other income than from their 1.5 acre micro-farm.
The features that characterize their operation are: high productivity on a small plot of land, intensive production methods, season extension techniques, and selling directly to public markets.
The farm is conveniently located close to their main market, being just one hour away from Montreal, although they sell 40% of our products locally at the grocery store, restaurants, and a farmers’ market.
JMF emphasises that finding the right site to grow vegetables is the most important initial stage for establishing a successful market garden. When designing the farm his aim was to organize different working spaces so that the workflow would be as efficient, practical, and ergonomic as possible. The farm also has a standardised garden layout – several smaller sized plots called ‘field blocks’ with uniformly sized raised beds.
JMF claims that a well-established, smoothly running market garden with good sales outlets can generate $60,000 to $100,000 annually per acre in diverse vegetable crops. However, this doesn’t factor in the mortgage and other business expenses such as the delivery vehicle and other variable costs (inputs, administration fees, supplies, etc.) Even so, the initial costs are  still relatively small, especially in comparison to the costs of equipment used in mechanized vegetable growing. In his case the Lion’s share is done by the owner-operators with the help of either one or two seasonal workers, depending on the area under cultivation and the number of greenhouses. JMF book serves as a manual for his growing method, please refer to the book for more detail.
Les Jardins de la Grelinette contains 180 standardized raised beds, with 40-50 vegetable crops in cultivation.
The growing season is extended by using floating row covers and low tunnels, caterpillar tunnels and hoop houses. Their sales method is a direct exchange between producers and consumers, CSA (community supported agriculture). In their case, although they sell at two farmers markets, CSA has always been the preferred option since it guarantees sales and simplifies their production plan. CSA or not, the point of direct selling is to build a loyal customer base and forge interdependent relationships.
At Les Jardins de la Grelinette nothing is left to chance, everything is planned in minute detail. They also keep records throughout the growing season, making notes of what works and what doesn’t.
This kind of planning and management leads to improvements and when they talk about profits using big numbers like 150k a year, one must understand that these profits are a result of fine-tuning production. It is clear from this model that willpower and hard work do not, by themselves, make a successful market gardener. While this system uses permaculture principles, there is a difference between production farming and permaculture. To conclude, I’ll quote JMF on the future of farming: “The challenge of our lifetime is to reinvent the profession of farming and to feed people locally, with demise of cheap oil comes an era of resilient biological agriculture. So, do you still think it’s impossible to make a living from commercial vegetable growing? The point I want to make though relates to size-appropriateness based on number of people working a given plot of land.
People only look at his numbers at year 10 and think they can copy his methods and get there overnight. I would love to know what they do with the rest of their land, if they only use 1,5 acres for crop?
I set out to make a living off my 2 acres last August and stumbled across this book in September.
I recommend this lifestyle to anyone who is passionate about growing and wants to be self employed.
Nous cherchons activement une terre mais pour nous ce qui manquera est l’energie de la jeunesse.
I am so thankful that Jean-Martin has shared his wealth of knowledge and that he is so generous with his time.
I am currently working on some designs for HD, low water, low labor, organic, grow systems.
Some preliminary info is on the site above now, and (as soon as some more source info is available) I will post the design I am developing, -about a week-.. In my area I offered an area to grow vegetables and to raise a pig or cow or two ( I would care for it through the season) in exchange for help planting a garden and if animals were wanted, help putting up a fence. If they cannot lift a finger to help themselves, then they can’t expect a semi crippled pensioner to provide for them.

For a round style high tunnel – 20’ wide x 12’ high x 48’ long – it takes approximately 50 ft of 40 ft wide of 6 mil, 4 year plastic.
It is important to understand that high tunnels do not offer a sustainable alternative in a world where access to oil and natural gas are requiring more and more energy to extract. My point is not to negate the use of high tunnels as much to require honesty in the promotion of them. As much as I like my HT and have observed how well it works, I too am concerned that our current system is not sustainable . At least I (and seems many others) would be more interested about crop composition and yield, length of the season and pest control. This is a very small portion of the large rose garden (3.5 acres) located in the beautiful Norfolk (Virginia) Botanical Garden. Use Flickriver Badge Creator to create a badge linking to your photos, your group or any other Flickriver view. Flickriver widget for iGoogle or Netvibes can display almost any Flickriver view - most interesting today, by user, by group, by tag etc. While viewing any Flickr photos page, click on this button to open the same view on Flickriver.
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As you take your first sip you watch the sun rising and enjoy the serene sound of birdsong. Do you think it’s possible for you to enjoy this kind of lifestyle and actually make a decent living from it? JM and his wife make $140000 from 1.5 acres, and live a life that other people only dream of.
To start an operation like this you must first reduce start-up costs, avoiding mechanization and machinery-related costs (purchase, fuel, maintenance, etc.) and, most importantly, limit dependence on outside labor. All fixed elements needed in a market garden (storage facilities, water reservoirs, greenhouses, windbreaks, etc.) are placed according to a well thought out plan for conserving energy and improving efficiency. With this method, he can use materials cut to standardized interchangeable lengths, a system that offers great versatility. This might sound like a lot of money to pay upfront, but if we do the math, it’s well worth the investment.
Avoiding mechanization and machinery-related costs (purchase, fuel, maintenance, etc.) is another. The major operating costs are therefore reduced to inputs (amendments, seeds, plant protection products), which are generally fairly minimal. These are grown using a biologically intensive approach, (intensive spacing and encouragement of biologically rich soils). This allows for the protection of crops from cold and frost in both early spring and late fall, and has a market advantage of offering ‘out of season’ crops. To summarize, the consumer buys a share in the farm’s production at the beginning of the season.
For new market gardeners, JMF recommends CSA because of the many advantages and its tailor-made sales outlet.
People want to build a relationship with those who grow their food and CSA facilitates  this. During winter months a cropping calendar is prepared and decisions made as to what exactly they are going to plant, and precisely when and where they are going to plant it. Farm design, good managing practices, use of appropriate technologies and careful planning are all key components in developing a successful system.
In response to my email regarding his income JMF states: “Our goal was not to set up a system that is low maintenance, but quite the contrary. I don’t know how much research you have done already, but I would suggest learning more about permaculture. Before then I was confident with my knowledge but this book filled a lot of gaps and shook a lot of the loose ends together into a systemised plan. Either have a nice natural planting that encourages salamanders and wildlife, or just plant water-loving plants such as celery and skirret. With success at that, we hope to expand our CSA offering each year until we match membership with production. They are made from simple materials, and operate on (the correct type of) compost and earthworms. I would provide seed, water and mulch material and look after whatever animals were there, to a local charity which is frequently asking for food donations. A friend who offered apples and plums free got two replies, both saying that if SHE picked them they would take them off her hands. As it would require here to grow and sell directly 250 tonnes of carrots (averaging 42kg per square meter) to get 85000 euros (~100k USD) or 40 tonnes of letuce (about 2-2,5 euro per kg) or 25 tonnes of raspberries (3.5 euro per kg) or 20 tonnes of garlic (4-4,5per kg). Once added to your personalized homepage, just edit widget settings to select your desired view.

Everything’s tranquil as you take a leisurely stroll around your market garden, making a list of today’s tasks. When it comes to commercial vegetable growing, the idea of a profitable micro-farm is frequently met with scepticism. They challenge the belief that a small family-run farm cannot stay afloat in today’s economy. Our cost of production (including two salaries for employees that are around 6 months) makes up about 50 % of that amount. The family cultivates 1? acres (including one greenhouse and two hoop houses), and JMF considers this the optimal land base for tractorless  farming. It is very important to understand and prioritize factors like soil fertility, climate, topography, water access, and infrastructure before investing in a site. A bank loan of $39,000 spread over 5 years at 8% interest  means an annual investment of around $9,500, which is reasonable when compared to the potential revenue a market garden offers.
But the most important one of all is limiting dependence on outside labor, which generally accounts for 50% of the production costs of a diversified market farm. To cultivate the beds they adopt minimum tillage but use appropriate machinery including a two-wheel tractor, broadfork and tarps. In exchange, the farm commits to providing quality produce, usually harvested the previous, or even the same, day. When starting out, adopting CSA provides backing and security because customers are paying up front, therefore 30% is guaranteed income.
However, when it comes to customer loyalty, JMF emphasises that the quality and presentation of products are key to success. Record keeping is also highly significant in determining customer preference , allowing them to prioritize the production of the most profitable crops. For people starting out, scale is still really important to consider in your planning process. While this should allow me to easily accommodate a50 member CSA or more, I will start with 30 members and one farmer’s market. Some cynics will try to discourage you from starting a market garden, declaring that production simply won’t be enough to make your family’s ends meet. The farm became profitable after only a few years, and he claims they have never felt the pinch of financial pressure. They did, however, receive financial aid in a form of a government grant of $30000 because of their sound business plan. The biology of the soil is of paramount importance and soils are fertilised organically using good compost, poultry manure and green manure crops. Once you develop your crop calendar and garden plan, running a complex production system becomes much simpler, and forward planning removes the anxiety from those hot summer months. If following a CSA model, maybe aim for 15-20 baskets your first year and see how that goes. Follow Eliot Coleman’s New Organic Grower first before you make a big mistake trying this out of the gate. In about 7 hours I’ll be waking up heading out into my beautiful farm to pick carrots, beets, potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, herbs etc etc to fill all of the orders that came through today. I currently have a small garden (40ftx12ft) but other than that I’m not well versed in growing.
I honestly think that someone can start off using his The Market Gardener and find success without going through Coleman’s approach first.
However in the past if things didn’t work out they could usually move to a new area but we are running out of room. I am buddying up with other growers like the chestnut guy across the road and adding his chestnuts to my list.
Mostly because they are very much the same and Jean-Martin himself learned much of his techniques through Coleman and his tools.
But grants or no, one fact remains: keeping costs low when starting a business reduces financial risk and ensures profitability over the short-term.
My customers love that they can pick up their fresh produce from the farmgate picked the same day. I allow them to pick their own lettuce from the field and I cut it from the ground while they’re watching. Also, it helps to acquire machinery in stages to pay for it as you go–too much debt is a great burden for a small farm. I grew a big patch of pickling gherkins and have been doing weekly bottling sessions at the local halls commercial kitchen. In depth information on farming and permaculture presented by Joel Salatin, Mark Shepard, Geoff Lawton, Toby Hemenway, and many more.

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