Be first and last to market

By Lynn Byczynski

Growing and selling over the longest possible season is a key to success on your market farm.Being the first to market with farm fresh products in the spring and having a variety of products available through winter will help differentiate your operation and build customer loyalty.

Extending CSA shares through 3-4 seasons lets you spread the workload and the risks by growing across multiple seasons. Bottom line: you'll make more money. At home, you'll own bragging rights with family, friends, and neighbors.

Sow spring vegetables in an unheated hoophouse as soon as your day length reaches 10 hours. In January, February and March, plant arugula, beets, carrots, chard, kale/collards, lettuce, radishes, salad mix, scallions, spinach, and salad turnips.

Start the cold-hardy vegetables listed above under Quick Hoops™ or caterpillar tunnels for a low-cost alternative to greenhouses, as soon as the soil can be worked.

After the last frost, plant summer crops on plastic mulch for maximum soil warming.

Use row cover to provide a protected environment that will get seedlings off to a good start.

Plant several successions of crops, counting back from the first frost date to calculate the final planting of the year.

Grow plenty of storage crops, including onions, garlic, winter squash, potatoes, leeks, storage cabbage, carrots, parsnips, kohlrabi, and sweet potatoes, to sell throughout the autumn and winter.

Plant cold-tolerant crops in the field and be ready to protect them with row cover as the frost date approaches.

Plant cold-hardy crops under Quick Hoops™, caterpillar tunnels, or hoophouses for fall harvest.

Lynn Byczynski is the editor of Growing for Market and the publisher of The Hoophouse Handbook.

Articles by Lynn Byczynski

About the author: Lynn Byczynski was growing organic vegetables and cut flowers for market when she decided to create a magazine that would help market gardeners nationwide share experiences and information. Her first issue of Growing for Market appeared in January 1992 and it has been published continuously since then. GFM is renowned in the market gardening world for realistic articles that give growers practical, how-to information about growing and selling produce and flowers. Lynn is now partnering with Johnny's to provide similarly useful information for the website and other publications. Lynn, her husband Dan Nagengast, and their two children have grown vegetables and cut flowers since 1988, selling through a CSA, at farmers markets, to chefs, grocery stores, and florists. They currently grow cut flowers and hoophouse tomatoes on about 2 acres of their 20-acre farm near Lawrence, Kansas. Lynn is also the author of several books about market farming: The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower's Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers ; The Hoophouse Handbook ; Market Farming Success