By Derek Emadi , Emadi Acres Farm
It's undeniable that land prices are increasing without an end in sight, especially here in Central Texas where my farm resides. Lockhart, Texas to be exact. Land access for new and beginning farmers is inching further from the grasp of those who do not want to go into immense debt to begin their career. As I look back on the entire process my wife and I went through to purchase our land at the tail end of the foreclosure crises in 2011, I understand how blessed we are to own our 10 acre farm, but it was a hell of a process. The first time I met our realtor at the property, I knew this was our future home and the land where I would try to build my business. I obsessed on having 5 or more acres because I was taught the conventional wisdom that you need acres and acres to make money in farming. About 6 years later and with many mistakes under my belt, I can fully admit you do not need that much land to have a profitable farm.
In the first 2 years of my farming operation I was barely making it and siphoning my savings to continue to try and grow my operation to be larger than I could manage. I don’t remember how I found out about market gardening and SPIN (small plot intensive) farming, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. It is now something I preach to young and beginning vegetable farmers to consider. When looking to purchase property to start growing vegetables for profit, you don't have to spend your life savings to get a huge tract of land. Instead, consider finding a small piece of land that is more affordable.
I have completely uprooted my farm's original vision to be a hybridized farm of two relatively new styles of growing for profit called Market Gardening and SPIN farming . Market gardening is similar to SPIN farming in that it focuses on growing more with less land. Usually market gardens are under 2 acres, and SPIN uses less than 1 acre. Both grow crops using bio-intensive methods with frequent crop rotations and minimal inputs but have high enough margins to be profitable and sustainable on the smallest of scales. This was news to me at the time because I thought I had to be like the larger farms in our area where you grow in size to accommodate the demand for organic vegetables.
Because my farm is currently a one person operation 99% of the season, choosing to shrink down from two expanding acres to two small plots that total ¾ of an acre has been the smartest decision I have made to date. It is the main reason I'm more profitable than ever while working less. Limiting the amount of crops I choose to grow and the plot size I’m growing on while using better growing techniques has led to increased production and harvest, increased profits, and less work for this farmer. I encourage you to reshape your thinking from “bigger is better” to “smaller is smarter.” There is no wrong choice in choosing to go big or small; it will be your personal context that guides your path, but small scale farming needs to be considered as a viable business opportunity.