Last year, I came across this article about “passion” and its connotations in the worlds of careers and hobbies. It got me thinking about the Farm and how it has changed from a “passionate dream” to a solid plan, on its way to reality. In this 9-part series, I’ll take the key paragraph from each of the seven P’s in the article and expound on it as it relates to the Farm.
Enthusiasm is important, but passion should be tempered with prudence in the form of research, organization, and preparation.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new idea. I’ve just ventured into the world of microgreens: a quick-growing, nutrient-dense crop similar to sprouts. Unlike sprouts, which are grown in water or liquid nutrients, microgreens are grown in soil. After planting seeds for transplants this year, I had five extra seed trays that I hadn’t expected. Impulsively, I thought of microgreens.
But before I bought a pound of seed for $50, I wanted to be sure I could recoup my investment: how much would it cost to grow them, and how much would I have to sell them for to break even or to make a profit? I looked at the seed supplier’s growing sheets: Johnny’s has tested several of their microgreen crops and documented their results, in terms of growing time, amount of seed per tray, and volume of product per tray. Given that information, I could convert their numbers for their trays (which are smaller than mine) to my trays. Then I could estimate the amount of time (labor) it would take to seed, cultivate, and harvest; how much other input, like electricity and water, it would take to grow them; and about how much I could expect to get from each tray. I developed a price point that would not just break even on the input costs, but also provide me with a small profit margin.
I didn’t yet know whether or not there would be a market for them, but the fastest way to find out was to grow some and take them to market. At that point, I committed to investing in my first pound of microgreen seed as a test crop.
Coincidentally, three days after I sold out on my first two trays’ worth of microgreens, I attended a webinar about growing microgreens by a pair of experienced growers. As it turns out, the price point that I developed independently through sheer mathematics closely matches the price point that they set through experience.
Selling out that first test batch, followed by the webinar that included a tour of an established operation, has tickled my fancy: I badly want to expand my microgreens operation beyond the handful of trays I currently have in production. But to do that, I need to invest in additional infrastructure: a larger greenhouse (or at least more shelves), more trays, more seed. Now my prudence is being tested again!