Market access

 The choice of the region in which to settle must be made keeping in mind that the job of a market gardener is not just about producing vegetables but also selling them. In a way generally, a good production finds buyers among people favorable to organic products and made aware of the importance of “eating local”, who are willing to pay more for legumes fresh. This clientele is more present in an urban area, but it also exists in villages.

It depends. Some organic producers feel that they will never be able to satisfy the demand, while others struggle (with frustration) to sell their products. Finding a favorable site for the sale of its products is important crucial.

It is also important to ensure that the target market is not already saturated with the supply of competing organic producers. At the time do a market study, you need to learn about demand and its growth potential, but also on the prices of similar products and the existing supply of vegetables (are there any gaps to be filled, or even a total absence of certain products?). The time spent exploring places, ask questions and find a niche for its products is a profitable investment.

Another important aspect: the proximity of the farm and the market. Unlike your work at the garden, the delivery of your vegetables does not require any expertise or special attention. The time spent on the road prevents you from doing the job maintenance required for good harvests. This consideration is also important if you plan to sell in a public market because leaving at 4 a.m. to arrive early at his kiosk can make you irritable and exhausted by end of the season. For these good reasons, locate its garden as close as possible to its main market, even if it means paying more for the land, is a wise decision.

The Jardins de la Grelinette are located at an hour's drive from Montreal, but 40% of our production is sold at a grocery store, restaurants, and a farmer's market in the region. These sales, which allow us to limit our time off the farm, help us know and appreciate people in our community.

The cultivable area

How big should the market garden be? This manual deals with intensive production on less than one hectare, because I believe it is the optimal area for cultivating without a tractor. But to be more precise, it is necessary to determine the number of individuals who will be involved in the management day-to-day operations and income targeted by the company.

At Jardins de la Grelinette, we have established that to cultivate 0.8 hectares (including a greenhouse and two tunnels in intensive production), in addition to my wife and I need an employee full-time and another part-time for help with the crops. It should be noted, however, that during the season, we are two experienced farmers working full time in our gardens and that in my opinion, an experienced farmer equals to more than one agricultural worker in terms of the job. This observation as well as the observations made during visits to several other garden market gardeners make me conclude that half a hectare of diversified vegetables is a lot of work for a single person. To get there, it will take inevitably hire labor. This help can be provided by interns or woofers (World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), but at that time it will be necessary to see the facilities to accommodate them.

We can also refer to the number of baskets per hectare to determine the area to cultivate. It is this unit of measurement that is commonly used by ASC producers to describe the size of their operation. I said previously that our market garden supplies more than 200 families. My experience in market gardening in a small area also allows me to determine the basket-hectare ratio for a season production of 20 weeks varies between 30 to 70 baskets per 1/4 hectare in production. This variation depends on the experience of the producer, the degree of crop planning, and the quality of production systems. Although these ratios are approximate, they give everything even a good idea of ​​the spaces required for

operate a market garden.

In my opinion, sometimes it is better to limit the size of its land. People often dream of owning a large estate, but I do not share their enthusiasm. To be successful, a market gardener will have to devote a lot of energy and attention to his business. A large land can seem like a good deal at first glance: experienced producers will argue that it allows more easily to leave plots fallow.

Although the validity of this practice is indisputable, it nevertheless goes hand in hand with plowing and deep soil work that cannot be carried out without a tractor. And the purchase of such machinery might make you want to grow crops. extensively, which would cause you to lose all advantages of non-mechanized production. The cost of purchasing these additional hectares may also prove to be a heavy financial burden.

I am not trying to disenchant people or to argue that owning 10 hectares is a bad thing. I'm just emphasizing that plus one the land is vast, the more difficult it is to maintain it with care. If manual market gardening makes it possible to establish itself in a small area, I think that the advantages of the model are lost if one seeks to cultivate more than a few hectares of diversified vegetables.