Small-scale farming usually quickly surfaces as a pursuit that could help address all of these. Yet most dismiss the idea of becoming farmers themselves; mainly because of lack of prior experience, coupled with lack of capital. It simply feels too risky.
The refrain we most frequently hear is: I think I'd love doing it, but I don't know how I'd make a living.
Enter Jean-Martin Fortier and his wife, Maude-Hélène. They are a thirtysomething couple who have been farming successfully for the past decade. In fact, they've been micro-farming: their entire growing operations happen on just an acre and half of land.
And with this small plot, they feed over 200 families. And do so profitably.
The Fortiers are pioneers of the type of new models we're in such need of for the coming future. Fortunately, they realize this, and are being as transparent about their operations as they can -- in order to educate, encourage and inspire people to join the emerging new generation of small-scale farmers.
They have published a book, The Market Gardener, which is nothing short of an operating manual for their entire business. In it, they reveal exactly what they grow, how they grow it, what tools and farming practices they use, who their customers are, what they charge them, and how much profit they take home at the end of the day.
A quick summary of the numbers from their 1.5 acre operation:
- 2013 revenue: $140,000
- Customer sales breakdown:
- CSA operations (140 members): 60%
- Farmer's markets (2): 30%
- Restaurants/grocery stores: 10%
- Staff: 2 paid employees + the Fortiers
- 2013 Expenses: $75,000
- 2013 Profit: $65,000 (~45% profit margin)
Did I mention they're doing this in Quebec? (translation: colder, and shorter natural growing season vs most of North America)
Learning to do more with less, and doing it sustainably, will be a key operating principle for future prosperity. Here's a model that shows it's possible to do both, and have good quality of life, to boot.
We need more of these."
This is an extreme example but a thought provoker after yesterday's sad state of affairs on entrepreneurial enterprise. I have done part of what this model suggests but never taken the big jump to make it a living.
Is this feasible?