In the last post, we looked at Conor’s decision to focus on production instead of infrastructure. Today we’ll examine size—both in terms of the farm itself and individual growing beds.
Scaling Back and Efficiency
At the moment, Neversink Farm has an acre and a half of vegetables, but Conor and Kate are planning to scale back to 1.2 acres. It was a difficult decision to make, but they each came to the conclusion that the field is the most expensive place to grow their crops. So they’re scaling back and focusing on achieving the same yield on 1.2 acres as on 1.5.
At the moment, their indoor production takes up a fifth of their current acreage, and they’re planning to increase that percentage.
The Advantages of Growing Indoors
The number one reason Conor prefers to grow indoors is so he can control weeds. Since all their houses are screened, there’s almost no way weeds can get in, unless they come in someone’s shoes. Having fewer weeds means you and your employees don’t have to spend hours hand-weeding and can instead focus time and energy on more valuable tasks. This is a huge labor saving.
The second reason the Crickmores grow inside is climate control. Rains in their area can range from light drizzles to torrential downpours. When that happens, the seeds in their newly planted beds wash away. Their outdoor plants also have to endure blazing summer heat, strong winds, and bitter frost.
Not having to put on shade cloth and row cover also saves Conor a lot of time, energy, and money, so it only made sense for him to graduate to a more permanent solution: growing indoors.
The farm’s houses all have cathedral arches and automatic roll-up sides and automatic venting. Conor and Kate were able to upgrade their old hoop houses with houses that are more and more high-tech. This is definitely worth it, Conor notes, because this enables them to manage and control risk.
The standard growing bed for market gardeners is 30 inches wide. Although Conor thinks his beds could be a little wider, nearly all commercially available tools and equipment are already standardized at 30 inches.
While Conor is more of a fan of buying what he can off the shelf, people who have fabrication skills and who enjoy creating their own tools can definitely try deviating from the 30-inch bed.
In the final part of this series, we’ll discuss the BCS two-wheel tractor and why Conor decided to buck conventional wisdom and stop using his.
You can learn more by checking out our podcast with grower Conor Crickmore:
And you can find all our market gardening podcasts at Farm Small, Farm Smart—the longest-running podcast on market gardening in the world.