Ok, so I am not even sure I should be writing this. After all, we are trying to start a SUCCESSFUL market farm, and writing about our pitfalls as new market gardeners does not exactly exude success.

However, I want to be as transparent as possible so that those who are also wanting to start a market farm know just what they are getting into.

That sounds kind of bad, but take it from me, a complete market farm newb who has read the books and watched a ton of youtube videos, it’s not easy.

I could just say that everything is going to plan, it’s perfect, we’re doing awesome!

But that would be a lie.

Starting a market farm is not simply ordering and planting seeds. There is a ton of organization that needs to happen, as well as some know-how. 

And honestly, as new market gardeners, it feels like we have neither of those right now.

It is now mid-May, and I just wanted to chat a little about our experience so far on this new venture we are undertaking called ‘starting a market garden’.

Plan, Plan, Then Plan Some More

When Jon and I first started planning our market garden last summer (2020), we were really excited, planned weekly meetings, and generally felt good about our decision to start a market garden, and were really pumped to get started.

Then the fall came.

Our weekly meetings died off, and we became stagnant with our planning.

We were lucky to be able to rent our field from a family member, so we at least knew that we had a place to grow our veggies.

However, it was being used as a hayfield until the end of the season. 

That meant that we would not be able to plough or prepare it until late in the fall.

Well, late in the fall turned to Spring, which turned into late Spring.

It is now the middle of May and we are just tarping and building beds. The field won’t be ready to plant for a couple more weeks.

This reality really put a damper on the season because we had no place to put our plants once we started them indoors (more on that down below!)

What we are currently doing is planting in our large family garden until our beds are ready.

jon planting in garden

This is less than ideal since there are water considerations (well water) and space as well.

Now, Jon had spent a great deal of time in the winter planning our start dates for each plant and creating succession planting schedules. 

This schedule is pretty much out the window now because we are pretty far behind on our planting due to our late start with our field and our indoor planting space. 

Starting Indoors

This may have been the first clue that we were in for an uphill battle this year.

When we started our seeds, we realized that we just did not have enough room to start as many as we would have liked. 

We are using a spare room as our nursery right now, and we can only start as many soil blocks that will fit. 

Space is definitely an issue.

Here’s where things kind of pile up.

Because we don’t have beds to plant into in our field (yet) we can only start as many plants as we can fit into our home garden.

We also do not have any season extensions to speak of, so we can’t move our starts into a hoophouse because it does not exist.

So as you can see, one problem compounds into another very easily, leading to a late start for the season.

Sweet Fern Organics farmers market vendors

Farmer’s Market

Our plan was to sell at farmer’s markets and our farm stand this year.

Well, that almost didn’t happen!

I was late in applying for our local farmers market and honestly thought we would not get in. 

So I applied to a few in the area and was denied at most of them because they were full.


Lesson learned: Apply early (around February) to farmer’s markets if you are even thinking about becoming a vendor for the season.

However, as luck would have it, we were accepted into our local Saturday farmers market as well as a smaller Friday market in a nearby town. 

I have to tell you, I was so relieved when we got the acceptance from those two markets. I really thought I had $h!t the bed on that one and left it too late.

While we are on the topic of farmer’s markets, we really wanted to be at the first market even though we did not have any produce to sell, given our situation outlined above. 

We did, however, have a lot of lettuce plants started that we did not have room to plant in our home garden so we decided to sell lettuce seedlings at our first farmers market.

farmers market displayI had started some microgreens as well, but they were not ready, dang it!

Let me tell you that these were not the prettiest lettuce seedlings you have ever seen, mostly due to the fact that we had potted them up only a couple of days before the market.

This was because we were waiting for our perlite to come in so we could make more soil for our soil blocks, that’s a whole other story!

But anyway, we went ahead and picked the best ones and took them to the farmers’ market.

We did not make a fortune, but we sold some plants and made some connections with customers and other vendors.

As new market gardeners, these connections are invaluable.

All in all, I would recommend trying to get to the first market of the season even if you don’t have much to sell.

I made some notes on what other vendors were selling on the first day so that we are more prepared next year and hopefully have more to offer than just lettuce starts!

Lessons Learned So Far As New Market Gardeners

Here are just a few things we have learned so far this season as brand new market gardeners that may help you with your first season as well as keep your expectations in check.

  • Stay organized
  • Be prepared to adjust your plan as needed
  • Accept that things will not go perfectly
  • Keep up with weekly meetings to stay on track
  • Realistically plan how much room you have to work with in your nursery and beds
  • Have some sort of season extension in place (hoophouse, etc)
  • Know that you will make many, many mistakes along the way to success
  • It’s not easy

What’s Next?

So here we are, mid-May, with a bunch of tomatoes and peppers, started in our indoor nursery (which I fear we started too late).

A garden full of lettuce, arugula, and radishes (which we started indoors and are starting to go to seed in the garden).

A field that is ploughed and tarped, with some beds being made by Jon (after he gets home from his day job) which will be ready to plant in a couple of weeks.

We are taking the next couple of weeks off from the markets since we have nothing to sell right now.

I am working on some microgreens, but am waiting for the seeds to come in.

This is pretty much what is going on. Neither Jon nor I have done this before, so we are literally flying by the seat of our pants. Mistakes are being made, but we are attempting to correct and learn from them.

We are trying to cut ourselves some slack about the stupidness of some of the things we have done, but it’s hard. 

We really want this year to be a success and it is going to be an uphill battle every step of the way if we are truly going to succeed.

It is a good thing that we both want this and are willing to work hard and do whatever it takes.

We have realistic expectations of what we might earn this year as new market gardeners, and as long as we come close to our target (or exceed it!) we will be happy.

I have so much more I could go into about starting a market farm as new market gardeners, that I think I will make this a weekly segment on the goings-on and the trials and tribulations of starting a market farm. 

Let me know in the comments if you would like this to become a weekly feature.

I know I complained about all of the pitfalls in this article, but the truth is starting a new business is hard and it’s not going to be achieved without some heartache. 

Don’t let our experience dissuade you from starting your own farm or business. Learn from us and from your own mistakes and do better next time.

That’s what we are doing.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right,”

-Henry Ford

Also, take advice from those who have been there before.

Read the books.

Watch the videos.

Talk to real-life people. If they offer to help you, take them up on it.

We met a couple of farmers at the market who invited us to their farm so we could learn what they do and what did and did not work for them. 

You can bet that I will be dropping them an email and setting up a time to go and check out their farm.

Just keep pushing forward and do the best you can.

Stay Local,

Kathy & Jon

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Growers


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