THIS IS HOW MY FARM WORKS! – $100K on a quarter acre


[Music] [Music] hey guys my name is Curtis Stone and I’m an urban farmer I run a farm called green city acres and we grow organic salad greens microgreens cherry tomatoes baby root vegetables and some herbs in urban Lots that we don’t own that we sell to nearby grocery stores and restaurants the total productive size of our urban farm is a quarter acre spread out amongst five urban Lots I’m standing in one of them right here this is my neighbor’s house and right next door is the home base of our farm this farm can generate over a hundred thousand dollars in gross revenue per year growing year-round but predominantly that’s generated in eight months with two people working full-time and then part-time during the four winter months today I’m gonna give you guys a tour of the whole farm some of the tools and techniques that we use to achieve what we do we’re gonna start right here at the home base then I’m gonna show you how and what we grow and then give you a tour of the rest of the farm here we go starting here at my home base this is where I live and where I do most of my work the house on the left of the two greenhouses is mine I own it at least have a mortgage on it and it is solar-powered it’s got an 11 and a half kilowatt solar system there for the most part we do I would say eighty to ninety percent of the work on the farm is done here at the home base we actually spend most of our time in post harvest and I’ll talk a little bit about more of that as we go through this but I live here I’ve got a home office there pass the solar greenhouse that is based on a passive solar design it’s not entirely passive but it is our nursery and we do micro greens in there year-round as well as all of our nursery starts and that big greenhouse in front of it is a hot house it’s a double poly greenhouse that we can do tomatoes and it really early it’s got a six thousand kilowatt heater in it which is powered by the solar on my house and we can do really early stuff in the ground or push things really late in there so really the name of the game here is using every square foot we can for production the front yard of my house is 1,100 square feet so those are about the majority of them are 40 foot beds and there’s a couple short ones in there and each of these beds will be rotated at least four times a season with quick growing crops that is mostly what we specialize in on our farm another way we can really push our season far into winter and starting really early in the spring is with these modular greenhouses called caterpillar tunnels they can be put up and taken down really quickly about one guy can put up a 50 foot tunnel in about an hour maybe with a bit of help to put the plastic on but these greenhouses really allow us to push our season we even put one in the front yard of our house this spring mind you it was only there for six weeks it was there to serve the purpose to get the crop started and established and then it came down so these greenhouses have become a critical part of the season extension infrastructure on our farm and in fact we put them on our other plots as well this plot here and here both had to caterpillar tunnels on them just this spring and we plan on putting them out in the fall to go into the winter again this season so this is one of the most important areas on our farm this is our post harvest area this is where we wash and spin and dry everything and over here is where we pack orders toby is here just packing some greens for grocery stores I do our label printing from this computer which prints off on this little printer here and then this printer is for printing invoices so that’s how we’re completing all of our orders once they’ve been washed we reuse wax cardboard boxes that we get from the back of the grocery stores that we sell to we pick those up when we drop stuff off so we just reuse them so back over here the walk-in coolers are probably one of the most critical pieces of infrastructure on our farm these are two restaurant style walk-in coolers they’re four feet deep six feet wide and six feet tall and both of these have been modified with a cool bot system which is essentially modified air conditioner and it’s an inexpensive way to set up a compressor for produce I will say that they are generally better for smaller coolers and if you’re gonna have a big cooler you might need to have a couple air conditioners with a couple of cool BOTS but this infrastructure over here is critical this is a washing table we wash root veggies on here and I’ve done videos on all this stuff you just use the search on my channel you can find out all these individual things so this is a bubbler that’s for bubbling or washing greens it shakes the dirt off with water it works with a Jacuzzi pump these are our salad spinners they are modified washing machines to wash and spin our salad greens or to spin our salad green juice and say and this is our greens drying screen again I’ve mentioned all the stuff in my book but I’ve done many videos on this before now this is our main tools wall so these are tools that are used constantly multiple days a week almost all year the quick cut greens harvester has a revolutionary tool that we used for harvesting most of our salad greens except lettuce that is a tilter which is a shallow tiller essentially that was a janitor that’s our main planting tool this is a flame leader which we use a lot for bed prep here’s all of the seed that I use on a weekly basis this is for the Jiang cedar these are the rollers for the Jiang cedar they have different types of rollers to drop different types of seed and that’s all the seed that I’m using in a constant basis like red Russian kale arugula spinach radishes and turnips and things like that this is what I call my secondary tools wall it’s just around the corner and these are all the hand tools that we use on the farm so I’ve also done a video on these tools specifically you can check that one out in the video card above as transplanter that is a game-changing tool for us on the farm and this is the BCS this is a BCS walk-behind tractor two-wheel tractor we have a roto tiller on the front but I also use a rotary plow for it and this is the machine that can have the implement called a power Harrow which is a way of doing shallow till for your bed cultivation which reduces weed pressure and keeps your soil more intact so this is the hybrid passive solar greenhouse lot of production here in the other 10 months of the year and nothing in it during the two months that are the hottest months so I’ve got a shade cloth on here lots of circulation fans in this greenhouse we have an exhaust fan here and an air intake on the other side of the greenhouse the greenhouse is also heated during the coldest times with a 6000 watt heater here all this stuff is connected to the solar of my house this greenhouse has what’s called the climate battery and so this duct pulls hot air from the top of the greenhouse in the center and it pumps it down through this fan underground and so three feet beneath my feet we have big ole piping running every six inches underneath the floor here about three feet under and we pump the hot air underground and the floor will radiate heat throughout the winter and it is basically what they why they call it a climate battery because it holds the climate and creates some passive heat in this greenhouse so yes I do heat it when it needs to be heated but even on its own it can stay above freezing even in the coldest times of the winter during the winter we have to run a dehumidifier and that’s what that is we also bring one of our walk-in coolers in here in the winter and we do all of our post harvest and packing in this greenhouse during the winter as well and even a little bit beyond the winter will actually do our post harvest stuff in here up until late April just because it’s nice comfortable and warm and we’ve got lots of space in here to do that this is the shade house this is the summer nursery on the farm so in the summer time I don’t want to have microgreens and nursery stuff in the greenhouse or nursery because it gets too hot and I have to go and hand water every two hours whereas with this setup it’s automatically irrigated with misting irrigation that comes on every six hours and it’s more than enough to handle all the watering of these plants and microgreens consistently and it also saves me a lot of stress and time that’s a 60% shade cloth above and I just attached it to my neighbor’s fence this is a temporary structure and it’s just up for the two months of summer this is one of our bikes and trailers we used to do everything by bike and trailer but now we mostly use a truck this is a dodge Promaster City we still use the bikes to go back and forth between the plots for little things but this is our main delivery vehicle so the vast majority of the product that we sell now goes to grocery stores in Kelowna so these are five different chains in Kelowna nesters market choices market and quality greens and you can see by the products there we’re fairly specialized we’ve got some cherry tomatoes there are some carrots and then various bags of salad greens that’s essentially what our farm produces now we’re about down to ten different products that we grow I started with 90 different vegetables where I’ve grown 90 in the course of my career and I’ve just kept doubling down on the things that provide the most value or the the greatest return in the least amount of time and that has been salad greens microgreens and cherry tomatoes during the main season but for the most part its salad greens and microgreens that we’re doing almost year-round the name of the game with our production on our farm is high rotation planting though this is a term that I coined and I wrote about in my book the urban farmer and what this means is that all the plots of land that we farm all the ones you saw in this video each bed is rotated on average four times per season and it’s primarily growing quick growing crop so I’ll explain some of the characteristics of the crops that we grow in a minute but each of these beds are rotated four times a season on average a 50 foot bed in our farm will generate sixteen hundred dollars of revenue to the course of a season in order to do that these crops have to have some certain characteristics so economically a 50 foot bed can generate sixteen hundred dollars of revenue we have the equivalent of sixty three fifty foot beds on our farm sixty three times sixteen hundred is a hundred thousand dollars eight hundred so that’s a benchmark on what we can achieve on our farm it’s not a guarantee but it’s a benchmark when I’m looking at the season and looking what we can do I can use that as sort of a frame of reference as to what I think we can achieve I’ve been doing this for eight years now and all the numbers that I write about in my book are based on data that I’ve recorded every year that I’ve been farming and I’ve arrived at these benchmarks by just tracking my information over the years so the really important thing here is the types of crops we grow so there’s five characteristics of the crops that we try to focus on on our farm and these characteristics I find are the most important and the most telling on whether a crop is going to be profitable for us the first thing is popularity the crop has got to be in demand people have to know what it is the second thing is days to maturity we’re only growing crops that have 60 days or less to maturity so there’s no corn there’s no cabbage there’s no potatoes there’s no onions there’s no garlic there’s no winter squash I might grow that stuff in my private garden but I’m not growing that on the farm the third thing is high yield I’m looking for crops that will deliver at least half a pound per linear foot in bed so I want it on a 50 foot bed I want to get at least 25 pounds per harvest of a crop so that could be greens that could be radishes when I crop them out you name it the fourth thing is high price I’m generally targeting crops that have a high high price point I’m targeting around $4 a pound or more some crops I grow aren’t quite that much but the vast majority of them are at least that and and much more so we’re not growing low value crops like corn and winter squash again you about higher value crops that’s how we’re making a good living on a small land base and the fifth thing is long seasonality I’m not growing crops that have a short season so for example melons you might plant them and fit in in May but you don’t harvest them until August salad greens all the types of crops you see behind me maybe basal would be one exception I can have them for almost eight months of the year that means I have a very long season to market in and that’s what makes these crops profitable so those five characteristics are what I’m targeting when I’m picking crops to grow on our farm and how I’m going to make these tiny Lots as profitable as they are now to get this kind of production out of our beds we amend with high amounts of organic matter primarily compost and manure we start each season by applying two inches of compost to each bed then each subsequent shell planting after that gets an application of organic compost a turkey manure which is an 8 to 4 NPK rating we sometimes apply another 2 inches of compost during the peak summer if we feel the beds could use it altogether we only spend $2,000 a year on our fertility we also make our own compost but isn’t nearly enough to meet our intensive needs it’s also worth mentioning that most the crops we grow are actually very low feeders so just to give you guys an idea of some of the production we get from the crops that we grow here’s some examples of for common crops to grow red Russian kale is a solid green we do pretty much grow year-round on the first cut you get around 40 40 pounds second cut 15 third cut 10 something like that so you’re getting you know 65 pounds on a bed spinach is a really good one 50 pounds on the first cut 30 on the second 20 or so on the third still get around 100 pounds on one bed arugula now that’s a really profitable unforce and it grows so fast it grows fast in the spring but in the summer it grows in like 21 days from seed to harvest so you get around 40 pounds on the first cut then you got 15 on the second sometimes we don’t even wait for the second cut in the summer we just pull out immediately and then plant something else you know a 21 day crop so we can sell that anywhere up to six to ten dollars a pound same for all these greens actually now Sol ANOVA that’s our biggest one this one’s done as a transplant it’s not planted in the same way that the others are it’s not direct seeded this we have we actually have to harvest it by hand we can’t use the quick cut greens harvester on it and huge yields on this bed I mean on average at 100 pounds per bed you know 50 pounds on the first cut 35 on the second 15 on the third we can sell that it around the same price point sometimes we get 80 pounds on the first cut of selling of if we let it get big enough the cool thing about the crop is that the leaves stay small the big as the head gets bigger the leaves don’t get big so it’s really consistent as far as put it in a salad mix so you can see even with all those just those four together if you would have had a for crop bed in succession with all four of those crops your your total would have been massive you know you would have been around $3,000 of crop in one bed so besides the farm home base that you’ve seen I don’t own any of the land that we farm in we lease it out from homeowners in exchange for vegetables so it actually costs us no cash technically we will take over a person’s backyard and we generally want the whole backyard or as much as we can get at least a thousand square feet and we grow vegetables in it for a growing season and for that growing season we will give the landowners a basket of veggies each week that we deliver to them so that basket of veggies is worth around twenty to thirty dollars depending on the season and we take all the labor of maintaining a lawn off them you know a lawn is essentially a cost center it doesn’t really produce anything for you unless you play soccer a lot or something but we also take care of the water bill so any of the water use that exceeds their normal household usage we compensate them thanks for watching guys if you want to learn more about this stuff and how I do it make sure to subscribe to my channel if you really want to take you to the next level you can come to one of my life events I do workshops throughout the u.s. New Zealand on my farm and abroad or you can sign up for my online course which is a 10-week self-study fully comprehensive small farming multimedia encyclopedia I will have all the links below in the show notes as well as at the end of this video regarding that information alright guys talk to you later [Music]

100 thoughts on “THIS IS HOW MY FARM WORKS! – $100K on a quarter acre

  1. Hey guys, the most common question is, what is our net profit. It's changed over the years and it used to be way higher during the years I used to work full time on the farm. It's still around 50%, even with me working part-time on the farm. Over the last 2 years, our net profit was 75%. Hope that clears that question up.

  2. The notes on the side of the Fridge at 5:15 are fascinating. I think handling information about what's in the fridge is probably more important than the equipment itself! I'd be interested to know more about how you make sure you're always sending out the freshest produce.

  3. Hey I'm loving your videos just started watching them. I'm wondering if it's ok to water my vegetables with my pond water ? I have a very large pond it's not "stale" it has small creek running into and from it. it does have frogs ,salamander , fish living in it. I have read that it's good to use as a water supply because of the nitrogen etc it gives to plants. However I also was told it's no good introduction of bacteria etc to plants. I won't be putting water on the plants just on ground to the roots.

  4. on your beds because everything is so close together what is your method to keeping weeds away from your crops?

  5. My god man if you use that space for hydroponic tower gardens you will quadruple that easy!
    Still awesome to see what you have built!

  6. This was very inspirational. Thank you. I was going to get a dog. I guess ill try this first for my backyard. 🙂 — next yr.

  7. so… assuming 75% net profit… which is pretty high, 75k a year… 2 people = 37.5k a year… after taxes thats like what? 20k something? okish
    well, free food is always good

  8. Gross…. so you are Netting -$10K. Economics 101, when some one refers to Gross profit, they don't want to tell you the Net profit because it isn't there.

  9. Based on your stats you might as well just get a job if you're only generating $100k before wages, land costs(Its not free, someone is still paying for it), watering, materials, fertilizer… so on and so on.

  10. u can use hydroponics and aeroponics. and also dont forget to use Black Soldier Flies larva to make fertilizer. and also some fish pond or chickep coop to eat those larvae if u dont like too much of that flies

  11. Curtis stone I've been really Interested in doing something like this I would like to use an acre of my land to be productive but I'm currently in a high desert landscape southern California any recommendations

  12. I don't understand. 100k 75% profit. 75k, 2 Full time employee's and 1 part time. So $30k, $30k, 10k? How is that a livable wage?

  13. Love what your doing, but really your pulling around 100k from 5, 1/4 acre lots? Nice that locals are getting some decent veggies though.

  14. 50 feet of land generate 1600 dollar a season, NOT POSSIBLE, unless you sell your own veggies, Retailer will buy the cherry tomato for10cent a kilo and will sell that for 2 dollar .

  15. If you want to increase you yield, you need to stop thinking about your land in a 2 dimensional way..if you use it in 3d, meaning have vertical beds, then you could triple the yield.

  16. I live in a suburban area would I have to go through the red tape of zoning permits, inspections, HOA permission. I have 1/2 acre in which I only want to do a very small plot nothing serious.

  17. Wow, I can't even fathom how this could work here in the US.

    1. First and foremost you'd need a neighborhood nice enough to keep your crops protected from vandalism and thievery. Guaranteed the cops in most neighborhoods would NOT be pleased at being called for a farm burglary unless you're in that "nice" neighborhood.

    2. In a neighborhood that nice odds are you'll have a homeowners assoc, and 100% guaranteed they would absolutely not allow a commercial farm and *probably not allow a personal farm half that size.

    3. How would you keep the crops from attracting pests to you and your neighbors? You definitely couldn't use anything smelly (obviously), or poisonous (other family pets and kids)…

    So good for you! But you may as well be talking about how to create gold out of lead….

  18. This is awersome but I am wondering how it works with zoning laws and city council rules and regulations, unfortunately all around the country, so many cities have strict rules on what you can do on your land. Stupidity, I think ( but I haven't really research this so I might be wrong) in many places what you do would only be allowed in an industrial area or a rural area correct my if I am wrong.

  19. I looked at this video with trepidation I thought it would have cows stacked up ten high … well done for growing organic .This will really give people great ideas .

  20. 2 fulltimers for $100,000 'Gross' sales.
    What's left after expenses and tax… naah, better stick to my job.
    But thanks for sharing.

  21. I need to get in contact with you.
    I looked at the drone footage.
    And my mind started running.
    I see potential in getting 1/3 of each garden from the elite in the Netherlands.
    Let me be the last clever dutch guy.
    I know it Will gonna work and go become a WW business model.

  22. Did you go to school/university/college? I want to work in agriculture but I’m in high school and don’t know where to start after graduating

  23. So your taking advantage of people by not offering cash instead veggies and a clean yard? Lmao your wrong in so many ways. Your taking from there personal space and limiting there activities. Lmao tight ass is what i call you.

  24. Curtis I've watched a few of your videos and I want to say thank you for the information and the end depth look at starting a small scale grow operation. I was interested in taking your online course but I live in the states and wanted to know if the legalities are the same and the process of starting this kind of business. I grew up on a farm did just about everything as a kid growing up got into the family business managing properties and eventually went behind the wheel of a commercial truck which I continue to do as of now. Very excited to buy some property and of this year probably in northern part of Texas north of Dallas. Keep up the good work hope to get a reply when you get a chance thank you

  25. What strikes me more than anything, as a fellow market gardener, is how efficient and thoughtful this is. He has figured things out, in terms of reducing work, maximizing yield while maintaining organic quality. Little things like his salad trimmer, washing systems, earth storage of greenhouse heat, which he readily shares here, along with the thinking that lies behind his techniques are a huge gift to the rest of us. In addition, he is providing a model of using urban land that is not currently in use for food production. Huge benefits from this depth of design. Because I live in Newfoundland, the challenges of climate for gardeners and growers are much more extreme than in Kelowna, BC. However, most of his techniques will work here, mainly by using greenhouses and row covers to start plants early and harvest them late. Thanks so much!

  26. This type of agriculture isn't regenerative at all. Look up the 'Ruth Stout method' for conserving your soilbiology (no plowing & minimal effort). I also don't see room for beneficial insects or polinators (no flowerbeds). Where are the grazing animals, that graze covercrops/weeds instead of blowtorching them, and fertilize the soils with their manure, whilst trampling covercrops (that form a carbon shield to protect the soils)?

  27. I'm curious about you professing to be organic.How do you get passed as organic when u use other peoples land,Did you have to have the soil tested for contaminants as who knows what was put or sprayed in or around this land you are borrowing.From what I've heard to say "organic"u have to provide proof from a legal company that writes up a analysis of the soil ?I'm interested in a similar type garden market type business and was interested in what approach took?Thank you.

  28. Is this a HOA neighborhood? If so, do you need a permit? I live in Texas and was wondering if you could point me in the right direction as fas as getting informed.

  29. So this is that video that's the most concise, and gives the overview of the operation, but hasn't taken that many views. Great stuff. The summer setup for microgreens the one I've been looking for.

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