From the outset, Curtis lets you know he’s got six years of experience in urban farming and has made a bunch of mistakes, but learning from them has enabled him to create a profitable business. The virtual tour was a teaser to the 10-week online Profitable Urban Farming course that covers every detail of his operation and is offered for $997 usd (you can also choose to pay for it over 4 months).
Curtis is very open with his numbers, and he makes it clear “We want to reshape the food system” – a phrase that resonated with me, having spent the last seven years supporting the growth of the Ooooby, a food distribution model whose purpose is to “help rebuild the local food system”.
Snippets of the data collated over the six years of working on this farm business was constantly being offered, with produce and profit numbers injected throughout the information dense two-hour webinar. Yes, urban farming is hard work, but focussing on fast growing annuals (‘micro greens’ for intensive rotation in particular) is a great way to get quick cash flow and build the business out of operational profits, without having to burden yourself with paying back investment money.
Curtis estimates that it takes about 60-70 hours of labour a week to run the farm, but because he’s been focussed on developing the course and writing his book, he’s been working in it a lot less recently (only 10-20 hours a week). He’s currently employing others to do the 50-60 hours that he’s not doing right now, and through developing the course, he now has every function clearly described in terms of how-we-do-it. It’s now easier than it’s ever been, he says, to get employees working in ways he has found to be the most efficient and logical.
The level of detail he and Luke were able to go into in this video was astounding. It was well prepared, with some great (almost like being there) headcam footage of various plots he grows on.
People were dropping out as the time went on, but at 1hr45minutes into it there were still over a hundred people engaged and asking questions, which Curtis and Luke must have been flat out answering in the breaks when video was being played, on the very slick webjam webinar tool.
Then they gave us a walk through some of the online course structure. Here’s a screenshot as Luke talked about the way the course is structured and the level of detail that it contains.
After showing this, he went onto share some of the spreadsheets they share as part of the course, that can be used for planning and projections. You can see much of this in the (very) long introduction page for the course: www.profitableurbanfarming.com/about-the-course
Of course it’s one thing to have a vision for growing food, but it’s easy to neglect or overlook the marketing and systems side of things. In that respect, the course is structured to allow you to learn from the mistakes they’ve made along the way, and save money on poor investments in equipment and also land! When Curtis Stone started, he didn’t have capital. Now he offers an innovative model (and boilerplate agreements) for renting underused, grassed over sections from people in his locale who are able to get a return on their backyard in veges, and he’s able to stay away from debt funding his farming enterprise!
Another major innovation is the use of techniques to reduce the manual inputs required in production using landscape fabric, flame weeding, etc. These methods have been pioneered / rediscovered / developed in conjunction with other similar operations such as their friend Jean-Martin Fortier, author of ‘The Market Gardener’ and co-star of next year’s Six Figure Farming NZ Tour. Again, time saved here allows more effort to be put into the marketing and distribution side of the business.
Of course, it helps if there are routes to market that are looking to support these startup market gardening operation, and if you’re in a location with a local food system initiative such as Ooooby (Auckland/Waikato), Garden City 2.0 (Canterbury), Love Local (Southland), etc, don’t neglect connecting with these ‘for benefit’ middlemen who are able to give you a fair price and predictable volumes for your produce!
Enough said. If you’ve been thinking about farming or urban farming and wondering where to start, you can’t go past this. If you’ve been urban farming and are not quite there yet in terms of time spent and income generated take a look. These guys are talking practical means for quickly generating revenue based on fast-growing annual crops, grown on land you don’t have to own. In the end there’s a no questions asked money-back guarantee, so there’s no risk.
If you want to read Curtis book, it will be out soon, and you can pre-order it here: www.theurbanfarmer.co
If you want to meet and hear from and ask questions of Curtis Stone and Jean-Martin Fortier when they come to New Zealand in February next year, then sign up here to be kept informed as the Six Figure Farming NZ Tour schedule firms up.
Join us on the Facebook group for Urban Farming NZ: www.facebook.com/groups/UrbanFarmingNZ.