BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER WITH A SAMPLE STARTUP PLAN
The following material has been taken from H L Saffell's book: BIG DOLLARS GROWING GOURMET SALAD GREENS. If you would like a copy to have for your own, CLICK HERE.
This is how I would start out if I, like you, were just beginning.
WHAT CROPS TO PICK
The lettuces I would choose would be Red Oakleaf and Oak Leaf, both for color and contrast. Arugula would be my specialty mainstay with the addition perhaps of Tres Fine Endive and Sinco Escarole. Among the radicchios I would choose Giulo. Finally, to round them out for flavor and contrast I would have my old standby: plain watercress. The last I would use sparingly so as not to overwhelm the various other flavors. I would stick to just a few varieties until I knew what I wanted or when I knew my market better.
BUT I WOULD NOT DO ANY OF THIS UNTIL I FIRST CONSULTED MY MARKET AND ITS DESIRES. This I must do if I decide to make a business out of my hobby.
How would I do that? I would survey the chefs and other prospective buyers in my area to see what they had in mind. Certainly I am not going to try to educate them overnight. If any one will need education it most likely will be me.
And I am not going to grow anything until I know I have a market or at least a possible market for it. The gourmet salad greens I finally choose to grow will depend entirely upon what my customers want. If they don't know what they want, then the above list of choices will be a good startup position. You have to begin somewhere.
If I don't have any money for a greenhouse, I'll start up with intensive soil production. One California outfit thrives on intensive gardening. All that's required to start is a little land and some muscle power. If I'm fortunate enough to have proper tools such as a tractor, I can forgo using a spade which is used with the double-digging or double-trench system. Instead I will plow up and form raised beds as described in the intensive gardening section.
Naturally if I can afford to put up a greenhouse, I'm going to do so. If it's only one 30 by 96 foot house, I'm still going to put it up. Why? Because that greenhouse will help my business grow much faster than it would otherwise. I need as much winter production as I can get and as fast as I can get it. Remember what was said earlier? You, the grower, must be consistent. You must be abe to furnish the same high quality product all year round.
The average chef has little patience for a supplier who cannot keep up with his market demands. If you want to keep your customer happy you will want to be consistent with supply.
In the beginning I would use intensive gardening both inside and outside a greenhouse. But I would set my goal on hydroponic gardening as soon as possible because soil production inside a greenhouse has more problems connected with it than I prefer to handle. Soil has too many pathogens and should be sterilized between crops, especially if a disease has occurred.
Hydroponic systems I could choose from would be one of the following: NFT troughs or NFT A-Frame.
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