Want to Farm? Land Ownership Not Required – Part 3 of 4

In the first two parts of this series, we’ve covered the benefits of leasing land to start a market garden and how much you should expect to pay for that land. Today we’ll cover how to increase the value of your rented land.

There’s No Shortage of Land 

According to urban farmer Curtis Stone, “Land is basically free. Not to buy, but to use.” There’s a ton of uncultivated land just sitting there, untouched. 

Today, less than 2 percent of the population are farmers, whereas 80 years ago that number was roughly 25 to 50 percent. From almost half the population down to 2 percent — imagine the amount of land being utilized as farmland back then compared to how much is being used as farmland now. 

Curtis invokes the law of supply and demand: there’s a ton of land out there and not enough people using it. Running out of land won’t be a problem if you want to start farming. 

Increase Value, Increase Production, Increase Profitability 

While you might not be seeding 5 acres’ worth of vegetable crops, there’s no doubt that you can still be profitable farming on a fraction of that amount of land. And you can do that in a number of ways. 

Start by choosing to grow higher-value crops. Once you decide on a crop, you can experiment with your techniques within your context and get really good at growing high-value vegetables. All that’s left afterwards is to ramp up the production. 

Another thing to look at is interplanting. After choosing which crops to grow, you can then map out which plants can grow in-between your beds. Some examples would be planting radishes together with your carrots, spinach with your tomatoes, or even cabbages with your onions. There are tons of good combinations out there. 

Yet another way to increase your profits is by leveraging verticality, such as by growing microgreens. You don’t need a ton of space since microgreens are grown on trays that you can stack up on shelves. 

Taking on More Plots and Budgeting Time 

As long as the plot fits Curtis’s criteria, he doesn’t have a problem making time to cultivate it. The only thing that takes a lot of time is prepping the land for planting. But after that plot is set up, it doesn’t require a lot of work. 

Curtis’s growing style is very time-efficient thanks to tools like the paperpot transplanter, the Jang seeder, and common landscape fabric. Because of the landscape fabric, the only parts of the soil that are exposed are the beds; he thus doesn’t need to weed very much and his beds require very little maintenance. Landscape fabric keeps the weeds at bay and prevents moisture from escaping from the soil.

In Part 4 of this series, we’ll consider the nuts and bolts of converting a newly rented piece of land into a market garden.

Listen to more episodes with Curtis in The Urban Farm.

The Urban Farmer Podcast with Curtis Stone

And you can find all our market gardening podcasts at Farm Small, Farm Smart—the longest-running podcast on market gardening in the world.

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