Updates From Brian – What’s Up?

It felt like it was time to share an update, so I did.

Be well, everyone.


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A Change of Face – New Name Coming?

The other day I was deep in thought, and it came to mind that I have a strong connection with the Earth, and my practicing of growing plants is a manifestation of that energy.  It is actually a love.  I thought about the name “Green Pitch Urban Farms,” and knew that it would server a higher purpose to change the name of the to-be agricultural operation to something that would be better embody this connection and help manifest it beyond just myself.

I’ve been thinking of different things to name it as well as what form of activity it should take.  As Monday’s usually prove from the contrast shock, I definitely am not happy in my current corporate position.  I’d say that I’m working for the Marx Brothers, except the Marx Brothers didn’t always have things end in disaster.  Let’s just say what I’ve been putting up with…the first syllable sounds like “bull” and the second syllable sounds a lot like “shit.”

As I put everything together, I think the name is going to change.  And the logo.  To what, we’ll find out.


My Mission

For those of you that haven’t checked out my [currently in-need-of-editing intro], I am aspiring to transition out of my current 8-5 corporate profession into operating my own enterprise, via an urban farm utilizing SPIN (Small Plot INtensive) farming techniques [SPIN uses primarily 30″ wide beds of vegetables that get from two to three turns per growing season per bed on land totaling less than 1/2 an acre.] Part of reaching this end goal is establishing revenue outlets and one of those is operating at a farmers market. Every week I’m researching farmers markets near where I live in the north side of Chicago. My posts will include photos and commentary.

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Green Pitch Urban Farms, Boots On The Ground – The Green City Market Farmers Market, June 17, 2017

On Saturday, June 17th, I checked out the Green City Market farmers market and was very impressed by how much it has grown in the last 10 years.  When I first checked it out, it was just one row of tents, similar to the most of the farmers markets I’ve been to so far.  When I compare how far this market has come and factor in the increasing decentralization of agriculture, I can see many of the smaller markets growing in scope as time goes on, with market management playing a factor into how much a given market grows.


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Assessment

When properly managed and promoted, the GCM is an example of what all farmers markets can become.  You could see not only in the number of tents and variety of offerings what it achieved, you could see in the little details what it has become.  The market provides signs that show visitors where the farms are located and a little bit of background about each vendor.  I did notice strategic placement of above-the-head height signage by a couple of vendors to help make their stand recognizable at a distance.

How a market organization manages their market does seem to make a big difference.

There was lots of foot traffic, entertainment activities and food choices.  It also doesn’t hurt that across one of the adjacent streets you have the Lincoln Park Zoo and kids farm.  Anyone visiting could easily spend a couple of hours here, if they were so inclined.

This farmers market, by its scope and sophistication would represent the “big time” for me.  I would need to have elements and offerings that make me stand out from the other vendors, given how much variety of product was offered.  I may just opt to start out at a smaller market where the offerings aren’t as abundant.  We’ll see.

Included in this assessment is my video impressions and quite a few photos.  If you haven’t checked it out, it’s worth the visit.

Be well, everyone.


 


Photos

 

Updates, Week Ending June 17, 2017 – An Unexpected Harvest

This week actually ended up having mostly sunshine.  On Friday, there was a violent thunderstorm in the evening that flooded the streets pretty heavily (it even knocked down a few branches from trees.)  Saturday was overcast (with the threat of rain and a late afternoon rain for about an hour.)  When I arrived to the garden on Sunday, I was greeted by an absolute abundance of growth and had to do a harvest of the 1st planting of radishes and the first planting of garden greens (cut and come again.)  In the other beds, you could see the abundant growth everywhere, including the weeds.

I did find that the other beds around me that had been desperate for water the past couple weeks grow tremendously.  With the forecast for the upcoming week, I don’t think anyone will need to do much watering.  I put down a third planting planning on the rain forecast for this week to help out.

On the deck, the morning glories began growing their vines and I more or less put up the trellis on the south wall for those suckers.  We’ll see how much vegetation sprouts from them and how full they get.

Overall, a successful week.

Be well, everyone.


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Weather Forecast

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The Garden Plot


The Deck Plot

Boots On The Ground – The Independence Park Farmers Market, June 11, 2017

The Independence Park farmers market is a bi-weekly market that operates on Sundays.  As my wife put it, it’s very unpretentious-  I definitely agree that it had a good vibe to it.  There was a good balance of offerings among the vendors (produce and other products.)  The gentleman I spoke with at one of the produce tents (I didn’t get a good photo with the name) was very willing to answer questions about the harvest, extending the growing season with green houses, and other things that would be good to know running a farming operation. They had an enthusiastic energy that made you want to engage with them.  Overall, I liked this farmers market and would make it a point to patronize it often.  I definitely have this on my radar as a potential place to operate.

Watch out for the coffee tent.  I want a coffee as I type this.  It’s that much of a siren.  Mi quiero.

Be well everyone.


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Photos

 

Boots On The Ground – The Horner Park Farmers Market, June 10, 2017

This past Saturday, I checked out the Horner Park farmers market.  Parents take note: if you’ve never been here, there’s a huge playground adjacent.  Plan accordingly.

There was not a lot to the market itself.  You had vendors offering coffee, baked goods, Stamper Cheese, Tamales, and two stands offering produce.  With many homes in walking distance, this might provide a good opportunity to get a foot in the door with a produce tent.  I’ll be keeping my eye on this one.

I apologize for not taking any photos of the playground area (which is almost always packed.)  I was on time crunch, and my focus was elsewhere.


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Market Photos

 

Green Pitch Updates for the Week Ending June 10, 2017 

No video update this week. Events over the weekend had me too exhausted to do a video recap.  I’ll do the weather, the garden and maybe the deck.

Be well, everyone.


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The weather was very ideal.  From Sunday until Wednesday evening, the skies were cloudless and general untouched; the penetrating sunlight and gentle breezes made for very ideal growing conditions.

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On Sunday, I checked out the Wicker Park farmers market and got a tomato plant for one if the northwest squares.

I made a visit on Tuesday to water the plot.  Whether or not anyone abided by the “water me” post and even sprinkled the plants remains to be seen.  I did help out and watered 106 (which ideally should have the carrots planted closer together to make for more efficient water useage and sharing,), but I’m guessing the grandkids planted them, which might explain the random planting patterns.  I also did my best with 102, but the tomato plant finally had to yield.  Rest in peace.

I overheard someone mention using marigolds as insect repellent.  The next day I had a synchronicity as the wife sent me an article on plants to use for insect repellent/management. I think I’ll use a few open spots for marigolds and dill.

The Garden Plot


Other Plots in the Land on Lincoln Garden

((I just wanted to share images of the other plots for comparison with my own, and also to illustrate what people are growing and the progress they have made.)


The Deck Garden

(Photos to follow…)

Boots On The Ground – The Wicker Park Farmers Market, June 4, 2017 – updated –

This past Sunday I checked out the Wicker Park farmers market.  Parents take note: if you’ve never been here, there’s a huge playground adjacent.  Plan accordingly.

The market was spread along a stretch of walkway nearest to Damen, with the vendors alongside.  There were two produce vendors, the rest offering products.

Oh, for what it’s worth, the $4 donut the bakery sold (exclusive to the market) is not worth it.  Opt for something else.

Without further ado, here’s my report.


Overview Photos

 

 

Vendor by the NE entrance

I noticed that the displays were split and the farmer was located in a corner, which if someone had a question, they would have to find the farmer then negotiate foot traffic to reach them- not the most ideal layout.  They did sell out of most of their greens after just 2 hours of operation [noted.]

 

 

The “BIG” vendor, Nichols Farm and Orchard

The dominant vendor was Nichols Farm and Orchard.  They had a two by four tent layout of 10’x10′ tents.  They sold veggies in 8″ pots (I only noticed the tomatoes,)

 

Final analysis: I’ll be back when the summer crops are in.

Green Pitch Updates for the Week Ending June 3, 2017

A rather quiet week.  The weather this week was a bit more cooperative than the previous few (I also noticed back-to-back days of no clouds made by man.)

Overall, it was a quiet week of progress, but progress nonetheless.  I’ll take it.

Be well, everyone.


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On Wednesday, I decided to head over and water the plants given the good sunshine and no rain predicted for Friday.  I was greeted with a great surprise: sprouts.  There had been enough direct sunshine to make the greens, carrots and spinach sprout.  A few beans and peas pushed out of the ground, too, so there’s that as well.  And the tomato is slowly taking root.

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of meeting my next door neighbor, Natasha.  She’s been there all four years.  103 has had one other occupant, back in 2015.  Otherwise the soil has been undisturbed.  The tall cereal growing in her box was rye.

She had pulled the rye and don’t recall everything that she planted.  If I remember, I’ll get some pictures of the new crops.

Also, the tomato plant in neighboring 102 isn’t holding up for as much as I’m watering it.  The pepper plant is thriving under lack of attention (as they usually do) though.


 


Progress in the Garden

 

Progress on the deck

 

Boots On The Ground – The Logan Square Farmers Market, May 28, 2017

Sunday I took a trip to the Logan Square farmers market to do some boots-on-the-ground intel to see what is selling, what is offered, and what vendors are here at the early part of the year.  It was a fruitful trip.

 

Lessons learned:

  • Summary: microgreens are a good short-term offering with a good return on investment that can be discontinued on short notice
  • Putting thought into the display and sharing the story of your operation is as much a marketing tool as the product that you sell
  • There is affordable prepared food
  • There is expensive prepared food
  • Prices for vegetables are pretty much priced the same as they are across he nation ($3 per serving, 2 for $5)
  • Lots of greens, fast-growers (radishes, beets) and surprisingly, root vegetables
  • Expect crowds

Be well, everyone.


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Some general snapshots I got of the market​


The one stall I realized I did not get pictures of was a two-man stall selling microgreens (and wheat grass shots.)  They were selling them by the ounce, and they had their growing trays on display, cutting directly from the tray as product was needed.  I didn’t engage in conversation, and got the sense that the $3.00 I paid for my ounce of sunflower greens covered the cost (or perhaps half) of the seeds that the tray required.  If they get 15 ounces per tray, that’s 7-14 times profit, not including input costs for soil and electricity.  Not bad.

Most of the other veggies at the stalls were $3 for one, two for $5.  Some singles were $3.50.

There were a good deal of young veggies for sale in various-sized pots.

I did note that there was a pretty busy crepe stall selling them from $10-$15.  Each.


Select observations on stall presentation

 

Good use of signage- it’s above eye-level and you can see it over the heads of people milling around the the market, which is a plus for visability.20170528_112640

Great use of visuals in by this stall.  They share pictures of their operation which gives people an understanding of what (aquaponics is and) what they do, and it also tells a story that gives the shoppers a sense of investment into this when they purchase something from them.  It was also displayed in an easy-to-take-in layout.  You can tell some thought went into this.  My hats off to them.

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My impression of this stand was that of a long-time vendor who started selling at the farmers markets back in the day.  This layout is more utilitarian than it is focused on aesthetics.

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This upcoming weekend is the opening day for the majority of farmers markets across the city.  I’m looking to check out one or two of them and see what’s what.