William‘s 400m2 Market Garden

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For the past year, I’ve been following the inspiring garden stories by William van den Brink on Instagram. Every week, the he supplies more than 30 households with vegetables with his small garden of only 400 square meters. For a while we share our experiences. And now I’m really happy that William has written down the story of his Marketgarden „de groenteplaats“ for us on this blog:

In 2011 we started a small garden behind our house we rented in that time. In that season we’re experienced growing veggies and living with the season for the first time. We’re very surprised and astonished about what we experienced. We have had a garden ever since.

In I think 2015 I came across the videos from Curtis stone and JM Fortier, about growing vegetables and crossing over a $100.000 on an acre. I found that very interesting and bought both of their books. I feel so much joy growing vegetables they this inspiration let me dream about my own professional garden. But is was first August 2016 before we dared to put a crate with produce in front of our home. In the morning we put down the crate and drove away and came back around noun, very exited to find, a I think, around €4,- 

This is how it started, we earned about €30 that summer. In 2017 we set our self a target of €200,- we had 150m2 garden and were very happy to make €350 that summer. 

In the winter of 2017 I set the target for next summer at €2000. To meet my target I had to figure out a way and had the plan for a weekly salad pick up. I figured I would need around 40 subscribers. In the winter I was reading the lean farm from Ben Hartman he suggests in his book, that if you want to start as a farmer, you start with 10 member program. So I calculated how many members I could serve from the 150m2 I had. I could do about 15. So the plan was formed. I did my planning and distributed a flyer in my neighborhood and we got 14 subscribers. 

In 2018 we did a 15 week program, with 20 different vegetables. This was al done on Saturdays and evenings since I have my fulltime job and at the end of the 15 weeks I was completely exhausted.

Nevertheless it was a wonderful experience, learn a lot and enjoyed the enthusiast membersat the pick every week and on top of that we meet our goal of €2000,-. We were very happy with that. From the money I was able the buy the online course of JM. Fortier.

In the winter we, my wife and I, did evaluate the season and we found a couple things to improve. So we set some rules for the plan of 2019. Not on Saturday, same amount of hours to spend in the garden and we want holiday in the summer. We set the financial goal at €5000,-

We could get a extra plot and our land is now 400m2. On that land I based the number of members I could bear and did a flyer and facebook/Instagram adds. We got 31 subscriptions. We do now 21 weeks with a stop in the summer for 3 weeks. I arranged with my employer that I could work 4 long days and have Fridays off to do the harvest. The pick up is every Friday afternoon from 16:30 – 18:00u. I find myself some help, I got threefourteen year olds that help me several hours each week. This gives me the opportunity to keep up with the vegetables and weeds. I do spend around 20 hour in the garden, which is the same a last year. Still have my fulltime job.

This year I do 33 vegetables. In the veggie-bag there are 3 mean vegetables like cabbage, carrots and beans and two side veggies, like cucumber, salad, green onion or paprika.

Where in week 15 now and already going to the end of the season. I’m happy with the results. We manage to have fewer weeds than last year. In my eyes the quality of the vegetables is good. I did lose some crop which I replaced with an crop I buy from a grower near by. This happens since I have completely planned my land and did not leave much room for failure. Overall I feel happy, We did get the financial target! I’m not that exhausted as last year, so that gives more joy! My wife is happy too, that’s very nice!

For next year we do not know what to do. In this time my wife is pregnant and we will have a new baby in the end of march. I’m doubting what to do. I think I probably will not do a veggiebox program next summer. Just do a small garden with a stall on Saturdays. I will use 2020 to find myself a good plot of land where we can start a farm. Hopefully between a half hectare to a hectare. Than I can to preparations and build me some infrastructure to have a clean start in the season of 2021. We also can save up money to start the farm and build ourselves some buffer when I will decrease the amount of work hours at my employer.

I’m very happy with the journey until now. I’m proud of what we have accomplished. It was a very good experience to start with a small number of members and a limited amount of veggies to train myself and get used to the work and stress. This year in my eyes I did a very good job to have harmony in the amount of work I put in the garden and the time we had as a family. As impatient as I am to grow this, I’m happy that we did this more slowly as I would when my wife was not next to me and help me think it through.

In the next years I will be able to grow the farm and hopefully will meet the financial needs of our family to ensure a sustainable lifestyle. I hope to inspire and help more new and young farmers with my story and here will play social media a big role. The aim in my head is a thousand member veggiebox program. It might evolve in a meal-program since I notice a lot of people do want the fresh vegetables but they find it a hustle to pick up the veggieseach week and they feel not comfortable with special vegetables we like to grow for biodiversity. So I’m thinking of a way to help this people the get access to our vegetables without stress and friction.

All the Best!

William