Workshop focuses on starting an urban farm

Hort Americas attended the “Starting Your Urban Farm”
workshop in April in Fort Worth, Texas. Presented by Texas A&M AgriLife
Extension, the workshop started with a webinar by Texas A&M University
extension vegetable specialist Joseph Masabni. He discussed the basic requirements needed to start an urban farm including a plentiful water supply,
adequate soil type and desirable environment.

Masabni said one of the major pitfalls to operating a
successful urban farm is the lack of a marketing strategy. Since most produce
is perishable, it is critical that a grower have a marketing plan developed before
a crop is planted. He said development of markets and market plans are the
first steps necessary for profitable production. Because market windows are
narrow and precise, Masabni said growers need more options to sell their
products. Market-related questions that need to be answered include:

Where is the produce going to be sold?

How is the produce going to be sold?

What is the volume that will be sold?

What are the market windows for the produce?

What are the packaging requirements?

Urban farm tour

The second part of the workshop was a tour of Gnismer
Farms in Dalworthington Gardens, Texas. Owned by Lynn and Cynthia Remsing, the husband
and wife team farm 6 acres producing a variety of crops including asparagus, strawberries,
lettuce, cantaloupes, onions, rhubarb, kohlrabi, cabbage, potatoes, watermelons
and pumpkins.

Lynn Remsing, owner of Gnismer Farms,  uses
plant compost to grow his crops. He doesn’t use
any animal manures. 

Lynn Remsing said having the right soil is critical. He
composts wood chips he receives free from the local power company along with
grass clippings. He doesn’t use any animal manure.
Not wanting to be dependent on inconsistent and limited rainfall,
Remsing uses Netafim irrigation tape and black plastic mulch. During the hot
Texas summers when temperatures can easily exceed 100ºF, Remsing said using the mulch allows him to water
every 14 days. Remsing said he is working with Texas A&M to trial a double
layer of plastic mulch to determine its effect on production.

Gnismer Farms in cooperation with Texas A&M
University researchers is trialing a double layer
of plastic mulch to determine its impact on crop
production, including strawberries and lettuce.

Remsing is setting up another 360-acre farm in Waco,
Texas. To ensure that he has enough water for irrigation, he is installing a
couple of 40,000 gallon water tanks.
Some of the “tips” that Remsing offered workshop
attendees included: be willing to mechanize when possible, look for ways to
conserve water, don’t try to operate a farm on a shoestring and look for ways
to be able to sell your products before your competitors.
For more:
Gnismer Farms,

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