vgabrov
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Joined: Thu Jun 21, 2012 6:21 am
Location: Bulgaria

Help me with a new organic farm project!

Help me with a new organic farm project!

Partners and I are thinking about starting a farm to grow, use and sell fresh organic vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts (hoping to use biointensive or other effective natural methods of agriculture).
I want to know your opinion and advice on: what we could grow on land this big, what would be the general ideas for a biointensive farm here, what should we start with, is it worth it in this climate/region/time to start an organic farm? What sizes/quantities of crops should we expect and prepare for on 5 hectares? We will of course still have to build relationships with the biggest retails stores, local clients, exporters, which ones are more important on the first stage? Also, please just write whatever you think is important.
I'll try to give you all information I can at the moment, and I will also answer all following questions from you.

We are located in Eastern Bulgaria, between cities of Varna and Burgas.
Climate is Mediterranean and continental (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_Bulgaria#Climate)
We are offered 5 hectares of agriculture land with the following promised:
1 km from our "office" in downtown
the only land chunk this big and this close to use
suitable for organic farm (i.e. synthetic pesticides and herbicides were not used here for at least 20 years, we'll have to test the soil, of course)
electrical line is there (as you can see on the photos)
small river passes just behind this piece of land (so irrigation can also be taken care of)
The whole 5ha are currently leased to a company which grows wheat on one half and corn on the other half.
Today, when these photos were taken, it was +30C. There is not much rain throughout summer. However, agriculture is the main business for a lot of folks in Bulgaria (the other big areas being real estate and tourism, probably). The land in Bulgaria is very fruitful, and many professionals say that the climate is more suitable for vegetables and fruit production than in neighboring Greece and Turkey, which are nonetheless more successful in exporting their crops.

Here are the photos of the 5ha:
https://www.flickr.com//photos/readme123456/sets/72157630219734304/show/
Here's a video tour around:
https://youtu.be/VoHFWraTrko

Thank you so much for attention to my questions. I hope I can give you more details to clarify what we're working on.

Vladimir

Artemesia
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Organic farm

Vladimir

Depends on what you want to do with what you grow. If you want to eat it yourself and you want to grow things that will keep you healthy, that is what I know alot about. But, if you want to grow crops that are very tasty and easy to market, that is a completely different story. First find out what will sell in your area and then diversify. Because growing tasty food organically is hard and there are bound to be failures. Do not put all of your eggs in one basket. Try to find local crops that are disease resistant that people will buy because they grew up eating them. Not so much because they taste good. If you can grow some of the most disease resistant crops and develope that market for those who are health minded, that is a good foundation, but do not expect to survive on that. Go for the popular crops also. Diversity alone will help keep disease at bay also.

mtgarden gal
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Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2011 1:46 pm
Location: Southern Montana

Bulgaria looks a lot like south central montana!! lol. Good luck and happy gardening! :D

Nature's Babe
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Location: East Sussex

Consider a forest garden, nut and fruit trees underplanted with bushes and other crops inbetween. Once planted will last many generations, less labour intensive, mainly pruning, harvesting etc, no yearly tilling
Sit down before a fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconcieved notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.
By Thomas Huxley

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rainbowgardener
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Location: TN/GA 7b

That's over 12 acres. You can grow anything you want on that much land!

If you are near a city, you could consider a CSA - community supported agriculture. I was a member of a CSA farm for five years and loved it.

You join up and pay up front for your whole season's produce. That way the farmer has money up front for buying what is needed AND has a guaranteed market for all the crops. Each person/household member gets a share of all the produce. What makes it desirable is that it is good quality organic produce that you know where it is coming from and how it is grown, you are buying direct from the farmer, no middle people, the produce isn't shipped all over. Farmer doesn't have to sit at market somewhere trying to sell stuff. Our CSA grew 30 different kinds of vegetables, so basically all through the season I only ate produce from the CSA, eating what was in season when it was in season. The variety of crops was part of what made it desirable to join.

Ours was 5 acres and it had 100 households members. My partner and I had a half share and that was all the produce we could eat and some left over to put by. The farm had one full time paid farmer and one paid assistant. Part of how we paid for our vegetables was with work hours to help with whatever chores needed to be done. Then there were volunteers like membership coordinator and helping with other admin tasks. For our half share we paid $250 up front and 16 field work hours through the season. For a huge amount of farm fresh veggies, that was a bargain!

Getting it going and working smoothly takes good organizing and it would need marketing at first to get members. Ours had been there a long time and had a good reputation and always had a wait list of people hoping to be able to join when someone gave up their membership.

Re: is it worth it in this climate/region/time to start an organic farm? Absolutely! You have a wonderful climate for it. Organic is a big selling point these days.

But it sounds like you don't have a lot of farming experience. It will be really important that somewhere amongst the partners are people that do have good experience and knowledge. Knowing how much of what to plant is part of the key. For the CSA to work well, you need to have something to harvest each week all through the season and enough of each thing for everyone to get some (even if that's only one head of garlic for a half share).
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