Employees Agreement

I agree to work diligently at raising vegetables for _spending approximately_

owner 1 o i i j hours a week. My schedule will be flexible but I agree to be present on established harvest days.

In addition, I will spend whatever time is necessary to keep the garden in good productive shape, knowing this schedule will change through the growing season.

I agree to act as a subcontractor — self-insured, self-taxed, and self—sufficient. I will hold free from any liability the landowner, other participants including_

owner and any others connected with this business.

Payment for my labor will be $_ per hour worked

( $ p e rweek). Payment will be made by check weekly on

Saturday noon.

Although I will supply my own tools and personal items, all seeds, plants, equipment, and related items including harvests belong to_

owner

All ideas, records, and data remain the property of

_and I agree not to compete in a owner similar business within a radius of ten miles for at least three years, whether I'm still working here or not.

Either party may terminate this agreement within thirty days by giving written notice.

name

Social Security number date

Payments

There are several ways to pay these new workers. You could make them partners and give them a share of the profits — with the percent of tlie take depending on their involvement. There are three possible variations on this method. You can deduct all your expenses and then give them a share of what's left (the net profits), you can give them a percent of whatever money is taken in (gross profits), or you can get very complicated and award them their percentage on a sliding scale (the more they raise or sell, the higher percentage they get).

Or you could simply pay them by the hour. Better yet, you could pay them by the week. Tell them you don't want to watch them or worry about how fast they work, when they come or leave, or how many rest breaks they take, you'll pay them $50 every week for six months to do whatever is necessary to grow this size garden. There are many advantages to this type of an arrangement for both parties — little paper work, few records to keep, but most important, it eliminates the clock—watching syndrome that many people get into. They begin to worry more about exactly what time it is than how well they are doing their job.

2. Rent or buy additional land for a larger farm. Now you can hire more people to work for you, and you'll have enough land to produce a big harvest. Remember, thesquare foot system doesn't require much land. You don't have togo out and buy ten acres. If one person can comfortably take care of 5,000 square feet work— ing part—time, one acre (43,560 square feet) would require eight people. Allowing two extra for delivery and miscellaneous work, you could employ ten persons for every acre you farm. That's a lot of people.

If they all produced a good—sized crop from that land at our estimated rate of $5 per square foot of garden space, you could sell 43,560 X 60% efficiency X $5 per square foot □ $130,000 worth of produce. If you paid them at 50 percent wholesale rates for their harvest, that would leave you $65,000.

Deduct the cost of your extra two people for harvesting and delivery (1,000 hours/season X $4/hour = $2,000 each) and you have more than $55,000 left for yourself, for six months'work. And that work involved no hard labor, no growing, no delivery—just organizing, supervising, and selling.

This is not to say that you won't have any headaches. You'll be employing ten persons, dealing with several major customers, and contending with the weather. Besides, could you find ten good people (and ten good customers)? I'll bet you could if you really wanted to and you hustled a bit. (Or how about just a half-acre, five people, and $25,000 profit?)

Finding Land

Back to the land. Where can you get an extra 5,000 square feet or up to an acre? Lots of places. Look around your town, or advertise in the newspaper. Stop in to see factories or businesses with extra land. Try a neighbor, or anyone with a large back or side yard. Look for empty lots. Since this is a business venture, you'll be willing to pay rent.

As you drive around your area, here are the basic things you'll be on the lookout for:

  1. The ideal piece of land should be fenced, flat, and cleared. It should get sun all day and have a source of water nearby.
  2. It should be accessible by car or truck, and should be geographically convenient to you and your helpers.
  3. It should be reasonably secure from vandalism. Since you won't be living next door to keep a watch on it, be particular about its location and security. If it has one or more paths worn through it, don't use it. Neighborhood kids have a way of showing their resentment to anyone disrupting their normal short cuts. (If the path is made by deer or dogs, you're still in trouble.) Furthermore, a lush garden filled with a bumper crop of attractive vegetables is a great temptation to passers-by. Ask any vegetable or orchard farmer about his fields next to the road, and he'll tell you at length how fences, signs, and nasty words do nothing to keep the public out. They treat it like a public picnic ground.
  4. It should have as reasonable a rent as possible. How much rent to pay? This varies so much throughout the United States and even within states that it would be foolish to give advice here. So much depends on whether you're in the city, the suburbs, or the country, as well as how much vacant land is available. One possible guideline is the rental asked of a small house for that neighborhood. The land should be about 10 to 20 percent of that value. For example, if you find a small two-bedroom bungalow on an average city lot (say 50' x 100') for $400 per month, you should be able to find an empty lot for $40 to $50 per month, or $500 to $600 per year. However, if someone owns an empty lot next to his home, he might be very happy to rent it for $200 to $300 per year, and you've got a bargain.

More expensive neighborhoods or those closer to cities might bring a much higher rental for that same two-bedroom bungalow. Now your land rental will be much more — but you've also increased your chances of finding more restaurants willing to pay higher prices. Remember, gross sales from each 5,000square feet should be at least $25,000.

One other idea—do some horse trading. Offer the owner, espe— cially if he lives next door, all the free vegetables he can eat in exchange for the use of the land. If you're dealing with a small family, you can't lose. Besides, they'll take an interest in the garden and keep trespassers out (and be less likely to trespass themselves).

When renting land, don't forget water. In most parts of the country water is still our cheapest utility, so you can be generous and offer to pay the owner's entire water bill for those six months. Just make sure they don't have a large swimming pool that gets filled every month.

e. It should have rich soil for this large—scale operation. Once you've narrowed your selection down to the two or three best bets, verify how good the soil is. You can do this by having the County Extension Service or local agricultural agent write up a report; you can buy some inexpensive soil test kits and dig samples from ten different areas, measure them, and see how they rate; you can ask three expert garden friends to look them over and get three completely different opinions; or you can do it the easy way — from your car. Look at what's growing there now. If you see a tangled, overgrown field of weeds three feet tall, that's your place. Weeds will grow in just about any soil, but you'll find they grow thickest where the soil is well—drained, rich with humus, and high in nutrients. You can get a pretty good idea of the natural growth of a lot in any season. If there are lots of young trees and bushes sprouting up, you know it hasn't been used in at least three years.

The next step is to dig five test holes, one in each corner and one in the middle. See how deep the top soil is, how many stones you find, and whether it's clay. How deep do the weed roots go? Next, see what's under the top soil. Is it hard pan (you almost need a pick to loosen it) or sandy material? Before you close up the holes, pour a bucket of water into each one and see how long it takes to drain. Drainage is very important for good vegetable growing.

Don't Worry About Weeds

Don't worry about how thick and deep the weeds are. When you have the lot plowed and rototilled, they'll be chopped up and mixed in with the soil — free humus the first year. Yes, their seeds will sprout and try to outgrow your garden, but we have ways of keeping them in check. I'd rather start with a rich soil with lots of weeds than try to grow in poor soil. It takes years and years to build up a poor soil but only one or two years to control heavy weeds.

When you dig those five holes, take five cups of soil (baby food jars are handy) for later testing. Those tests will tell you the present pH of the soil as well as how much NKP you'll have to add to raise a good crop.

This ideal piece of property may sound like a tough place to find, but don't be discouraged. There are lots of them in every town and village — even in cities. Set up a chart so you can rate and compare all the places you find.

  1. Start a chain. Set up the idea in other communities, and manage it so you have someone to grow crops and someone to deliver. If the restaurant you deliver to is part of a small chain, ask if the other locations wouldn't like the same delivery. Then go to that location — usually at least twenty miles away — and set everything up with a local grower and delivery person for whom you have advertised in the local paper. If the restaurant isn't a chain, the owner will probably know the owners of many other restaurants in other communities. Ask him for suggestions and a recom— mendation and introduction to several others. Don't worry about becoming your own competition. This expansion into other communities won't affect your restaurant or your local business.
  2. Create a franchise. This is the ultimate form of expansion. Advertise all over the county, state, or even country. You can sell franchises in any area with the use of your trademarked name. Include advice on how to get started: a starter package (consisting of a soil—testing kit, seeds, seed—starter soil and containers, a heating cable, a plastic enclosure, vertical growing frames, and watering devices); a how—to booklet, or, better yet, a copy of this book; a letter of introduction to restaurants in the area; a price schedule for their area; a membership sticker and wall plaque;

continuing advice in theform of a monthly newsletter and advice by mail; free plans for all wheeled equipment needed; etc., etc. Purchasers pay an initial fee and have exclusive rights to their neighborhood as well as the first two restaurants of their choice. Then they pay a small percentage of their sales to you, the parent company. They agree to inspections from the parent company, and agree to adhere to specified standards.

If it all sounds far-fetched, just remember that McDonald's started out this way with one restaurant in California. Just ten years ago, a McDonald's franchise cost $20,000. Today they charge over a half a million dollars just to use their name. Then you have to buy the land, build the building, and buy the equipment.

  1. Co-op. Another method might be to expand your basic idea into a co-op in which you get several people to grow in their backyards. At the same time you sign up several restaurants. Then everyone brings his or her produce to a central point; it's counted for credit to the grower and then combined before delivery to the various restaurants. This way you'll have a fairly uniform amount. As one grower gets low on carrots one week, someone else probably has an excess. The more people you have, the more uniform your total harvest will be. You may be able to supply 50 percent or more of a large restaurant's needs along with several other smaller restaurants. The advantage to the restaurants is that they get a more uniform amount each week. They also have more protection from one person's disaster or wipeout. Your share of the proceeds is a small percentage of the total sales. You can still be one of the growers or just a manager now. Again, you need agreements and understandings. I hate to suggest it, but as you grow larger, you may need to hire a lawyer. Granted, they tend to complicate the operation, but they are there to keep you out of trouble. You're probably going to get more involved with the government at several levels, so you'll need some professional help.
  2. Think big. Once you've expanded into a larger organization, why not diversify into other services and products as suggested in the next chapter. If you've incorporated into a company, why not have a division for each service? Just think, if you can sell vegetables to a restaurant, why not homemade cheese? Sooner or later, people you meet will offer their talents at cheesemaking, pickling, or sewing aprons. Many of the restaurants today have gift shops or sell homemade items at the entrance. Why not yours? Pretty soon you'll have little old ladies working in all corners of the county, suppl'ying your gift shop division with so much material you'll have to liire extra people to handle the collecting, delivery, and paperwork. Your bright lawyer will soon suggest a separate corporation and your accountant (oh, yes, I forgot to tell you, you're going to need an accountant by now) will nod in perfect agreement. Think of all the new work you'll be creating for them. One day your lawyer will show you how you can even do better if you set up a holding company for all those scattered independent corporations. Then you'll need a different holding corporation for your warehouse (didn't I tell you about that?) and it would make more sense for you to buy a little land (only ten acres or so) just in case you want to hire some migrant workers to farm right on your new property, rather than have all those homeowners digging up their backyards.

One night you'll wake up and shout, "Of course! A mail-order business!" You have your gift shop products, your diversified hobby division, your homemade cheeses — why not sell them all through a mail-order company? By now you'll be directing a mini-conglomerate replete with many diversified activities. Pretty soon you'll find that raising sunflower seeds takes too long — it's easier to buy them by the carload from some agribusiness out West. All you have to do is buy up a small bagging company in Minnesota and distribute them that way.

Most of you are probably smiling by now over this tongue-in-cheek story of your phenomenal growth, but I'll bet there are going to be at least one or two readers who will go on to similar achievements. More power to them, if that's what they want.

7. Add new products. Back to earth for most of you realists — how can you expand but not grow large? Easy. Try diversifying by offering or handling other products, but keep it on a small scale. Think of other products that are related to gardening which you can offer. The next chapter will discuss many of them, such as mushrooms, herbs, or special gourmet vegetables (artichokes, fennel, sea kale, leeks, endive, or watercress). How about utilizing your cooking abilities to make preserves, candied vegetables, dried fruit? I could go on and on, but what it all boils down to is this: if you want to expand, think creatively.

Many small roadside farm stands expand into offering a full line of fruits and vegetables by buying wholesale all fruits and vegetables that they don't normally grow or that are out of season. Thus, they can offer their customers full-stop shopping rather than what they can grow and harvest that week. I'm not suggesting you do that because you'd then be nothing but a small wholesale-retail grower and that's not the idea of square foot gardening.

But it does lead you to thinking of extending your growingseason into the cold months. Why not extend your efforts into eight, ten, or even twelve months of harvests? No reason at all. Depending on your location, you should be able to get in at least a couple of extra months by following the chapter on digging a harvest all winter (chapter sixteen). In fact, all the ideas in the next chapter will enable you to expand your business'into the colder months or to offer additional products from your land. Only you can decide if you want to expand, if it's worth all theeffort involved. If it's worth it toyou, then make your move. The point I've tried to make in this chapter is this: the opportunity is there, if you want it. If so, go for it.

Chapter 18

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