The Green Onion 8/21/11
Kerusso Farms’ sustainably grown chives or green onions, as some call them, are the length of my arm, from elbow to finger tip and are as thick as my ring finger! The tops are an elegant green color while the bulbs are a beautiful pearly white.
Earlier in the season the onions were meticulously seeded, 12 tiny seeds at a time, into a custom organic potting mix that was formed into a cube, by a tool called a soil blocker. For you fellow gardeners out there, these blockers are the cat’s me-Wow! Anyway, very early this spring we placed the trays of seeded cubes into a custom made germination chamber. From there, we carefully monitored their heat and moisture levels until they grew to about 2” tall. As the seedlings started to grow, we carefully set them outside, each morning, to harden them off (make their stems strong) and then bring them back inside the seedling house each evening. We did this until we thought they could withstand whatever nature would throw at them. After they had hardened off, about 6 weeks time, we planted them into the newly tilled garden.
This morning, our 14 year old daughter hand dug the green onions, seeing the fruit of her labor up close. She tediously separated, washed, cut off the hairy roots and gathered each one into ready-to- eat bunches.
Two weeks ago we arrived at the Sparta farmers market, $35.00 introductory full season rate, and set up shop. Just as we finished hoisting the canopy, $84.00 plus travel, an older gentleman walks by our beautiful market booth, stops and looks at our handsome green onions. The prices were clearly marked but I guess he felt he needed to make a point and asked “how much are the green onions?” as to which I replied,” only $2.00”. Thinking he was interested, I asked if he would like a bag for his onions but instead his reply was “no, heavens, no, maybe I should start selling onions” and before I could explain the toil that went into bringing those onions to market, he walked away with a smirk on his face. Needless to say, this got me thinking.
This is the part where you can skip to the end, “the kicker”.
So let’s break this down a bit. I bought the Organic Chive seeds (onion seeds are highly perishable) for approximately $2.50/pack of which I was able to multi-sow 12 seeds into each soil cube and I could fit 84 cubes or 1008 seeds, onto one tray. For sake of conversation, let’s say it took me 30 minutes & a mere $.0.50 to buy soil, make the cubes & place the seeds into them. Now I had to drive 60 miles, each way, to purchase, bulk organically certified, and custom mixed potting soil from a local Michigan company. Let’s chalk this up to 2.5 hours with drive & purchase time. Following me so far? 3 hours invested not including gas at $3.60 a gallon. Let’s move on. The cubes are now seeded but need watered (am /pm) & rotated in the seedling tray amounting to 3 minutes each tray. This is 3 minutes x 42 days (6 weeks) = 126 minutes total, but I will round that off to two hours. After the seedlings grew, we had to be transplanted. That took about 45 minutes; remember 84 cubes, which is probably a low figure. I will give myself 15 minutes (total) for tilling the new soil, which I actually had to do 2 times. Now we need to keep them babies watered and weeded until market day, onions are easy, I will a lot 1 hour, for the entire season. Flash forward to market day, where my daughter hand digs bunches of what we hoped would be 12 onions but with around an 85% survival rate, we end up with roughly 10 onions per cube planted. Some of these onions are too small to sell so we are now down to 9. So let’s sell 9 onions per bunch for $2.00 which translates into $.22 per onion. Sounds pretty pricey eh? So the new wannabe onion seller, has approximately $3.00 in materials (we won’t count the tray, the drive time to market, the gas, wear & tear on the tiller and other tools as it would be too difficult) and 6 hours (the kids only get a measly $3.00/hr) into 84 bunches of onions which equals $21.00 invested. If I were to sell all of the bunches at $2.00 each, that equals $168.00, minus the $21.00, we have $147.00 left. $147 divided by 84 bunches, comes to $1.75 per bunch profit. We are making big bucks now people… sleeping yet?
That market day, we made $134.00. My son was impressed. Along with other produce and the fresh ground homemade wheat bread, we sold 4 of the 5 bunches of green onions.
Here is the kicker “the end”.
On market day, my son, my daughter, my wife and I all easily worked a total of 45 hours to get to that point. Without taking any further expenses, from the $134.00 total, we collectively made less than $3.00 per hour, per person!
So my advice to all my friends, and customers, who seek financial independence, become green onion sellers and get rich quick!
I can hardly wait to tell you about selling 27 lbs of heirloom tomatoes for $13.00.
To be continued…
This reminds me of a good book i read: The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden by William Alexander.
It's a good book for light Summer reading.
This is an amazing post, TwoJay. I thought it was incredibly profound when I saw it on FaceBook and I'm so glad you brought it in here. We all need to realize that the reason why our food is so "cheap" now is because the cost of oil, water and corn/soy/etc. is being kept artificially low by our government and subsidies. If that was taken away, and prices of these things allowed to float up to their true cost I think we would see a very different outlook for the small farm vs. the large commercial conglomerate farm. Perhaps once our government can no longer afford this price manipulating....