Question of the Week
Answer: Thank you for your recent request for information from ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. I am pleased to provide you with information regarding greenhouse lettuce and winter crop production and profitability.
You mentioned wanting to have yield estimates for these crops. While this really depends on your planting scenario, the following information will help you come to a rough estimate of yields.
If you are planting mixed greens for baby salad mix, generally growers report yields of one pound of salad mix per 5 square feet of growing space this is if seeded in rows, but that is assuming lettuce is planted thickly in rows, rather than broadcast. I think the yields would be higher if the lettuce was broadcast, assuming there are little weed problems.
Below is a link to a yield estimate excerpt from the Johnny’s selected seed catalog. I find this handy for determining yield and seed budgeting. This chart is based on yields for field planted vegetables such as head lettuce, radishes, spinach, etc. –it would be higher for greenhouse planted crops.
Marketing and economics:
Greenhouse greens through the winter are an increasingly popular and profitable crop for farmers in northern climates such as Connecticut. The issue with winter production is to insure that you will have a market to sell them at. If you already have winter markets with your other products this may not be a factor, if not I would suggest doing some “leg work” in this area. Some winter marketing considerations are:
* Are their farmers markets that go through the winter?
* Are there restaurants that would be willing to take your product through the winter? This is highly likely in your town as there are multiple restaurants that feature local food.
I would suggest looking at a few of the ATTRA publications that are relevant to this topic. I have listed links to “Selling to Restaurants” and “Specialty Lettuce and Greens Production” under further resources below.
Below, under Further resources, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension publication “Leafy Greens” describes marketing and economic information associated with greens production.
It is a good practice to do an enterprise budget if you are considering a new enterprise on your farm, which it sounds like you are moving towards. Below are links to some enterprise budget templates for lettuce and agricultural crops. You will have to adjust the typical costs and yield estimates for the specific crops you are interested in growing.
Rutgers Enterprise Budget Template: Costs of Production for Leaf Lettuce-Per Acre (1996)
Loose Leaf Lettuce Production: Sample costs and Profitability Analysis; University of California Extension (Based on Southern California, so some of the yields may be different.
North Carolina State University Extension has extensive enterprise budget templates gathered from national resources.
Also, I would recommend looking at ATTRA’s Organic Greenhouse Vegetable Production publication which has links and economic considerations for greenhouse vegetable production in general. It also includes yield information. This publication is listed below under Further resources.
Suggested further resources:
Diver, Steve. 2000. Organic Greenhouse Vegetable Production. ATTRA Publication #IP078.
Bachmann, J. 2004.Selling to Restaurants. ATTRA Publication #IP 255
Kuepper, G. et al. 2002. Specialty Lettuce & Greens: Organic Production. ATTRA Publication #CT117.
New Crop Opportunities Center. 2006. Greenhouse-grown Lettuce and Greens. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension.
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