Farm Progress

Experienced grower offers expert tips on keys to commercial vegetable farming success.

January 16, 2018

3 Min Read
BROCCOLI CROP: Michael and Phillip Kilpatrick successfully grow and market commercial vegetables on their New York farm. Michael is the featured horticulture speaker at the upcoming Practical Farmers of Iowa Conference in Ames.

Practical Farmers of Iowa's 2018 annual conference Jan. 18-20 in Ames will feature Michael Kilpatrick, who co-founded and managed a highly successful organic vegetable, poultry and agroforestry farm in upstate New York. He will lead four sessions on topics key to vegetable farming success.

For many beginning vegetable farmers, surviving the first few years is the top priority even if that means making do with less efficient processes or infrastructure. But Kilpatrick argues that establishing efficient systems from day one could be the difference between success and failure.

Why some vegetable farms go out of business
Kilpatrick and his brother, Philip, started Kilpatrick Family Farm in Middle Granville, N.Y., in 2005. In less than a decade, they successfully grew the farm to over 500 acres, with 15 acres in field vegetable production, rotated on 50 tillable acres; 100 acres of pasture for poultry; and 350 acres of woodlot. The brothers pushed the boundaries in winter vegetable production, and sold their products via a 250-member Community Supported Agriculture program, farmers markets, co-ops, restaurants, institutional buyers and wholesale.

“A lot of farms go out of business in the three- to five-year range because they haven’t gotten those systems in place,” says Michael Kilpatrick, who also offers consulting services to vegetable farmers. “About 50% of the labor and expense on a vegetable farm is usually spent after the crop is grown. Being able to save as much time and do everything as efficiently as possible at the beginning is key for taking the first steps to having cash every month to support the business.”

Learn more at PFI conference
Kilpatrick will teach sessions on this and other topics at Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2018 annual conference, “Revival,” Jan. 19-20 at the Iowa State Center Scheman Building, on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. Register at, or contact Erica Andorf at [email protected] or 515-232-5661. Special rates are available for students and PFI members.

Topics will include:
In Pack Shed and Postharvest Efficiency,” Kilpatrick will share principles of a well-designed facility, tools and equipment to make the job easier, and systems that speed up the process and reduce stress levels.

In “Field Preparation, Cultivation and Fertility,” he will cover the principles of field preparation, cultivation and fertility, and how these principles relate to various scales of vegetable production.

In “Winter Vegetable Production,” farmers will learn about principles of winter production, structures needed, how to plan for winter-long harvests and tips for preventing pests and disease.

In “GAP, FSMA and Post-Harvest Handling for Food Safety,” Kilpatrick will unpack the regulations associated with Good Agricultural Practices and the Food Safety Modernization Act, discuss areas where farmers should focus and show easy ways to track the required information.

Soil Health Short Course
Those who want to gain an in-depth understanding of soil health and the role played by soil microbes and farm management practices can sign up for a pre-conference short course titled “Soils: Cultivating a Deeper Understanding.” It runs Jan. 18 from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Jan. 19 from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Scheman building. The course is divided into four sections that move from the basics into more advanced topics. Certified crop advisers can earn 7.5 CEU credits by attending this course.

Source: Practical Farmers of Iowa




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