Rose Creek Farms Lettuce Masterclass, A Review
Full disclosure: No-Till Growers receives a portion of the registration cost of the masterclass from farmers and prospective farmers who use the links we provide on our website (below) to the workshop. There’s only 24 hours left to become a member, so check it out now. Like, right now. Go.
It’s no secret… If you’ve been in the direct market, selling to chefs, to health food stores or local grocers, at farmers market, even offering a CSA, consistent weekly lettuce production may set your farm apart from the rest. It’s always in demand, easy to use, and—arguably—has the potential to be the most profitable crop on a small scale, especially in no/low-till systems. Given those characteristics, we feel it merits further grower education. Enter Ray Tyler of Rose Creek Farms.
We—here at No-Till Growers—have been following Ray for several years. We’ve seen, first hand, all of the trials and tribulations he’s endured to defy the odds of high-quality lettuce production in the brutal Southern Summer. Through his online course, he offers growers an chance to learn from his years of mistakes, as well as his successes, and we’re here to cover the good, the bad, and the dirty: Lettuce Masterclass.
Easy to Use The course is fantastically straight-forward and easy to work through, especially important for folks who don’t like to spend a lot of time in front of the computer (that’s not why you got into farming, right?) The lessons are well organized, broken down categorically into short, chronological, easy to digest and reference sections (planning, propagation, transplanting, you know the drill), and all the reference material is right there. It doesn’t hurt Ray is an amiable guy, either, because you’ll be watching him (I don’t recommend depending on just the audio) for hours.
One Crop, In-Depth Unlike other online courses (speaking of, check out how we feel about continuing farmer education in Je'sse’s Bare Essentials: No-Till), the lettuce masterclass is about one thing and one thing, only: lettuce, from conception to cash-in-hand. Ray is able to go deep on lettuce production in a way no other course does. Since it’s arguably one of the most important crops for small-scale farmers, with huge risks/rewards for Summer production in the South, it deserves the attention.
No/low-Till Ready Ray does a wonderful job of walking the line between showing exactly how he prepares ground for transplanting lettuce and covering the basic principles well-enough (with the help of Ellen Polishuk) for those using different no/low-till methods, particularly in the context of permanent beds. He also provides a blueprint—a sort of workbook—for growers to conceptualize how the information in the masterclass will be implemented on their own farm.
The Expense The Lettuce Masterclass ain’t cheap. You can spend just 2x to 4x more to become a member of courses that cover entire high-production farms, from crop planning to farm design to employee management. Six hundred dollars for one crop can seem expensive. Here’s where the bad becomes good, though. Members leave well-equipped for consistent year-round lettuce production. Not only is the potential return on investment worth every penny, you’re sure to improve your lettuce production regardless of your level of experience.
Tx Heavy There are really only two methods of lettuce production covered in the course: transplanting salanova and head lettuce on woven ground cover, and paperpot salanova, both in a permanent bed system. While I’m sure you’d still get something out of the course for direct seeded or other methods of growing lettuce—the irrigation during Summer production, lean wash/pack setup, and marketing modules are great—you won’t be getting as much out of the masterclass as some folks. That said, it works!. If you’re having trouble consistently producing high-quality lettuce year-round, it may be worthwhile to completely adopt a proven system, then modify it to better meet the needs of your specific context or temperament.
After nearly completing the course myself, I can honestly say it will absolutely pay for itself—quite easily—within a season and I will be getting a return on my investment every season there after. Even though the methods I use differ somewhat (one, I’m not using the paperpot yet and, two, I’m not using landscape fabric on crops with a DTM of under 60 days), there’s still a ton of information in here that will help me improve my lettuce game.
Yes, no doubt you can figure it all out yourself over the course of a few years. If that is your attitude—and it’s not a bad one—then I’d recommend you not take the course. Just understand there is an opportunity cost. It’s no different than being the first to market with tomatoes… except now it’s consistent, high-quality, lettuce to keep the locals coming back, week after week. If you’re on the fence, check out the free workshop and masterclass tour (using our link let’s them know we sent you, see disclosure above) to see if the course is a good fit for your farm. There’s only about 24 hours left to become a member, so get off your broadfork and check it out.
Keep in mind, Ray’s goal is to help farmers become more profitable with a high-profit crop, not simply to make more money—though that’s definitely part of it—but to allow farmers to spend a little more time on the rest of their life, whatever that may be. We highly recommend listening to Ray’s Farmer-to-Farmer episode for the backstory of what turned his farm around, the value of high-quality education, and why he is sharing this information with the farming community. Disclaimer, have a box of tissues on hand.
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