Raising Specialty Crops On Tiny Farms

 Specialty gardens

It’s A Family Affair

Communal farms have seen a renaissance as thousands of tiny farms are sprouting up like mushrooms all over the planet, the energy channeled into a common cause – let’s eat! For those of us who love getting down and dirty, finding a way to reap a financial return on a passion for playing with plants is just a bonus — and why not? Karma dictates that we do reap what we sow! And with a small plot of land or nursery, anyone can turn a pretty penny by cashing in on a specialty crop.

In the U.S., the number of small farms and organic permits is as astonishing as it is resourceful. There are currently nearly 2 million small farms in America, which make up more than 90% of all U.S. farms. Working in concert with the farmers, there are 9,000 Farmers Markets in the states with annual sales exceeding $1 billion. Kids and the elderly love being involved and nothing is as soul-satisfying as the holy work of raising food for our families and friends, or the masses.

Specialty Crops Are Cash Cows

It’s not out of the realm of possibility for growers to earn up to $60,000 per year on a specialty crop that can be raised in a small garden space or a half-acre of land in a backyard. A recent university extension service study found 760 families in one rural county making a decent living with specialty crops on plots averaging 3 acres. At the end of the day there is a plethora of food that is raised on tiny farms feeding the masses. 

Garlic is nearly impossible to kill. Thriving in poor soil and hot climates, it is drought tolerant and bug resistant, and a necessity for cooks and chefs for everything from soup to nuts. Americans consume 300 million pounds of garlic per year. Elephant garlic retails for $8 and $6 wholesale per pound, with an average yield around 15,000 pounds per acre. Word is that tiny farms can gross $45,000 per year raising garlic in a half-acre backyard or nursery.

Mushrooms are always a hit and can be grown indoors. A 10′ x 10′ garden space could bring a grower $18,000 annually as a supplier for their local markets. As a specialty farmer, you don’t have to travel far to share your goods with your local neighbors. 

lavender blue dilly dilly

Lavender farms can produce above-average profits for small growers. The fresh flowers are sold in bundles or used for lavender oil. Dried flowers are sold to florists and crafters to make wreaths and arrangements. Lavender is also used to make products such as sachets and herbal pillows.  A quarter-acre of land can produce about 3,000 bunches worth $20,000.

Purple Haze Farms, in Sequim, Washington, routinely grosses over a million dollars a year with about 8 acres of lavender.


Starting A Farm Project 

As with anything in life there will be pitfalls along the way, but a few of the more obvious questions to ask and answer are critical. What are the goals? Carefully map out the crop selection and all materials that will be needed. More importantly, spend time on an in-depth study of environmental concerns for the farming area. Cornell University provides decades of data to help make a start-up farm as error-free and successful as possible right away.

If the family fun farm turns from a hobby to a feasible business proposition, take the time to apply for licensing permits and contact state agencies for regulations to keep the farm legal. If it really takes off, having your ducks in a row will be necessary in order to actually cash in on your efforts.

The first suggestion is to always start small and literally grow with the farm along the way. Getting back to basics, working the land, and watching the fruits of your labors materialize before your eyes will be challenging, but might be the spiritual experience of a lifetime as well.

No matter how we slice it, a little hard work never killed anyone. Tuning in to the vibration of the planet we live on and literally reaping what we sow is the best way to go through our adventure here. When there is love involved, plants happily grow for us. It’s what they do! And when we listen in silence to the green machine, the only thing it will ever tell us is Love is the Answer.

Carmen Allgood © 2017

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