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Growing a Market Garden to Make Extra Cash

Updated on February 13, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

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Turn on the news, read a newspaper, even spend time in some public place and you will probably hear someone complaining about the economy. And with good reason, the economy is fragile, money is tight, and no one likes it.

No one has to live according to the economy. With some creative, outside the box thought, some work, and some perseverance anyone can come up with numerous ways to outwit the economic crash. If you have a yard then market gardening may be the way to do it.

Growing a market garden is a bit different than growing a vegetable garden for your own use. You will be growing only one or two types of items in larger quantities, with the idea of selling them to local markets and restaurants. You can also let your neighbors know that you will be selling fresh, organic tomatoes, or cilantro, or green beans. Because you will have a low overhead you can sell these organic items at far less than most stores will be able to.

Does this sound good to you? Sure it does!

First Steps

The first steps to beginning your little income stream are pretty straightforward. What will you grow and how much?

If you live close to an urban area with a lot of upscale restaurants you might want to consider some of the more unusual vegetables and herbs. There will be more of a market for them than if you live far out in the country with mostly home cooks. Think carefully about where you live, how people eat and shop, and what the market is for various fruits and vegetables. Also look into those irritating zoning laws and permits that you might need to have. Some areas are worse than others but it is always good to check.

Consider the amount of time that you have to garden. Some crops will take more care than others. The more time you have to put in it the higher price you will need to charge to recoup your investment. The time requirement will vary depending on your climate the vegetable you choose, and the soil that you have.

Talk to local chefs, produce managers, and other people in the food industry to see what they might be interested in. If you have a lot of Mexican restaurants in the area then you might want to grow cilantro and unusual types of peppers. Perhaps some unusual salad greens, herbs, or heirloom tomatoes will do well. By talking to people you can quickly decide whether or not the eggplant that you love will actually sell.

Organic rules in the small market garden. People want organics, and the main reason most don't buy organic produce is the expense. If you can grow organic and keep the price down your produce will do very well. Just be sure to let your customers know that you are not certified, but that you do use organic practices.

Wondering What to Grow?

Items like lettuce that grows quickly can be a fast money maker. While you may have to wait three months or more to get money from your tomato plants, the radishes or lettuce you plant will be ready for sale in a month or less.

Heirloom is a magic word, almost as magic as organic. Consumers are tired of the tastelessness of commercial products and are ready to recapture the flavors of real foods. Do consider growing heirloom vegetables, herbs, and fruit for a number of reasons:

  • You can save the seeds. Most modern plants are sterile because of hybridizing but heirlooms allow you to save seeds from year to year.
  • Heirlooms have more flavor.
  • Heirloom varieties are often more resistant to pests and disease.
  • Heirlooms tend to be hardier.
  • Consumers love the idea of heirloom plants.

Marketing Your Produce

There are a number of ways to market your produce. If you don't have a huge amount some farmer's markets can be too expensive to be involved in. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Make flyers and leave them at the local health food store or feed store.
  • Pass flyers out to local chefs, natural food stores, and small grocers.
  • Let your neighbors know what you are doing.
  • If your zoning laws allow put a sign up on your gate or set up a small produce stand on the weekends.
  • If you have a community college that has a culinary school in it, or a culinary school nearby, talk to them about providing them with fresh vegetables and herbs.
  • Talk to caterers, personal chefs, and others in the food industry.
  • Give taste samples of your produce. When someone can taste how fresh and good your produce is they will be more likely to buy it.

Don't Be Afraid to Start Small

If you are unsure how well this will work for you or how much you will enjoy it, start small. Make a small plot of some basil or other popular herb and see how it goes. Use the money you make to enlarge your garden. Be as cautious as you want, this isn't a new career, it is an extra stream of income to help you buy things you want, need, or get out of debt.

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    • profile image

      Monica Lacroix 

      6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Good information now is the time to start planning your garden and if you have a green thumb why not try to make some money also. I am also thinking about writing about the same thing.

    • arusho profile image

      arusho 

      6 years ago from University Place, Wa.

      That was a great hub, I didn't realize that heirloom meant it was an old vegetable grown by our ancestors.! I think where I live, there is a market for native plants, used for landscaping.

    • Louis Taylor profile image

      Louis Taylor 

      6 years ago from UK

      very good idea, if you grow and the sell interesting varieties you can really make some money. Like purple carrots, black tomatoes, something different from the supermarkets.

    • Julie McM profile image

      Julie McM 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      Unfortunately, our city restricts selling produce from gardens and the farmer's market requires USDA grower's certificates. Still, these are great ideas to bring in an extra income.

    • Montana Farm Girl profile image

      Montana Farm Girl 

      9 years ago from Northwestern Montana

      Great info!!! Our farm is in a small town in northwestern Montana... small and very active, perhaps out of need. We have a farmers market and many activities from spring through fall, where veggies, fruits, handcrafted goods are bought and sold. It is a wonderful time of the year!!! We have a very short growing season though, and the tomatoes I just planted nearly died, as we are still going below freezing some nights!!! :-( Most don't plant outside til after memorial day...

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