High value / Low bulk Food Crops
An efficient way to earn income on a small farm is to grow plants that do not need a large amount of space (low bulk) and that also command a high price in the market (high value). Some examples of such food crops are given below to help provide some ideas.
Garlic is one of the easiest, most profitable crops to grow, especially gourmet garlic. If you plant just 50 pounds of garlic bulbs, you should be able to harvest between 400 and 500 pounds, according to Profitable Plants Digest.
Ginger is a tropical crop and is highly demanding in time, energy and water – but the rewards are correspondingly high if you manage the crop correctly.
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the “saffron crocus”. The vivid crimson stigma and styles, called threads, are collected and dried for use mainly as a seasoning and coloring agent in food. Saffron has long been the world’s most costly spice by weight. Modern Farmer states that saffron is worth $5000 to $10000 per pound
Truffles are edible fungi. They grow underground near tree roots and the best truffles are hugely expensive! Black truffles yield $95 per ounce and white truffles $168 per ounce. If you live in an area with four distinct seasons you can embark on truffle cultivation by purchasing inoculated trees from a truffle farmer or a garden supplier that deals in fungi.
High-value/low bulk non-food crops
There are also high value, low bulk crops that are not food crops, see examples below.
Ginseng is an herbal supplement that has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine and is much sought after in the West these days for various medicinal purposes. Ginseng grows under hardwood trees and if part of your farm is wooded, you might try introducing ginseng. It is one of the more profitable specialty crops and can earn $300-$700 per pound.
Bamboo is growing in popularity, and if you live in a warmer climate you can turn $60,000 a year in bamboo profits on just a quarter acre. You can sell bamboo shoots as food and bamboo wood fetches a good price.
In recent years, the production of sandalwood has dwindled while the demand has been going up. Sandalwood can be grown in cool climates (12-45°C) with moderate rainfall and plenty of sunshine. Sandalwood is a parasitic plant and needs very specific host plants – and a great deal of attention in its first year of life. Sandalwood oil fetches $3 000 per kg (five times the value of silver) and prices are rising every year.
If you live in an area where cannabis use is legal, then you should take advantage of available space to start your own small cannabis farm. Although you can produce better quality plants in a controlled environment, the easiest way to start is outdoors to keep your initial investment low ($10 to 17 per square foot) while giving you a flexible space with which to work. After a while, you can improve your business by building a small greenhouse.
Christmas Trees (and Holly)
If you have got land that already has lots of fir, pine or spruce trees, you could turn them into some easy revenue during the holiday season. (Of course it is very restricted/seasonal market from a time point of view.)
On the other hand, if you have got extra land on your small farm that you are not using, why not plant some firs, pines and spruces and start your own Christmas tree farm? You can start planting today for a nice payout in 7 to 10 years or so. They will not require watering or weeding but they need some care such as shaping and pruning. While they are growing the trees will provide shelter from the wind, plus a habitat for birds and other beneficial wildlife. People often prefer to harvest their own Christmas tree, which would cut down on your labor.
You can add to your Christmas tree business by also growing holly, making your own fresh wreaths and much more.
Flowers attract lots of bees and other pollinators. But you can also sell them for some extra income to the following markets:
Florists – cut (Find out from local florists if there is a type of flower or filler vegetation that they are particularly keen to buy.)
- Nurseries –potted and ready for sale
- Supermarkets – cut or potted and ready for sale
- Event organizers for decoration
- Direct to the public (e.g. for sale at farmer’s markets)
- Made into wreaths for various purposes
- Dried, for arts and crafts purposes
- Dried, for potpourri or confetti
You can start a low cost flower farm in your backyard for about $2,000 and grow from there. After you have decided on your market(s) you will need to do careful research on what types of flower are particularly desirable for that market. Flower farms are also a popular destination for tourists, as a side-line.
Foraged plants and materials
Talk or using spruce or pine or fir as Christmas trees leads us to the topic of foraging as a way of augmenting your farm income. Some plants and other items that are in demand are difficult to commercially grow but can be foraged if you have a fairly large wooded property (or access to someone else’s property).
- Wild morel mushrooms are some of the most sought-after mushrooms in the U.S. and they have to be foraged because they can’t be grown like others. Chanterelles are highly prized.
- Many edible plants (like fiddleheads and ramps), nuts, berries, and fruit can be foraged.
- If you’re really lucky, you might even have truffles growing on your land.
- Other plants are sought for their medicinal benefits.
- Young willow branches can be harvested for basket-weaving and other crafts.
- Pinecones and be collected and sold for crafts.
Note: dollar amounts mentioned are given at time of publishing and subject to change.
Please see the Earnings Disclaimer associated with these articles.