When considering profiting from a small farm – take into account specialized types of agricultural activity which include the following possibilities.
People will always want small/young plants. Starting a plant nursery on your farm often does not require much capital outlay, seeds, cuttings and soil that you already have. This business model can fairly easily be scaled up later if it proves to be a lucrative side-business. The main thing you will need for a plant nursery are good propagation skills.
- Share your extra vegetable seedlings (like tomatoes) in the spring;
- Split off your perennials in the fall;
- Sell extra herbs when your herb garden gets too full.
Remember – you do not have to offer a full range of nursery plants. You can specialize in:
- Seedlings – particularly if you have unused greenhouse space and you are already planting seeds for your own garden;
- Trees, including further specializing in the trees indigenous to your specific region;
- Fruit trees (with propagation by grafting or budding – joining parts from multiple plants – as opposed to using seeds.)
- Indoor plants
Hydroponics are a good way to diversify your small scale farming operation and allow you to grow all year indoors or in a greenhouse. It is a soil-less growing method where nutrient-rich water is kept in contact with plant roots instead of using soil.
This process significantly reduces the risk of wastage and pollution that can harm the produce and cause diseases. The minimal use of land area needed makes hydroponics a low-cost investment. It also increases the growth rate of plants to 25% of a well-designed garden, which makes for high productivity.
Most hydroponic operations use chemical fertilizers but more organic options are also available.
There are several different hydroponic methods:
- Static solutions – where plants are grown in tubs or buckets containing unaerated or only gently aerated water;
- Continuous flow systems – where the solution constantly flows past the roots, which allows the plants to better absorb oxygen;
- Aeroponics – plant roots are only misted with nutrient solution and not actually submerged in liquid;
- Ebb and flow systems – plant roots are flooded with water and then drained several times per day.
see Aquaponics article
The list above will give you some idea of the range of possibilities. Details on the different types of agriculture are a matter for further research and consultation with local growers who are very aware of local conditions.