Many people purchase a small farm with an intention to retire there or just get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. With effort, it is possible to convert the small acreage into an alternative source of income. In order to do this, you need to choose the right crops, follow a few production guidelines and adopt the right marketing tools. However, this is not as simple as it sounds; there are numerous factors to be considered before you can begin reaping benefits. Start by getting advice from your state agriculture office and growers' associations in your area.
- Skill level:
Get information. Read up on gardening books and magazines about the various crops you can grow, the requirements for each, and how much effort and investment each requires. Contact your state's agriculture university for guidance on how to start and run a small acreage farm. Check out zoning restrictions regarding the type of crops you can grow in your area.
Assess resources. Test the soil for nutrient value, internal drainage and pH. Soils that are low on nutrients will require more fertilisers, increasing your operational costs. Evaluate the availability and quality of water by having a sample tested for pH and ionic content. Use this data to help you decide what to grow.
Select the crops carefully. Small acreage farms can grow a wide variety of crops -- flowers, everlastings, fruits and vegetables. Choose your crop depending on the availability of a market. Flowers like sunflower, larkspur, zinnia and hydrangea are easy to produce and have a good market, but are perishable. Everlastings or dried flowers like celosia, strawflowers and artemesia, however, will keep indefinitely and are in great demand at antique and crafts shops. Consider the size of your plot -- fruit trees need more space as compared to herbs, raspberries and asparagus.
Keep labour costs low. If you have a small sized operation, you can do much of the work yourself, provided you're well versed with the techniques of cultivating, harvesting, handling and marketing of the crops you're planning to grow. Learn more and gain hands-on experience with these activities before you launch your venture. Extensive hiring of labour will cut down on the profits you generate.
Use good marketing strategies. There are various ways to sell your products -- the most common ones are selling at roadside stands and flea markets. Depending on your crop, you can either use these methods or arrange with more dependable customers like flower shops, grocery stores and restaurants. When selling to such businesses, offer discounts of around 30 per cent to allow them to make a good profit. This will assure you of continued business so that you, in turn, can make a profit on volume.
Tips and warnings
- Organic vegetables and herbs like basil, mint, clove, lobelia and ginseng are in great demand. Although they take more effort, the returns you earn will be well worth it.
- Plan for growing more than one crop so that in times when you're not able to grow one well, you have other options that can still fetch you business.
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