Making Small-Scale Vegetable Production Pay

Any small-scale organic farmer or market gardener knows it’s very hard to make anything more than a minimum wage unless one has unprecedented access to a population that is willing to pay fair prices for high quality food. Paradoxically, the land values near these population centres are extraordinarily high, basically preventing small-scale farming or market gardening.

For the rest of us, it is a hard slog for the moment. I have three pieces of advice for the aspiring market gardener who wishes to make a fair wage for their skills and time: 1) find a niche product; 2) be first to market with a common product; 3) grow the best of the best of anything.

Finding a niche product, however, can be hard so I’ll focus on the other two for the moment.

Last year I beat everyone to our local market with fresh, local, organic tomatoes by over three weeks. As such, I could charge a premium for being the first, and then drop out of the competition when everyone joined me and prices fell.

Being first to market means planting early varieties and getting them in the ground early.

It also means planting these early varieties in the hottest spots.

I would not call garlic a niche crop, but I will say that discriminating cooks will pay for the best garlic.

We will sell and give away about half, save a quarter to replant, and eat a quarter ourselves.

Peace, Estwing

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