Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Earn Some Cash from Your Vegetable Garden

This year we started a Sunday Market so we could sell the produce we grew nearby. It was a success and next year we will expand our garden and are encouraging others to considerr growing a bit for the Market.
You can earn some extra cash with a backyard plot and the willingness to do some gardening. There are a number of ways anyone who has some gardening skills, the desire to grow and some space can create their own market garden business.
You could specialize in herbs, salad green, gourmet vegetables or a number of different products.
You do not even need your own space to do, it is possible to negotiate the use of someone else’s property for your urban agricultural enterprise.
Let’s take this step by step. You will need to conduct a market study in order to determine what herbs, vegetables and small fruits (berries) are being sold in your location and who is selling them.
You want to know what the price of the various items is because you must be able to price your product competitively in order to capture a share of that market.
Second you may want to fill a niche, grow and sell something that is not being sold by others but before launching into that determine if there is a market.
You will have to determine how much time you can devote to the business: is it a hobby business that generates a few extra bucks each month and cuts the cost of growing yoru own food or its it your main source of income?

If you have your own backyard then assess the space in light of how much time you plan to spend growing, marketing, harvesting and delivering. Running your own business is more work than growing only for you and your family.

You may find that the growing is the easiest part of the process.

If you do not have a yard of your own, then give some thought to approaching, a friend, neighbour or family member and ask if you can sue their yard for your agricultural enterprise, offer them a portion of the food you grow in exchange for the use of their property. As your business grows you may even be able to pay them in cash.

You do not need a large space to grow for the market place, for example you could grow heritage cherry tomatoes, herbs and salad greens in containers and sell them at a weekend farmers’ market.

You may want to do a survey of the restaurants near you, especially the high end ones who may well be in the market for heritage varieties and a steady supply of fresh herbs in season.

You will need to talk with the head chef and that may not be easy so be sure to have a business card and take a sample of what you are selling along with you. The chef is looking for quality and may even make some suggestions as to crops but the chef is also looking for consistency. They want the product delivered when they need it. If you cannot guarantee this do not enter the restaurant business.

My first venture into the market garden business went fairly well because I started small; in fact, I only grew three kinds of basil. I had two small specialty grocery stores buy the herb and I sold potted plants from a store front that a friend let me use. It worked because my overhead was minimal.

That was the marketing plan phase and the business would have expanded if I had not moved.

I am not planning a similar venture, however, I am working on another concept.

Another way to approach this is to set up a community shared agriculture project. You solicit members to buy a share at the beginning of a season; for their purchase, they get a basket of whatever is available each week.

You can even give them the opportunity to get their hands dirty and help in the planting and harvesting. This shared experience gives you the money you need to get the seeds, etcetera; you need and guarantees them a fresh return. Of course they also share the risks should the season be a bad one.

I would get a few years of growing and selling in before I ventured into this territory.

Now and this you must do first, find out what the bylaws and zoning laws are where you live. You do not want to get a thriving enterprise set up only to find it contravenes local ordinances. Municipal officials may not be forgiving so a do it and say sorry later approach is not going to work.

To recap, how much time are you devoting to the urban agricultural enterprise; how much property do you have or have access to; who is your competition; what are you planning to sell, for what price and to whom?

Answer these questions and you are on the way to be an urban market gardener and by the way , if you do not know much about gardening, do not be discouraged, grow some of yoru own food this season and next and then take a look at going commercial.

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