Whether you're a small-acreage farmer or a backyard entrepreneur, the best crop usually means the most profitable. What is best in general may not be the best for you. You must look at the type of soil and sunlight on your land and consider your temperate zone when making your choices.
Herbs are easy to grow, and they are fairly drought-tolerant since many of them developed in the Mediterranean area where rainfall is low. Some of the most popular herbs are basil, catnip, chamomile, cilantro, garlic, oregano, lavender, the mints, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme. After you establish your herbs, selling starter plants to clients can be even more profitable than the herbs themselves. Some herbs, like basil and cilantro, are annuals and need to be started from seed, while others, such as sage, oregano and thyme, are reliable perennials. In fact, when growing oregano and its cousin marjoram, you will have to control the plants' spread, much like the other mints.
Flowers and landscaping foliage plants are often listed as good plants for small-acreage farmers. If you live in a southern climate where you can grow flowers outdoors year-round, this may be true. According to Texas AgriLife Extension, a service of Texas A&M University, profit on flowering plants can be between $0 to $20 per square foot. If you already have a greenhouse available, growing flowers provides a way to diversify, and growing bedding plants is a way to make a profit from growing flowers on small acreage.
Homegrown vegetables have a niche market, and if you are near an urban area, you can make a profit growing them. Plan to sell directly to your customers at a local farmer's market or from your front yard, depending on local ordinances. Cutting out the middleman makes it possible to make a profit from vegetable sales for small-acreage farmers. By far, the most profitable crops for small farmers are organic heirloom varieties of tomatoes, asparagus, beans and peppers -- especially specialty hot peppers, lettuce and squashes. Additionally, try to sell your produce to local restaurants or co-ops.
If you have a shady area, consider growing mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms require only shade and logs, and they can even grow inside. Other mushrooms, such as the oyster mushroom, grow on wheat straw. Morels can also be profitably grown. Other profitable shade plants include goldenseal, ginseng, black cohosh, ginger and May apple. Herbalists and others that use medicinal herbs desire these plants for their healing properties. This is a niche market, but many people who use herbs to heal do not have access to woodlands to grow their own plants. It often requires several years to build up enough stock to sell the plants, as most are slow-growing perennials.
- North Carolina State University: Culinary and Aromatic Herbs
- Hoover Web Design: Backyard Cash Crops Yield High Profits
- Profitable Plants: Ten Most Profitable Herbs To Grow
- North Carolina State University; Medicinal Plants with a Potential Niche Market for Propagators; Jeanine M. Davis and Richard E. Bir; July 2001