Single or Multiple Crops

muffy432002July 19, 2008

I'm new to the market gardening arena and I'm trying to plan for next year.

Would it be naive to focus on one type of crop,say, lettuce or lavender or sunflowers( ideas I'm toying with) or is it better to offer a variety of crops to the buyer. I come from a retail background so the idea of "branding" is imedded in my psyche.(" Oh look,she's the lady that has all those unique lettuce varieties...". However, seems like offering many different choices would help act as a cushion in the case of crop failure etc... Advice , please!

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I'm comfortable in diversity. If I had a crop failure with one or two crops I'd be scrambling to pay the farm bills for a year.

Here is a link that might be useful: Seasons Eatings Farm

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 8:23AM
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I work for a woman who sells mostly just lettuce. She has some other greens (kale, mustard, beets, mizuna, tatsoi, etc.) but at the market she is known mostly for lettuce.

She does plant a few tomatoes and peppers, and has some parsley, basil, maybe some cilantro, and she brings those to market. For instance, we've had some intense heat here and between that and a scheduling/timing glitch, she won't have much lettuce for next week's market. So she will be bringing some of the other stuff that is ready. But in general, her bread and butter is lettuce. And, she does very well at the market, because she is really the only one who grows it.

So, two things to keep in mind. Is this your main source of income, or something on the side, where if you don't do well you won't lose the house? :) This particular woman, and myself, who sells mostly cut flowers, have other jobs and other sources of income.

Secondly, what do the other vendors sell? Will you be selling something that others, for the most part, do not? If you specialize, say, in sunflowers, and there are four other vendors selling sunflowers, then you might have a problem.

Personally, I might concentrate on one crop, but have a few other side-line crops, so to speak, to sell also.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 10:34AM
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thinman(Z5 MI)

Last summer was my first summer selling at market, and ninety percent of what I sold was sunflowers. Being in Zone 5, this meant that I had nothing to sell until the end of July. That was OK with me, since I was trying to start slowly and see how it went. We have a small market here and I found out quickly that I couldn't sell enough sunflowers to make much money. Again, that was OK for my first year. This year, I added a number of other varieties of flowers and have been selling for a couple of weeks now, making money I never saw last year. (Not getting rich yet)

I guess the lesson here is that if you specialize, it might be good to pick something that will get going early in the year and stay late. I hear you about branding, as I was known as the sunflower man by some at the market. I don't know what they're calling me this year. :-)

Good luck, Muffy.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2008 at 8:36PM
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Something else to think about is pests. Growing one type of vegetable year in and year out can invite some real problems with insects. Although you may not bring other things to market, having other vegetables and flowers that can serve as trap crops or harbor beneficial insects would be helpful. With one variety of crop,you also have to be very careful with soil borne disease. One type of crop means little or no rotation. Hard on the soil.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2008 at 11:01PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

Variety is the spice of Life! I would suggest that you grow a variety of crops. That is what I do. I have probably close to 100 varieties of 10 different crops. I like to experiement and find what grows best! I also think if you are going to sell stuff, you need to have some eye catching strange items. These will not be your best sellers, but they will get people to stop at your booth and ask or look. Then they buy other stuff and maybe the strange item. Then after a period of years, people start wanting the strange item. Case in point, Lemon Cucumbers.

IF you don't like bunches of crops then I would suggest this. Space out your crops so something will always be ready. For example in Kansas it is too hot in the summer for lettuce. So in the spring one could sell plants, lettuce and radishes. As summer rolls around, move into cucs, tomatoes and sunflowers. When fall hits, try pumpkins, gourds, sweet potatoes, corn stalks. This may work for you also.

I think it is really hard to grow just one thing and make it work. There are some exceptions, Sweet Corn, Tomatoes, Watermelon and Pumpkins. These crops are usually either space hogs, or they have high value.

Good luck on what you choose!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 2:02AM
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