A Complete Beginners Guide to Market Gardening Farming

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I know you are interested in market gardening, read the entire article on market gardening farming and what is market gardening. How to enable farmers to earn hard cash money.

If you are a beginner to gardening, check out 7 Essential Gardening Tips for Beginners.

What is market gardening?
Fresh vegetables at a market stand

What is Market Gardening Farming?

Whether you desire to become a full-time farmer or just want to earn a little extra cash on the side, market gardening farming is an excellent way to reap profits from your passion. A market garden is merely a micro-farm where cash crops, such as flowers, vegetables, and fruits are grown and then sold to the public for profit.

In this article, we will break down the essential steps required to start a market garden for you, irrespective of what your starting point is. Turning your green thumb into good money is not as hard or daunting as you might reckon. Neither does it demand extensive farming tools, formal education, or large acres of land.

This form of farming entails the right amount of manual labour, hard work, and gardening techniques. Moreover, money is only one part of the satisfaction that occurs from starting a market garden.

Market gardening farming is relatively a small operation, typically under one acre, used to cultivate a diverse variety of crops as compared to a monoculture. Furthermore, market gardeners generally sell their produce directly to consumers, shops, and restaurants.

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The Benefits of Market Gardening Farming

Higher Profits: Conventional farmers who sell their produce in wholesale markets tend to receive approximately 10 to 20 percent of the retail price. On the contrary, market gardening farmers earn 100 percent on their crops, as they sell directly to customers without any intermediaries in between. 

Experimentation: Due to its relatively small scale, market gardening farming entails low barriers to entry and thus, provides more room for experimentation than other forms of farming. 

Less Labor: Market gardens are relatively a small operation, typically under one acre; therefore, it requires less labour. Generally, the owners can manage harvest without the need to hire extra labourers.  

Low Investment: To start a market garden, the initial investment is considerably lower than other large scale ventures. No extensive farming tools or full-time employees are required; keeping overheads low. 

The Shortcomings of Market Gardening Farming

Limited Produce: Due to the small scale of market gardening farming, the land limits how much you can grow. 

Be Diligent: As market gardens are small, farmers have to be very diligent about the timing to maintain the production streams ready for the next batch of cultivation. 

Lack of Passion: For people who turn their gardens into a source of income, often feel that it takes away the charm of growing their own food as it turns into more of a job than a hobby. 

Step by Step Guide to Start a Market Garden

Initiating your first market garden can seem like a daunting task, but it does not have to be so tough, as long as you break it down into smaller, simpler steps. Read on further to learn more about these steps:

Step 1: Conduct Research

Conducting proper, thorough market research is the most critical step before starting your market garden. It allows farmers to know which products are in demand and can lead to lucrative profits. For example, if you decide to grow mushrooms in your garden, which is already an oversaturated produce in your area, then what is the point in growing them in the first place?

If you do want to grow something already present in the market, then find a way to differentiate your product. For instance, if someone is selling regular cabbage, then you can sell purple cabbage to create a unique selling point.

Additionally, try to work on another farm before starting your own garden. It will help you to figure out if farming is something you can do or not. Moreover, working in an already established garden can provide you with valuable experience about what works and what doesn’t in market gardening farming.

Step 2: Choose Land for Cultivation

Market gardening farming
It is vital to find a suitable piece of land for market gardening farming

To set up a market garden, the farmer needs first to find a suitable piece of land or plot for growing crops. This is both the first major obstacle and decision faced by farmers before initiating their market gardens. So, take adequate time to understand your needs and avoid jumping on the first piece of plot that you come across. Few factors to consider before finalizing the land for the market garden include, but are not limited to the following:

  • How much will the land cost?
  • What is the piece of land currently designed for?
  • Does have water access?
  • Distance between the land and your residence?
  • Distance between the land and the market?

These are a few of the many questions that need to be well-thought before choosing a plot for market gardening farming.

Step 3: Plan Crop Production

Before working on the land, it is a must for farmers to know what they are going to cultivate because the crops they’re planning to grow will determine row spacing and other integral factors. Based on initial market research, farmers should already have a decent idea of what product is most likely to sell in their area.

Moreover, a significant part of this process is to plan and determine the production schedule. By doing so, farmers will know when the produce will be ready for sale. It is essential to bear in mind that as a market gardener, you have several customers, shops, and restaurants counting on you for timely fulfillment of their demand.

Succession planting is a great method to ensure orders are met promptly without any delays. Failure to do so can lead farmers to miss out on sales and possibly lose valuable customers.

Step 4: Prepare Soil

Once it is determined which crops are to be planted, the next step is to start preparing the soil before the planting season arrives. Several farmers rent a tiller in their first year to loosen the soil, break existing roots and mix in products to improve soil quality.

If you’re someone who prefers a no-dig permaculture method like sheet mulching, fall is the best time do so as the soil will have time to decay over the winter season and be ready for cultivation when spring arrives.

Step 5: Plant Crops

Once the land is ready, the next step is to plant the crops. Both plants seeds and seedlings can be used for cultivation, but if you have decided to use seedlings then set up a small nursery and grow them yourself ahead of time to eliminate the possibility of cost prohibition.

Keep the succession planting plan in mind and determine how you will layout the successional sowing. Moreover, figure out how will crop rotations take place throughout and between the seasons.

If you can invest in some planting equipment, get a paper pot transplanter or mechanical seeder to reduce the amount of time required to plant seeds significantly.

Step 6: Monitor and Maintain Crops

Once the seeds are in the ground, the most essential task is to ensure they stay alive and thrive until they reach their age of maturity. Give adequate water to crops and remove weeds regularly to keep the products healthy.

Usually, during the summer season, there is a possibility of crops getting scorched by the sun. Thus there might be a need to set up a shade cloth. Additionally, regularly check crops for any sign or diseases or bugs to limit spread to the entire garden.

Step 7: Harvest Produce

Once the produce reaches full maturity, it is time to start the harvesting process. Although most of the hard part has already been done, harvesting the crops still require intensive manual labour and a considerable amount of time.

If possible, purchase specialized harvest tools that can save you from a significant number of working hours and would also prevent a ton of strain from your back and knees.

Step 8: Cleaning and Storage

Once the harvest of produce is complete, the next step is to wash and prepare the yield for storage. For cleaning purposes, a hose and a large sink are required to wash the produce and get it ready for storage. The best way to store yield is by keeping it refrigerated until the time of delivery arrives. This will significantly increase the life of your produce, especially in the summer season.

Step 9: Sale and Delivery of Produce

Generally, market gardeners make associations with small shops, restaurant chefs, and other prospective customers for regular and sluggish periods. This way, they will be able to deliver produce as soon as it’s ready. Additionally, spots at the local farmer’s market can also be booked for the sale of products.

Step 10: Lessons Learnt

The last and the most crucial step of the market gardening farming is to learn from the entire process. Several challenges ought to be undertaken for a fruitful yield. Therefore, when you sit to plan your next season, recall all the lessons of the past to avoid mistakes and make the upcoming term more lucrative and smooth.

Type of Crops Suitable for Market Gardening Farming

It is ideal for market gardeners to grow products that are in demand, under-served and fetch a high price in the local market. Although almost any kind of crop can be grown in market gardening farming, but it is better to avoid crops like wheat and corn, which are already being largely produced by several farmers at low prices.

The name ‘market gardening farming’ in itself provides a good hint that it is best to listen to the market and what it is asking for. But the following are a few key factors to consider before choosing crops for cultivation:

  • In-demand and under-saturated products
  • Grow crops that can be used in versatile ventures, e.g. growing lavender can allow market gardeners also to produce lavender oil
  • Crops that require small space for growth
  • Crops that lead to high price tags

Where Can Market Gardeners Sell Their Produce?

Farmer’s market
Farmer’s market box with fresh produce in it

A well-planned market gardening farm will have an extensive range of fresh produce available in streamlined supply throughout the growing season. It is best to have a diverse set of clientele to lower the risk of the business. By selling via multiple channels, if one channel fails, the remaining other platforms can easily compensate for the damage done.

The following are a few different platforms that can be used by market gardeners to sell their produce. We recommend trying out as many options as possible to figure out which works the best for you.

Farm Stands: Simply stand outside your farm with a stall to sell fresh produce.

Farmers Market: Pay a small fee to set up a stall at the local farmer’s market to sell products to multiple customers.

Restaurants: Make connections with local restaurants and sell produce in large quantities and attain repeat orders.

Local Food Stores: Independently run local food stores are a great way to display and sell your products to multiple customers. Just like restaurants, this is a great platform to earn repeat customers.

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The Final Note

Market gardening farming is undoubtedly a physically demanding job, but it is also significantly rewarding. After reading this article, we hope you can turn your green thumb into a profitable business venture.