Make Money with Small-Scale Farming

The Economic Opportunity for Small-Scale Farms

Grow crops for money

You may have decided that you want to sell produce from your farm. Now is a great time! Recent reports show that there is high demand for fresh fruits and vegetables. For the past decade, the US has continued to have a trade deficit in fruits and vegetables. Renee Johnson wrote in a report to congress, The U.S. Trade Situation for Fruit and Vegetable Products, that imports of fruit and vegetables, in 2015, were $17.6 billion.

Recent reports show what the US is importing and the information is surprising. Many of the fruit and vegetable products imported can be grown in the US. Of course you should always focus on the products your community wants. But, if you’re trying to get an idea of what you could grow for money here is a list of the top 5 imported crops, and some others to think about.

Top 5 Imported Crops

These are the top 5 imported crops ranked by their share of demand filled by imports. The numbers reported by Renee Johnson are from 2010. Imports have risen since then. For example, 89% of asparagus demand was filled by imports in 2010.

Top 5 crops by percent imported

Percent of crop imported: Asparagus 89%, Cucumbers 61%, Garlic 59%, Peppers 53%, Tomatoes 52%. The U.S. Trade Situation for Fruit and Vegetable Products

It seems like now is a great time to get your food to market. We aren’t talking about mangos here! How many of those products are you already growing? It’s amazing how much, of such common crops, are being brought in from other places to feed us!

Other Crops

There are other high demand products. Again, we aren’t talking about kiwis or mangos, these are common items you might already be growing. Grapes- 50% of demand is being filled by imports. Melons- 28% of demand is being filled by imports. You don’t have to grow grapes for wine, some people just want to eat grapes. As for melons, that could be any type of melon so have fun trying new varieties! If you are willing to grow trees, plums might be a good choice. 25% of plum demand was filled by imports. To round out the list, all berries are also in demand- have fun experimenting with varieties!

Get Selling!

In her report, Renee Johnson states that there was a trade deficit in 2011 of $11.2 billion. Some might say we need to export more. However, one of the problems Johnson notes is the high tariffs on exports from the United States. I say we could import less. How many people get interested in gardening or farming because they want to have fresh, clean, and good tasting food? How many times have you joked about the poor quality of fruits and vegetables sold at the local big box grocery store?

I know this is just one piece of the puzzle that could make money for your farm. If done right, you can make some money at market. Get involved with your local farmers markets and look into CSA’s ( if you haven’t done so already. The demand is there. I hope this list helps answer the question; “what should I grow?”


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