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BACKYARD CASH CROPS YIELD HIGH PROFITS

Many large farms have had trouble making a profit in the past few

years. However, there are several good ways to make money farming

small garden plots. Thousands of people are using these methods

to earn part-time or full-time incomes. This report will outline

several profitable ways that you can use to quickly begin

producing cash crops.

Don't misunderstand, I'm not talking about growing common

crops like tomatoes and so forth. No. The secret of cash crops

from small gardens is growing special, hard-to-find products that

will bring you premium prices. And, in many cases, the demand far

outstrips the supply for these crops. You'll also learn how to

open a small roadside stand selling common and special vegetables

and fruits.

Something else. You will not have to engage in "backbreaking"

labor. While there is some amount of work required, there are

techniques that can reduce the amount of labor once you are

established. For example: raspberries can be heavily mulched each

year to eliminate future weeds.

BUSINESS OVERVIEW

Raising backyard crops is a fairly easy business to set up

and operate. You'll need at least 1/2 acre of ground. Preferably,

1 acre or more. Then you'll need to master the gardening

techniques for growing top quality crops. After that, it's simply

a matter of choosing how you want to market your crops for cash.

PROFIT POTENTIAL

How much money can you earn with this type of business? It

depends on several factors, including: crop selection, quality of

your crop, amount of acreage planted, crop yields, and effective

marketing. Your earnings can vary from $2,000 per acre up to

$20,000 per acre each year with the specialty crops described in

this report. So this is not a business that can make you rich

"overnight," but with several profitable acres your income can be

good to excellent.

KEYS TO SUCCESS

There are several keys to success in this type of business.

They are:

(1) Plan ahead to grow the best kinds of crops for the

amount of space you have, and type of soil and climate in your

location.

(2) Learn the best growing techniques (and easiest methods)

for producing high yield crops.

(3) Buy the best seeds, bulbs, trees, and vines and plant

them in the proper manner.

(4) Learn good marketing skills for selling the crops.

These simple, and obvious steps are easy to take. Anyone can

successfully raise cash producing crops with a little effort. Of

course, some labor is involved in preparing the ground like

weeding, trimming, packing and selling. However, some of these

cash crops require less attention than common crops. Also, you

could employ a high school student for 1 or 2 days per week to

help out with portions of the work.

Raising cash crops is also a very low risk and low cost

business to start. In most cases, your start up costs can be $100

to $200 (or less) if you already own a suitable section of land.

So you are risking very little money and you should always get

some cash return even in a poor growing season.

TOOLS NEEDED

You do not need a wide array of expensive tools at the

start. A shovel, hoes, wheelbarrow, seeds, plants and fertilizer

are about all that is needed. However, it's quite handy to have

(or have access to) a 5 horsepower rototiller. A tiller is a

powerful assistant in the upkeep and preparation of your garden.

And, of course, you'll also want to purchase, or borrow, a few

books about specific gardening techniques in your area and for

the specific crop you'll be growing. You'll find some excellent

guides in the Source section of this booklet.

LAND

How much land do you need to produce cash crops? In part,

this will depend upon what you want to do. There are 3 different

sizes of land that can be used: (1) less than 1 acre, (2) 1 to 2

acres, (3) 6 to 20 acres.

The size of your garden determines what your best crops will

be in order to produce the most cash. For example: if you have

one acre or less, you won't want to try growing apple and peach

trees. You need more space for fruit trees. Instead, focus on

crops like asparagus, strawberries, raspberries, herbs and other

similar crops that can produce large amounts in small spaces.

The other important factor is the type of soil in your area.

Most crops require certain kinds of soil to produce the highest

yield and the best quality. The good news is that you can improve

your soil by using fertilizers. I recommend that you use natural

types of fertilizers, such as horse/cow/chicken manure, and limit

(or, best of all, eliminate) the amount of chemical fertilizers

you use. Most of your customers will prefer "organically grown"

produce. Since most "store bought" produce is usually laced with

some kind of chemical, featuring organically grown crops can

assure you of increased sales. There's always a market for health

oriented produce.

A great way to improve your soil is by composting.

Composting turns leaves, grass clippings, scrap food, and other

organic material into a rich soil. There are both long and short

procedures for producing compost. Here's how:

Pick a spot for a compost pile (4x4 or 6x6 feet) and begin

by putting down a 4 to 5 inch layer of leaves or grass clippings.

Cover with an inch or so of dirt and a shovel-full or two of

manure. Then start another layer of organic matter. Continue in

this manner until the pile is 3 or 4 feet high. You can sprinkle

each layer lightly with water. If you like, you can construct an

enclosed wire "box" for this compost pile.

If you want to use the protracted method for composting,

simply let the pile "cook" for about 9 months. If you want a

"faster" compost wait 8 to 9 days then mix the pile. Then wait 3

or 4 days and mix again. Do this until the pile has turned into a

rich soil-like mixture. This compost can then be worked into your

soil.

The purpose of composting is to develop heat and moisture

within the pile. This will cause the organic matter to decompose

into components that are usable by the plants. It will produce a

lot of nitrogen-rich material as well as material rich with minerals.

You may need to add a cup of lime or bone meal between the

layers of the pile to make an even better compost.

You should have your soil tested to determine its acid,

nitrogen, and mineral condition, or content. You'll then be able

to determine what to add to the soil to correct any deficiencies.

You'll also be able to determine what grows best in your type of

soil. There are low cost soil testing kits available, or you can

find local testing groups, such as your local county extension

office or the agriculture department at most colleges.

Most of the small cash crop growers I've talked with use a

rototiller for preparing the soil. If the soil has never been

used for a garden, you should have it worked up good with a

tractor the first year. After that, a rototiller can do the job.

Of course, if you have more than a one acre garden you may still

want to save a lot of work and hire someone with a tractor to

plow your soil. You should find several full time and part time

farmers advertising in the classified section of your local

newspaper for their tilling services.

The better prepared your soil is, the better the results

will be. So take the time to find out the soil's current

condition, add plenty of fertilizing material and work the soil

up in preparation for planting.

Crop selection is largely a matter of preference and how you

want to market your product. For example, some products can

easily be sold only locally while other products can be sold

nationally as well as locally. Herbs are examples of produce that

can be sold both ways.

I recommend that you don't just plant one type of crop

unless you have signed contracts to sell that crop, or have

plenty of marketing experience. There are some exceptions to this

rule: for example, specialized crops such as mushrooms and

bamboo. Planting more than one type of produce will help avoid

problems if something doesn't produce as well as expected, or if

the market becomes saturated.

Using good mulching techniques will help to eliminate weeds

and lessen the amount of labor you'll need to put into the

garden. It will also keep the soil around your plants moist and

produce stronger plants. Almost all successful small cash crop

growers use the mulching method.

SMALL FRUITS

There are tremendous opportunities for part time fruit

growers. Every large metropolitan area could use more fruit

producers. This section will focus on the basic small fruit

crops, such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. These

fruits generally produce an excellent return on your investment.

Much of the demand is for "U-Pick" fields near larger

cities. Thus, a few acres of small fruits can produce a

substantial income. Except for strawberries, most of the fruit

plants can keep producing for as long as 10 years, or more. Also,

small fruit crops produce a high return per acre -- up to $15,000

gross income per acre.

Blueberries grow on small bushes and require an acid type

soil. You can get about 1,000 bushes on an acre. Many farmers

argue that blueberries are the best crop for "U-Pick" operations.

But blueberries take a little more care and careful adjustment of

the soil acidity, and are a bit harder to grow than other

berries. Yet once you have a good established stand of

blueberries, they can produce an excellent income.

Grapes can be grown almost anywhere there is fertile, well

drained soil. Grapevines will last decades (up to 80 years!) and,

therefore, can produce a permanent income. Grapes can be used in

"U-Pick" operations, and also sold via retail stores. It's

important to study the proper pruning methods for grapes. Further

information can be gleaned from U.S. Government agriculture

publications found in most libraries or from the U.S. Government

Printing Office in Washington, DC.

Raspberries can produce quick results and will continue producing

for many years. The plants are low cost to purchase and

establish, have little disease problems, and usually produce

large crops. Best of all, there simply aren't enough of these

delicious berries available. Thus, the demand is high and they

will bring a large price per quart. You can easily propagate new

plants yourself, adding to your crop each year. Raspberries

require lots of sun, fertile, well drained soil, and effective

mulching.

Strawberries are also an extremely popular crop. You can

easily sell all you grow either by the "U-Pick" arrangement or

sell direct to the consumer. The cost to establish a strawberry

patch is generally low. And yields range from 6,000 to 15,000

pounds per acre.

Here are a few tips for "U-Pick" operations:

(1) Have adequate parking, signs, and portable restrooms

available.

(2) Send each picker into assigned rows.

(3) Use reusable containers and sell by the container,

instead of by the pound.

(4) Have plenty of empty containers to use, and make your

customers feel at home.

Some growers are also producing other types of lesser-known

crops such as kiwi, guavas, and Chinese dates. But, for most

people just starting in the "cash crop" business, the 4 small

fruits recommended in this section are the most cost effective.

FLOWERS

There are several different ways to make profits from

flowers: selling flower bulbs, cut flowers, and flower plants.

These can be sold in a variety of wholesale and retail ways.

A sizable flower business can be built upon 1/2 acre or

less. Thus, flowers are an excellent choice if you have very

little space. Here are a few examples of the most popular types

of flowers:

(1) Bulbs -- canna, crocus, daffodils, gladiolus, iris,

lilies, tulips.

(2) Cut flowers -- carnations, chrysanthemums, roses,

snapdragons.

(3) Live flowers -- roses, violets, wildflowers, and

virtually all other types of flowers.

Recently, a USDA horticulturist stated that the production

of flowers is the fastest growing agriculture business today. The

demand far outstrips the supply.

A great way to start making money from flowers is by

building a greenhouse. You can then grow plants for selling to

the many retail outlets that sell flowers in the spring. A number

of people have reported that they completely paid for a $7,000 -

$10,000 greenhouse in just one season using this method.

Flowers are always popular and will remain so. If you want

to get into this business, you must become knowledgeable. And,

more importantly, you must have or develop a love for flowers.

HERBS

Herb crops can be divided into 3 primary groupings. (There

are some herbs that may fit into more than one of the following

categories.)

(1) Culinary herbs -- used for flavorings, or as food.

(2) Fragrant herbs -- used for scents, potpourris, and

sachets.

(3) Medicinal -- herbs used for as herbal remedies.

Herbs are continually becoming more in demand. The demand

outstrips the current domestic supply, thus there is plenty of

opportunity for growing and selling herbs. It's a pleasant

business that costs little to start, takes little space and can

produce a substantial income. One of the best things about herbs

is that you can produce a fair amount of income per acre. Some

growers produce as much as $12,000 - $15,000 per acre.

Another important fact is that almost all areas of the

United States are suitable for growing some type of herbs. Most

herb crops can begin producing incomes in the same year they are

planted. Therefore, you can plan a herb crop this winter and reap

the profits next fall!

You can find sources for herb plants and seeds by looking

through the various gardening and farming magazines. Publications

like, The Mother Earth News, Fine Gardening, Harrowsmith and

Organic Gardening contain many ads for herb suppliers. Look in

both the classified and display ad sections.

Herbs can be sold in a wide variety of ways: (1) Direct to

the customer as plants. (2) Direct to the customer as a finished

product. (3) Wholesaling to retail stores. (4) Wholesaling to

bulk herb buyers. (5) Wholesaling to arts and crafts people who

use the herbs in other products. (6) Fresh herbs to restaurants.

If you wish to become involved in growing herbs for profit,

the first thing to do is to educate yourself about the different

herbs. You'll discover that some herbs take special growing

conditions to flourish. Then devise a plan to detail what herbs

you will grow and how you'll market them.

Here are a few examples of some popular herbs from the 3

classes listed earlier.

(1) Culinary herbs -- Basil, sage, chives, dill, parsley,

mints, savory, rosemary, thyme.

(2) Fragrant herbs -- mints, tansy, clove, rue, thyme,

rosemary, chamomile.

(3) Medicinal herbs -- borage, catnip, ginseng, gold seal,

lobelia, pennyroyal, valerian.

Most successful herb growers plant a variety of herbs. They

also use several different marketing techniques, such as: direct

to the consumer, selling herb plants to other growers, and

selling to restaurants. Dried herbs can also be sold by mail

order. A few herb growers concentrate on one or to varieties for

which there is a big demand. Examples include: peppermint and

catnip. Usually, they already have contracts for selling the

product to large wholesalers or companies that use the herbs in

their products.

VEGETABLES

Fresh, home grown vegetables is a constant in-demand

product. You can often beat the large supermarket chain on

prices, and always on product quality. You can even become a

supplier to small grocery stores. But most of your profits will

come from direct retail sales to consumers who are looking for

"farm fresh, chemical free" produce.

There are literally dozens of different vegetable crops you

can grow. I recommend that you pick 8 or 10 of the most popular

vegetables. Using intensive gardening techniques can greatly

increase the amount produced per acre. Some growers have reported

incomes of up to $20,000 per acre!

These are a few of the most popular vegetables:

Asparagus -- yields up to 2,000 pounds per acre at $2 per

pound. Plants are started as roots and are ready to use in about

3 years. And will continue producing for up to 20 years.

Beans -- always one of the most popular crops, and come in

many easy-to-grow varieties. Beans will produce several crops

each growing season.

Brussels Sprouts -- relatively easy to grow and can produce

late into the year, even after a frost.

Carrots -- requires lots of loose fertile soil. There is a

strong demand for "baby carrots."

Corn -- one of the most popular fresh picked vegetables,

although it does have a slightly lower profitability per acre.

Lettuce -- a quick and easy-to-grow vegetable. You should

grow several different varieties, and it can be planted very

early.

Peppers -- both the mild and hot varieties. Peppers need a

long warm growing season and well drained soil.

Other popular items include okra, onions, peas, radishes,

spinach, squash, tomatoes, watermelon, and egg plant.

Vegetables can be marketed in a variety of ways. There are

even many "U-Pick" vegetable operations. However, by far the best

way to sell vegetables is by operating a small roadside stand, or

at an established farmer's market. Most communities have a

farmer's market operating on weekends.

There's a booming market for organically grown vegetables.

And that market will continue. Chemical free produce will always

bring you premium prices. Organically grown vegetables take a

little more soil preparation and effort, but they can be well

worth the extra effort.

Other ways to market vegetables are: directly to restaurants,

local stores, and to food co-ops. The key to all of these

marketing efforts is to have a high quality, chemical free

products.

SPECIALITY CROPS

This section will briefly cover other special cash crops.

Some of these crops can only be grown in certain section of the

countries. Also, some must have special growing conditions.

LANDSCAPING PLANTS -- Special plants for landscaping are

always in demand. These plants include shrubs such as:

rhododendron, azaleas and juniper, as well as some decorative

trees. Landscaping plants can be sold directly to the consumer or

to landscaping companies.

If you begin supplying a landscape company or retail outlets

with good stock, you'll soon have a steady source of income. A

couple of important things to know about landscape plants are

that they must be attractive and have a good survival rate. And

you probably need to give some sort of guarantee that the plants

are free from disease.

NUT CROPS -- Including almonds, chestnuts, filberts, pecans

and walnuts. You can expect a wait of from 3 to 20 years for nut

production. But some growers also produce and sell various aged

nut trees for replanting. Nice two and three old trees will bring

a premium price. Since nut tree crops require a long time to

mature, some growers use a dual method ... they plant a raspberry

crop between the nut trees.

It takes about 8 to 10 years to get nut trees into nut

production. But, after they have produced crops, they can also be

used for valuable lumber production in 30 years or so. Nut trees

could make an excellent retirement crop if you plant them while

you're young. Some arrow-straight walnut trees, black walnut

specifically, have brought as much as $10,000 each!

BAMBOO -- This crop is grown for its edible shoots, and can

produce 3 to 10 tons per acre. Bamboo is also used for a wide

variety of construction items, including furniture. Currently,

U.S. growers cannot keep up with the demand, so bamboo is being

imported from Asia.

DRIED PLANTS -- Are used for decoration and fragrance. Dried

floral arrangements are especially popular. Many arts and craft

shops, gift stores and specialty shops need a constant supply of

dried flowers.

There are two steps involved in producing these crops. First

you must produce an attractive, quality plant. Next, you must use

the proper drying techniques to preserve the plants while

maintaining its looks.

MUSHROOMS -- Have become a very popular specialty food in

fancy restaurants. The Shitake mushroom is specially adapted for

production by small family farms. It can be harvested during the

spring and fall. And it has both a meaty taste and medicinal

properties.

These mushrooms are usually grown outdoors on 6 to 8 foot

logs. The logs are prepared and then inoculated with the mushroom

spores. Then it's a 6 to 8 month wait for the first crop.

Recently, a few growers have developed indoor growing techniques

which result in a shorter growing season.

OYSTER MUSHROOMS -- Is another variety that is fast becoming

popular. These mushrooms are fast growing and produce high

yields. They can be grown on easily available material, such as

wheat straw.

The largest market for specialty mushrooms are restaurants,

food co-ops, grocers and health food stores. You can enjoy a year

round booming market for dried Shitake mushrooms.

SEEDS -- Many small growers are supplying the large seed

companies with special crop seed. These include flower seeds,

wildflowers seeds and hard-to-find vegetables. Some small

producers occasionally sell directly to the consumer.

SPROUTS -- Growing sprouts can be ideal for those who have

very little space. Fresh sprouts can be supplied to major grocery

stores as well as to restaurants and health food stores.

MARKETING TECHNIQUES

There are a variety of selling techniques that can be used

get cash from your crops. Some producers use several of the

methods at the same time. Several things can help make your

marketing efforts easier.

The first is quality. You want to produce the best product

possible. Your product's good, clean, healthy appearance will

impress buyers. Sub-par products will be hard to sell. The way to

produce quality is by proper initial soil preparation, using good

seeds and by adhering to accepted growing methods.

You should read books about gardening and carefully study

any special growing requirements for each vegetable or fruit.

Books covering most all special plants and produce are available

at your library or from the U.S. Government Printing Office in

Washington DC.

Also, you'll want to take steps to eliminate pests that

injure your plants. There are many plants that act as natural

repellents to some insect pests. For example: basil, catnip,

marigolds, nasturtiums, savory, garlic, horseradish, tansy, and

thyme.

An important marketing consideration is timing. If you can

get a crop ready when other producers aren't, sales will be easy.

This can be done by using greenhouses, planting early, using

hotbeds and, of course, good planning.

Pricing is also important. Most sellers recommend that you

price your products 10% to 20% below those in grocery stores.

(But don't lock yourself into a price war by trying to undercut

your competition from other small producers.) Products that are

grown using organic methods will most often bring higher prices.

Check will all the local retail stores and at farmers markets to

get a feel for your local current selling rates.

One of the most common marketing techniques is selling your

wares at roadside stands. Two of the most important factors to

consider before setting up your stand are signs and ample parking

space. Your signs should be no longer than 6 to 8 words, neat,

legible and easy to understand. Signs need to be placed far

enough ahead of your stand to give the customer time to pull into

your parking area.

Next, you want your stand to be well organized and neat in

appearance. Make it easy for the customer to see the product and

prices. Neatness and cleanliness will pay off. Combined with

quality products and good prices, you'll enjoy a lot of free

advertising by "word of mouth."

A variation of the roadside stand is to sell from the back

of your pickup truck or car. You'll need to locate a well

traveled road and a spot with parking that doesn't interfere with

anyone. Of course, all of the previously mentioned factors apply.

Another common selling method is at farmer's markets and

flea markets. These gatherings are held in most localities. If

not, you'll want to get together with other producers and

organize a farmer's market. All of these methods can also be

aided by advertising in local newspapers, "penny saver" papers,

radio stations, and by posting notices on bulletin boards.

Selling directly to retail grocery stores and restaurants is

another good procedure. If you can provide them with a steady

supply of fresh produce, sales should be easy. When contacting

these stores, be prepared to offer a 30% to 40% discount from

regular retail prices. This allows the retailer a good profit

margin. If you are a reliable producer, you may be able to set up

a weekly route to service several retail locations.

There are many food co-ops that are eager to buy large

quantities of quality produce. You'll need to offer reasonable

discounts. Too, you'll want to scout out these local co-ops and

contact them directly. For some products you may have to prepare

neat individualized packages of produce. Example: 1 or 2 ounces

of herbs in labeled, plastic bags.

U-Pick operations have been discussed previously. This

marketing method will work for almost any product. However, it

does present some special problems. Example: you cannot let very

young kids into the picking areas as they may get hurt and/or

damage some crops.

In order to operate a successful U-Pick operation, you'll

need to get along well with people. You also need to be friendly,

courteous and treat everyone as if they are individually

important which, of course, they are.

GETTING HELP

There's a variety of ways to get help with gardening and

marketing your products. Almost every state offers free

agriculture help through universities and state agriculture

offices. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also offers many free

programs.

Local bookstores, newsstands, and libraries also contain

many informative sources. Study these diligently and become

skillful in gardening. Finally, you'll be able to find many

newsletters and growers associations advertised in the gardening

magazines. These are often your best sources for plants, seeds,

growing techniques, and marketing strategies.

SUCCESS ANALYSIS

Eight contributing factors are measured on a 1 to 10 basis

(with 10 being excellent) based on analysis of this opportunity.

1. Time Investment                                 8

2. Start-up Costs                                   8

3. Gross Income Potential                      8

4. New Income Potential                         9

5. Income in Relation to Investment         9

6. Stability                                             7

7. Overall Risk                                       9

8. Potential for Growth                            9

Overall Potential for Success:                 8.38

CONCLUSION

This is basically a labor intensive business, relying on

your learned skills and work. Preparing the soil, planting,

nurturing, harvesting and marketing are all details to which you

must attend to on a continuous basis.

Starting a backyard cash crop operation can be very, very

rewarding. Plus, you'll not only get closer to nature while

learning a valuable age-old skill, but you'll be producing a

valuable, healthy product.

"Cash Crops" is an enjoyable business you can start with

little money, nearly risk free. It can also give you wonderful

personal satisfaction and, quite possibly, help to improve your

health by working in the outdoors.

 

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