You’ve been playing in the dirt since before you could walk. Your flower beds are the envy of your neighbors, and your pumpkins win ribbons at the county fair. Friends always find an excuse to stop by during the summer months, knowing you’ll share your juiciest heirloom tomatoes. Gardening has always been your passion, but it could also be a source of income.
Although you might not have the land and resources to become a commercial farmer or open up a retail garden center, the produce you harvest and the knowledge and experience you’ve collected can still generate revenue in a variety of ways. Here are three options for garden-related businesses.
1. Sell your produce at a farmers market.
If you already have an established garden with plenty of surplus produce, expanding it for business purposes won’t be difficult as long as you have the time to devote to the additional vending and marketing activities.
According to Farm Week Now, the demand for locally grown food has created a $20 billion industry. Farmers markets, also called growers markets, are springing up in towns and cities across the country. You can find the one closest to your location at Local Harvest.
Any business venture should begin with market research. Small Biz Trends suggests visiting the market to observe what fruits and vegetables are already available, which ones are big sellers, and how much people are willing to pay for them. For example, if only one stand is selling blueberries, and they sell out by noon, you know there’s a demand for the bounty from your backyard bushes.
If it takes you an hour to buy all the ingredients to make a salad because you have to shop at multiple stands, one way you might sell the same produce but still differentiate it from the competition would be to offer pre-assembled salad bundles. While you’re there, find out what fees and permits you’ll need to run your own stand. In some areas, a business license may be required.
2. Run a CSA.
Selling your produce at a farmers market requires an investment. You need to buy seeds, supplies, and equipment, put in the labor to grow the crops, and then handle all the marketing. If your produce doesn’t sell, you could be out a substantial amount of money, and you never know what your profits will be from one week to the next.
Morning Chores describes an alternative model called Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. Instead of customers buying your produce each week, they buy a share of your future harvest at the beginning of the growing season. They share the investment risk, and you get the startup money you need. Once harvesting begins, you provide a weekly produce box to each shareholder.
If your garden already has fans who can’t wait to get their hands on your surplus produce, they might be willing to pay for a steady supply of it. While an acre and a half can easily feed 65 people, it’s best to start with a smaller operation. Offer discounted shares to those willing to give you a hand in the garden.
The Simple Dollar notes shareholders often have trouble using all the produce in their boxes, especially if your vegetables are a little exotic. To help them get their money’s worth, offer as much choice and variety as possible and include family-friendly recipes and tips for freezing and canning any leftovers.
3. Write a gardening blog.
If you have no interest in selling your produce and don’t want strangers anywhere near your garden, you can still earn money from the comfort of your own home. The knowledge and experience you’ve gained from years of gardening are valuable. By creating a blog through a platform like WordPress, you can easily publish content other gardeners would find relevant, from a diary about what you’re currently planting to humorous stories of past garden disasters.
One way to identify popular topics is with Google Keyword Planner. If everyone and their grandmother are looking for information on mandala gardens, and you’re about to build one, it’s the perfect opportunity to create a step-by-step photo tutorial and shoot to the top of Google’s search results. Blogs are most successful when they are tied to a strong social media presence. For example, you might increase your readership by adding popular, garden-related Instagram hashtags to your photos.
The more traffic your blog receives, the more lucrative it can be. You can monetize your blog in a variety of ways, such as including pay-per-click ads and affiliate links for the gardening tools and products you mention in your posts. You could also add an online store to sell these products or sell your own materials like ebooks or video courses that go into more detail on the topics your blog covers.
How has your garden grown into a business? Share your experiences in the comments.