On a given day in the life of a farmer, there are multiple aspects and areas that demand attention, including soil health, crops, market, labour, climate, farming methods and technologies being used. Each factor plays a role in ensuring success and profitability in a farm business. However, when it comes to small scale producers, it is of paramount importance to mindfully identify and choose crops that are capable of bringing relatively more profit even with minimal capital investment and care. These crops are basically called cash crops as they ensure maximum profit and return even on a small farm and are mainly grown for revenue and export rather than sustenance.
Crop and plant variety selection is the first consideration in starting a farm business. Small farmers have to pay much attention and spend a good time in market research in this aspect to make sure they select high value crops to maximise the output of their small farm production. While there are plenty of cash crops that can be grown on a small farm to sell for profit, deciding exactly which crops are right for your farm will depend on many various factors, besides the obvious ones like soil and climate.
This blog will give you insights into important factors to consider when choosing the types of crops to grow and a list of cash crops that are easiest to grow and maintain
· HOW WILL YOU SELL THE PRODUCE?
Small farmers can ensure the highest price for their produce by selling it directly to customers or making value-added products out of it. However, taking care of all marketing and sales on your own also means more hard work and time. After a certain scale, it becomes difficult to sell all your harvests for maximum price in the time that is available to you alongside production. As your farm expands, you may need to consider selling, at least some parts of your produce, to wholesalers for a lower price to get your produce selling faster and with ease.
· HOW FAST IS THE GROWING CYCLE?
The more times that you can grow a crop every year, the better. Some crops take as little as two to three weeks to reach maturity and can be grown every week throughout the year. However, fast growing crops often require more attention and can be labour and time-intensive. It’s a good idea to choose crops that can grow quickly as well as can look after themselves once established as long as they are getting proper moisture, light and environment, such as mushrooms and microgreens.
· WHAT ARE THE YIELDS LIKE?
When you aim to make maximum profit our of small farm production, you want to choose crops that have the potential to produce high yields for each square foot, meter or acre that you use for cultivation. It may not be as important when you have a larger patch of land as you may then take into consideration other benefits that the crop can offer other than high yields.
Another important thing to note is you should think of crop yield more in terms of value rather than weight. For instance, 1 meter square of microgreens yield in weight is lower than a 2 meter square of potatoes, but it is worth a lot more in the market.
· IS IT VIABLE TO MAKE USE OF VERTICAL SPACE?
Some crops allow you to make use of vertical space to produce high yields in a small area. Plants like microgreens, kales, chives, mint and mushrooms can be easily grown on shelves or in a vertical layer of trays. If you use your small farm to plant crops that can only be grown on one level, you might not be using the available land to its full potential.
If you have a small area to work with, planting crops at different vertical levels can help maximise the output per square foot or acre, make spraying and pruning easier and keep crops off the ground which decreases the risk of diseases.
· HOW LABOUR INTENSIVE IS THE CROP TO PRODUCE?
High price and high market value do not always mean high profitability. If a crop sells for a high price, it is likely that it requires a lot of labour input. With saffron, for example, the farmer has to harvest the stamens from 75,000 plants to produce about 1 lb of dried saffron to sell. Strawberries, sweet cherries and peppers are other examples labour-intensive crops that may not be as profitable to grow for small farmers.
Moreover, you also need to make sure you have enough time to care for crops you are planting. If you are short of time, you may be better off growing a relatively less profitable crop if it takes less time to grow it fully.
While you take into account these important considerations, you will have to pay attention to the obvious ones also, such as climate inspection, techno-commercial aspect of the crop, adaptability of the crop to the existing land conditions and the farming method.
Let’s now take a look at some of profitable cash crops that are suited to small farm owners because of easy care, fast growing cycle, high market value and high profit potential.
- Lavender – Highly versatile, can be sold in diverse markets, requires little care, automatically grows back after harvest (perennial crop).
- Speciality Mushroom – Excellent for urban farmers or those with a small farming area, has high demand in gourmet food stores and many restaurants, grows incredibly fast and can be grown using vertical gardening method.
- Microgreens – Highly scalable and start-up cost is significantly low, can be planted indoors and outdoors in trays with minimal effort.
- Gignger – Highly commercial crop used in medicines, spices, dishes and flavoured drinks and foods.
- Bamboo – Fastest growing woody plant, extremely versatile, widely used as landscaping decorative plant and in flooring, home designing, cloth, fabrics and more.
The right decision in the selection of crops to grow on your small farm will ultimately contribute to a successful farming venture. You may not find all the aforementioned cash crops suitable for your small farm or situation, but there are plenty of them. So, we advise you to get in touch with our expert team for assistance regarding market research and crop selection decisions.