Gardening for Profit

As a professional gardener you can combine a love of the soil with independence and good living. Learn why, how, where, and what it takes from a man who is successfully gardening for profit.

| January/February 1983

  • gardening for profit - man at work in the garden
    Gardening for profit is a matter of finding a private estate that needs your horticultural services.
    Photo by MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff

  • gardening for profit - man at work in the garden

Ever wonder what gardening for profit might be like? Well I can tell you. I live on Cape Cod, and unlike many folks who frequent the area I've made it my permanent home. Furthermore, I'm neither retired nor self-employed, yet I can enjoy morning walks along the shore with my dogs, or sleep late if I choose to, because I don't have to commute into Boston each day to earn a living as many of my neighbors do. In fact, it takes me only 30 seconds to get to work.

What's more, I start my day's labor whenever I please and work as many hours as I like. (It's true that I generally put in more than a 40-hour week, but no one has ever suggested that I had to do so.) If for instance I want to get up at six, work only until ten, and then finish my job in the evening, I can. Or if I want a day off, I take it. And when it rains, I hardly work at all, yet the pay continues. Better still, the entire winter season is a slack period for me, a time to relax or take my vacation — all at full pay.

My boss meets with me only once every two weeks or so, and as long as the necessary work gets accomplished, I'm pretty much left to my own devices. My wages are comparable to what many of my commuting neighbors earn, too, yet I don't pay their transportation costs. (My employer even provides me with a van.)

Perhaps best of all, my housing comes free with my occupation, I never have to pay any utility or telephone bills, and my vegetable plot is cared for on "company time."

What's My Line?

As you may already have guessed, I'm a professional gardener. And if that sounds imposing, you should know that I'm self-taught in my trade, having studied gardening books every night for years simply because I enjoyed them. In fact, I'm convinced that almost anyone could become a professional in this field, given little more than a desire to work outdoors and a willingness to learn. If the possibility appeals to you, begin by asking your county agricultural agent for information, buying gardening books, borrowing from your local public library, and taking college courses part time to improve your skills.

Of course, if you "go all the way" and obtain a degree in industrial horticulture, you could wind up earning a pretty fancy salary. But even in this age of specialization, it's still possible to be a success without formal training. I know one gardener who has worked on the same estate for 27 years, and he still knows so little about horticultural theory and technique that he's scarcely more than an unskilled laborer. But he and his wife live in a nice house, buy a new car every three years, enjoy a good relationship with their children, and have a huge vegetable garden, a cow, some chickens, a secure future, and no ulcers. If that man had a bit more education and ambition, he could have all of those advantages plus a little more cash (though I guess he really doesn't need any more).


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