Market Gardening

Market gardening is a home-based business that can pay in this farm-killing economy, includes small-farm testimonials on growing crops for market and how to survive in the market gardening business.

| May/June 1987

Can market gardening pay in this farm-killing economy? Judging by the three people we visited, the answer is yes, yes and no. 

Making a Living Market Gardening

Many a back yard gardener, happily tending vegetables or flowers, has stopped to ponder: Wouldn't it be fun to do this all the time? To garden during the workweek instead of squeezing it in during spare hours?

Most of us dwell only a moment on that fantasy before going back to weeding the carrots—because behind that first, appealing query lies a more basic and difficult one: Would it be possible? Can a person expand a garden, find buyers for fresh, homegrown crops and actually earn a living?

To find out, let's visit three people who, collectively, have spent 20 years market gardening and trying to fulfill this dream: Sam Smith, with his six-acre Caretaker Farm in Williamstown, Massachusetts; David Miskell, on three acres outside Burlington, Vermont; and Bob Gow, with three acres of produce and flowers in rural Zionville, North Carolina. Their stories will reveal many of the ingredients that can make market gardening a success—or a failure.

Williamstown, a small college town, lies in a beautiful New England setting that beckons to summer tourists. Many fine restaurants cater to those visitors. And Sam Smith caters to those restaurants, selling lettuce and other vegetables to a dozen eateries from May through September.

Smith—wiry, friendly and 51 years old—has run his large garden/small farm for 12 years. His 10-acre holding consists of good land in a flat, fertile valley, and his home is comfortable and attractive. He speaks quietly, a dedicated, self-assured but not boastful man.

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