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

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    When Sam started market gardening seriously back in 1975, he found these customers by paying daytime visits to area chefs and showing them his goods, produce that in many cases was the best the cooks had ever seen.
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    The most striking aspect of David's garden is that a large percentage of it is covered by plastic.
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    Bob and Sandy Gow are proof that talent and hard work don't always mean success.

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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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