Urban Backyard Farming for Profit

Use these four example urban farming business plans and find inspiration to start a gardening business in your own back yard.

  • Leverage your small space to earn a profit with a strategic planting design.
    Photo by Curtis Stone
  • The authortrims greens with a Quick Cut Greens harvester in his polytunnel greenhouse made with chain-link fence top rail.
    Photo by Andrew Barton
  • A polytunnel greenhouse, which can be built in a day, provides season-extension and an efficient vertical work space.
    Photo by Curtis Stone
  • If you sell to chefs, like this farmer in Austin, Texas, does, you can plan to grow larger amounts of in-demand crops.
    Photo by Scott David Gordon

In this excerpt from The Urban Farmer, courtesy of New Society Publishers, Curtis Stone offers an innovative approach to urban backyard farming for profit — one that doesn’t require starting with acres of land in the country. In these urban farming business plans, which are based on his own experience and which have been refined over years, Stone outlines how you can start a gardening business while still working a 9-to-5 job, and increase your commitment and profits over time.

All the urban farming business plan models I’m proposing are designed to be scalable. You can start as a part-time farmer in your own backyard (Model 1), and then, after you gain some experience and feel comfortable quitting your day job to pursue farming full-time, you can scale up to 1⁄10 acre (Model 2) or 1⁄4 acre (Model 3). From there, you can continue to scale up as you see fit.

A quarter acre of land or less is the right amount to start with if you don’t have any previous experience in farming. I want to reiterate the lesson I should have learned after my first year: Don’t take on too much! Start small and grow slowly. On 1⁄4 acre, you have the potential to make $50,000 from the land itself, but if you incorporate some greenhouse or indoor microgreens, you could considerably increase that number — all by selling vegetables. This will all depend on your market streams. Understanding your market will be the key to your success in urban backyard farming.

Start a Gardening Business

Start-up costs. In order to spend less money as you start your gardening business, you’ll need to spend more time looking for deals on your major investments. If you can give yourself six months prior to starting, like I did, that should be enough time to build the infrastructure you need, prep some land, and look for the best deals on good used equipment. Using websites such as Craigslist, I found a lot of great deals, but I sometimes had to drive for hours to pick an item up. It was all worth it, though. I purchased a BCS tiller with three implements for $1,000, and I bought my first walk-in cooler for $1,000. If I had bought both of those items new, I would have spent $8,000 more. Be sure to shop around. Also, use Craigslist or other websites to post what you’re looking for — I found my BCS because of a post I published. The $7,000 I spent in my first season covered all of my major investments as well as seeds, tools, irrigation equipment, and fertilizer.

Revenue sources. To achieve ambitious revenue from 1⁄4 acre or less, you’ll need access to high-end restaurants and good farmers markets. Specialize in the crops that give you the highest return on the smallest amount of land in the least amount of turnover time. Your trade-off will be less diversity in crop selection. I wouldn’t consider operating a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program at first, as they’re best suited to 1⁄2 acre or more (Model 4).

The advantage of selling vegetables to restaurant markets is that you can grow large quantities of vegetables that have high margins. For example, I grow a lot of baby root vegetables, such as radishes, because some of my customers will go through 100 bunches per week. I grow them almost exclusively for restaurants. I can sell up to 200 pounds per week to all of my clients, but there’s no way I could sell that much at a market, or even in a CSA program; I’m lucky to sell 20 bunches on a good market day.

11/13/2018 8:24:01 PM

Thank you for an in depth article. My mother recently passed away, and I’ve inherited the house I grew up in, plus my grandparents house next door, and 10 acres of land, with a creek running through the property. When I was a kid, we planted everything you can imagine in three different areas of the property. My mother, and my grandmother canned and put up in a freezer, put up so much food until we had to give veggies away. The amount of veg grown back then is mind numbing when I think back. My point is, I’m thinking seriously about farming a couple acres....can someone chime in with an opinion, is 2 acres to large of an area to start off? I’ve worked on and off as a parts sales person and manager from time to time at a Nissan Dealership. This used to pay well, and was a respected job, but no more! I won’t even make $40,000 this year, and I basically live at the job! I live in the Northwest Georgia area, I’m 15 minutes from Rome,Ga, and 50 minutes from Marietta, Ga, and a little over an hour from Atlanta. There’s a lot of higher end restaurants, several that pride themselves as farm to table. Again, is two acres bitting off a bit too much, or should I just jump in? Any thoughts would be appreciated! Thanks Charlie

4/13/2018 10:21:06 AM




Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters