The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t seemed to curb our appetites or enthusiasm for fresh vegetables. In fact, trend watchers are saying that more and more people are preparing food at home using fresh produce from farmer’s markets and other retail outlets.
This trend and the overall demand for fresh produce in urban markets should continue to offer opportunities for growers to run a profitable business.
To stay profitable in the months ahead growers need to focus on what’s in demand and how to grow it in the most efficient, and safe manner possible.
The following list of vegetables, including a few specialty items, isn’t necessarily ranked in order of popularity or profit-making potential, but rather what growers and seed sellers are seeing as consistent or upward trends in consumer tastes for fresh, wholesome vegetables.
Tomatoes are not only a perennial favorite for growers and consumers but a good profit-maker when grown on supports either in a greenhouse, hoop house or in the field. Farmer’s market-goers are interested in just about any type of tomato grown, including heirloom, cherry, and beefsteak-type tomatoes.
- Utilize a greenhouse or hoop house for more control over growing conditions, quicker ripening, and extending the season.
- Grow-on at 73-77 degrees night and day, lower temperature at fruit set to 63-66 degrees at night for a more productive harvest.
- Manage plants with regular pruning and feeding for season-long production.
Beans (bush and pole)
String beans offer a unique opportunity for growers to score big due to the many tasty-looking offerings for shoppers. Growers can grow a combination of beans--yellow, green, purple, flat, or round--that will attract the eye and palette of the consumer at farmers markets and retail stores.
Beans grow best outdoors in full sun. Because they’re a legume they add nitrogen to the soil in the fall when the plants are worked into the soil. The Mexican Bean Beetle can be a problem but can also be managed by learning more about this pest and how to control it.
- Sow seed when the ground is warm to avoid spotty germination. Adding an inoculant at the time of planting can increase yields.
- In warmer climates, sow successive crops 2-3 weeks apart until midsummer.
- Trellis pole beans to maximize space.
You can hardly talk about tomatoes without mentioning basil. Mix the two together, add some garlic and onion, salt and pepper, simmer for twenty minutes or so and you’ve got a pasta sauce to die for.
However, over the past few years, growers have lost their appetite for growing sweet basil due to concerns over downy mildew. Fortunately, downy mildew resistant (DMR) varieties have been bred producing some healthy, productive strains of sweet basil. Now might be the right time to jump back on the basil bandwagon.
- Grow varieties of basil that are resistant to downy mildew.
- Look for compact varieties slow to bolt.
- Grow interesting varieties that add interest to your display.
These tiny seedlings are currently the rock stars in the edible plant world. They’re easy to grow, mature in a matter of days, and are sought after in kitchens and restaurants far and wide. So what are you waiting for?
Because they don’t take up a lot of space and can be grown in a basement indoors or outside in a hoop house or greenhouse it should be easy for any grower to include them in their growing-for-profit plans.
Microgreens are seedlings from various vegetables and herb plants, including basil, beets, arugula, and dozens more. Each has its unique flavor.
- Choose microgreen seeds of plants that are popular with consumers, like arugula, which has a peppery taste, and red beets, which have a more earthy taste.
- Plot out how you can successfully grow your microgreens so they’re available for your customers all season.
- Learn how to grow microgreens in soilless media, like biostrate, and stack them in trays to maximize space and profits.
If you’re looking to add a little novelty to your offerings at the markets, consider wheatgrass. While the health benefits may be a little hyped, the popularity of wheatgrass isn’t in doubt, which is good news for growers.
People buy wheatgrass mostly to make wheatgrass juice. Hard Red Winter Wheat is a good choice for juicing and can be purchased by the pound. This variety is cut at 3-5 inches tall and will grow back for multiple cuttings.
- Announce on social media or in advertisements that you have wheatgrass, which may be just the drawing card you need to attract customers to your stand.
- Hand out flyers on how to prepare and use wheatgrass in the kitchen.
- Devote a spot to grow wheatgrass outside or in a hoop house to have a continual supply.
Green leafy vegetables:
No discussion about vegetables would be complete without mentioning green leafy vegetables: lettuce, kale, arugula, and pak choi. These can be grown for farmer’s markets, retail stores, and restaurants.
There are so many greens to choose from it can be a little overwhelming, especially when trying to plan for the taste buds of market-goers. Keep your ear low to the ground and try to find out what people are interested in buying. Just make sure you include this popular item in your offerings.
- Find out what particular greens are popular with consumers.
- Experiment with new and novel greens to add interest to your offerings.
- Grow greens hydroponically in a greenhouse or start them early in a hoop house or in the field and plant successively until the weather no longer permits. Some farmers in urban areas have been successful in planting lettuce and other greens indoors using shelving and LED lights to maximize production.
By keeping up with the latest trends and growing methods that maximize production, farmers can profit in an industry that is guided by consumers who enthusiastically embrace tasty, nutritious vegetables.
Cropking sells everything you need to grow fresh vegetables for market, from greenhouse structures, hoop houses, and high tunnels to NFT systems, growing media, and seed. We also offer an educational program to learn more about growing hydroponically. Contact us to learn more about how you can become more profitable growing fresh vegetables and other crops.