Working as an Organic Vegetable Grower
It is amazing how little land you might need to start out as a commercial organic vegetable grower.
A "small farm" can often be started up in a backyard or on a half acre block of land leased near your home. Small operations like this may not be big enough to make a fortune; but they can be
- a viable starting point (you can move and expand later), or
- a great small business to supplement your existing income.
When you start, you may sell produce at a local weekend market, even sharing a stand with someone else; or you might find some local retailers to supply.
Crops are most often grown by cultivating soil and forming it into long mounded rows (row cropping), then planting seed or seedlings on the raised rows. The long "ditches" between each mound are then used to access the plants. Sometimes vegetables are planted over a broad acreage (broad-acre crops), without mounds. Some growers may grow vegetables in a greenhouse, in order to get crops earlier or later in the season, when you can sell them for a higher price.
Certain market garden crops are more suited to broad-acre growing, where soil preparation may be less involved, and large machinery (often specially designed) can be used to plant, cultivate and harvest crops on a large scale. Techniques and equipment have been developed to grow potatoes, tomatoes, peas and carrots, along with some other market garden crops this way. The people who work in this large scale form of production will need to understand and operate expensive equipment. They may be growing tens or hundreds of acres of the same crop at the same time (often under contract to supply produce to a processor).
Smaller scale market growers may grow crops that are not needed or suited to growing on a large scale. Niche and gourmet crops may require less space, but offer a higher return per acre. Working such crops on a small scale might not be viable with big expensive machinery; but for a "start up" small size organic farm, such crops may offer a niche opportunity.
A market gardener needs to plant seed and/or plants, fertilise and water the growing plants, inspect the crops progress and respond to any health or other problems that arise (e.g. weeding, pest control, protection from extreme dry, cold, wet, etc.). They need to identify the right time to harvest, then harvest the plant and treat it properly after harvest (e.g. storing at the right temperature). The job can also involve delivering the plant to market, and perhaps selling it.
Where Do They Work?
Market gardeners who provide vegetables to a processing plant will need to be growing produce in a location where delivery to the processor is easy. This means transport facilities need to be close to the farm, and ideally the farm should be in the same locality or region as the factory.
Market gardeners who supply fresh produce to market will do best if they can grow close to where the end user lives. The cost of land in urban areas usually prohibits the farm being in an urban area (unless it is very intensive and productive farming), but often they will be located on the fringes of urban centres.
Certain products though, may not be able to be grown where they are needed - due to climatic conditions or because the grower wants a greater sense of control over the growing environment. In these cases, a vegetable might be grown in a greenhouse, or to produce an “out of season crop”. It may be more expensive to get to the user, but it may attract a much higher selling price.
Organic growers may need seasonal workers to help harvest a crop, or do other jobs at a particular time of year; but might not employ permanent staff. Small operation often enlist family members or local youth; while larger farms may need to employ permanent labour.
Large scale farms, or technologically advanced farming (e.g. organic hydroponics, aquaponics, greenhouse production, controlled environment mushroom production), can be lucrative business opportunities. There are market gardeners who have become very wealthy; and for the “smart farmer” opportunities exist, but those opportunities are more likely to be as a self-employed farmer than working for someone else.
Some market gardeners will grow into the job, because it was their family business; others may study and gain a job with a larger, established enterpise.
What Is Needed to Grow Organic Vegetables?
To grow organic vegetables or other market garden produce you need:
- Broad foundation knowledge of organic plant culture including soil, nutrition and water management, weed control, pest and disease management, etc.
- Knowledge of the specific requirements for growing different species or cultivars you choose to grow.
- Capacity to select cultivars that are productive and appropriate for the growing season.
- Skill to operate machinery and equipment, and apply safe and productive work practices.
- An understanding of harvest and post-harvest handling practices.
- If you are to be self-employed you need business and marketing skills.
Why Choose this Course?
- Learn the processes required to tap into the commercial organic vegetable market.
- An extensive course which provides a wealth of knowledge and practical skills.
- We show you how you can market your produce.
- Organic vegetables - environmentally sound crop this is a method of crop production with a future.
Register to Study -Go to panel toward top of this page (right column)
Get Advice -Use our FREE COUNSELLING SERVICE to contact a tutor
CLICK TO CONTACT US