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I think we all know that if you can fill a need for someone then you can earn from that. We have to stop for a moment and think, what do people want? This of course isn't always easy but for us as farmers, we often have a routine and although we may not clock in at 8:00am and leave at 5:00pm, we still have a schedule.

Our schedule is more of a planting and harvesting time plan and it is one we stick to if we are growing crops. This is where the general public fall short. Although we are aware of the temperature of our soil, if you live in a zone where it freezes, the general public isn't.


When the warm weather arrives, Joe Public wants to be out in the garden. It is almost an instinct. It is a burning desire to get out in the soil and plant.

Here is your market.


While Joe Public has been hard at work in an office, not realizing that spring was right around the corner, you have been potting up seedlings which are now doing quite nicely.

I have been to many farmers markets, swap meets and various market stalls and during spring, seedlings sell like hotcakes. I have stood by and watched a woman sell out of the stock she had brought. These included everything from marigolds to tomato plants.


I don't mind telling you I was gobsmacked as within a few weeks, these people could grow their own from seed and save a lot of money. Her customers wanted to get things moving fast and were happy to buy plants instead of waiting. 

So for just the price of a few plastic seed pots you could be on to a winner here. If you have a green house or a place indoors, start your seeds early so that when the gardening bug hits your customer, you have the product they want. 

It would be a good idea to also have information, either printed or verbally about the ideal growing conditions for the plant. Some people may ask and others may feel confident to buy without knowing this.  


Don't think because everyone grows plants such as tomatoes and common flowers that they will grow them from seed, many don't want the uncertainty of knowing if they will come up or not. 
 
 
Seedling in sandFarming in sandy soil
Every farmer knows that without good soil, you're going nowhere if you plan to raise crops or feed animals off the land. So what do you do if your soil is poor? You can of course have it analyzed to see what it is lacking and add a chemical cocktail to it to improve it. After all that is what has done and it's “the norm”. The problem with this method, is we need to ask ourselves, is this the right thing to do?

Sometimes we get caught up in the dogma of what has been done and think it  must be the right way or the only way. But if we go back still further in time, people wouldn't have gone out and bought something produced in a factory to spread on the fields, would they? No of course not. What they needed for their land was produced on the farm or at least near-by on a neighboring farm.

Where I live in Brazil, our soil (I use that term loosely) is sand. Our farm is 10 minutes from the beach and is backed by sand dunes. Sand as a growing medium is not ideal in anyone's book and as such needs improving.

Problems with sand are:

  • Compaction. In certain places on our farm I can dig down 6 inches and it feels solid. The start of sandstone. Adding cut vegetation including weeds, is the answer. 

  • Lack of  nutrients: With sand, when the rains come, the nutrients get washed away, leeching through the sand.

  • Doesn't retain water: While other people add sand to assist in drainage, ours is the opposite. Mulching again is part of the answer. 


I don't know if you believe in the Law of Attraction, but we knew we need to do something more than what we have been doing for the improvement of our soil. Then my husband came across a series of videos done by an American man living in India. He has similar problems to us with regards to planting in sand. His advice is grow beans and weeds. That isn't the only advice he offers, but it was the first video I watched and knew I wanted to share it with you. 

Here is one of his videos and if you are dealing with sandy soil, no matter which country you live in, I would encourage you to watch it.
 


 
 
PictureGrowing willow

The idea for this post came to me when I was in the kitchen cooking dinner. I could hear my husband listening to a video on his computer. It was the sound of machinery, specifically tractors. He was marveling at the ingenuity of some of the designs which were made for one type of job. Although many of them where huge, not all were. There was a particular one which was cutting willow. It was a machine that had huge shears on the front and the speed at which it was cutting through these young saplings was amazing. This machine cut and mulched the willow and shot this through a chute to a trailer which was traveling alongside. This would be turned into bio-fuel. However the video got me thinking about growing willow and the possible uses for it on a small farm.

Where I used to live there were willow trees along a roadside and wetlands. This was part of a land management of the local flood plain. These willows were trimmed every year by the local council and sold.


The willow is a versatile tree and many parts of it are used including the wood, bark, and saplings. 
  • The wood makes everything from cricket bats to broom handles. 
  • The bark and leaves are used medicinally and are the original source of aspirin.
  • Young willows which are about 3 meters high are harvested with the machine I mentioned above for use as bio-fuel. 
  • The flexible branches can be cut, and put into the ground to grow as a hedge or made into unique artistic designs. These can either be green which will continue to grow, in the design shape or dried and used as art.
  • Still younger ones, about a meter high are cut, often by hand and used for making crafts including bird feeders, baskets, and decorative art for the home or garden. Thicker pieces are woven in furniture which is often sold as patio furniture.

 



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So how can you make money from it? If you have low land, it's the ideal plant as little else with a commercial value will grown there.

  • To generate income from the willow for bio-fuel you will need to be growing a lot of it to make it viable for someone to come out and collect it. 

  • If you plan to use it as herbal or medicinal products, depending on which country you are in, there may be testing and legal licenses you need. 

  • An ideal way to earn from it is to have classes in basket making or other craft projects which use willow.

By using your farm as a meeting place, your costs are kept down. Aim to keep the classes small and personable, maybe 10 people or so. 


Don't think that it is only for adults though, consider teaching kids these crafts in their summer vacation period. Parents are always looking for activities to keep their kids occupied during the summer vacations and this could be an excellent money maker for you. 



You don't need to be an expert, as long as you can show them some easy to make craft projects. Get inspiration and your training using one of the books below. 
 


 
 
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If you are like most people you have consumed a fair share of mushrooms in your life. Some of these may have been in salads, on pizzas or in oriental dishes. Although certain types of mushrooms are  common in the produce aisle, there are many more varieties. Some are extremely expensive and are often never consumed except by the wealthy.

That said, mushrooms aren't difficult to grow. Plus there are types which you could be harvesting in just a few weeks.

Although there is a market for mushrooms which are sourced by walking in the woods, there is also a continual need by restaurants who are looking for a reliable source. This can be from cultivation.

Button and oyster mushrooms are the easiest to grow and if you are just beginning, these are ideal  to begin with.

These can be grown in logs, in plastic bags and some have even grown them in laundry baskets! In other words, they will grow in just about anything as long as it is rich in nutrients. Remember mushrooms are grown from spores, not seeds.

The spores can be bought online from reputable dealers.

If you have a basement or a crawl space these are ideal for growing mushrooms. If you are growing mushrooms outside, place in an area away from domestic animals which might contaminate it. This includes chickens, dogs, and cats. If you have mice or rats, get rid of them before growing your mushrooms.

Requirements for growing mushrooms are darkness, humidity and fertile soil.



They can grow on straw, cardboard, wood chips etc. This should be sterilized by soaking it in boiling water before using. This is then placed on top of the fertile growing mixture which can be home produced compost or purchased in a store. Think of this like a lasagna, you will be working in layers. Starting from the bottom.
  • Fertile compost
  • Straw, wood shavings or cardboard
  • Mushroom spores

 Depending on your ambient humidity you may or may not need to cover your growing area. A humidity tent can be made using a plastic bag or sheet of plastic which is kept elevated using sticks.

Instructions regarding the humidity levels usually accompany the spores when you purchase them. If you aren't certain about the humidity in your area, check your local weather channel online where that information is available.

You should see the first growth in about 3 weeks and harvesting shortly after that at a month to 6 weeks.


If you are growing them for your own consumption then you can harvest fresh daily. If you are planning to sell to a restaurant, keep in contact with them so they are ready to pay and accept delivery as soon as you harvest. If you provide an exceptional product and are easy to deal with, they will be a valuable and loyal customer. 
 
 
PictureEating Dandelion Greens
If you cringe in horror at the thought of them, don't be too hasty. In certain areas they are a nuisance, a pest,  and some would say a life long enemy to the gardener or those who love a perfect lawn.

But remember a weed is just a plant in the wrong place.

Although I no longer have to contend with the dandelion where I live in Brazil, we do have equally as invasive and unwanted plants. In fact some of the weeds I pull out, people in Europe and North America keep them as exotic house plants. I always find this rather funny.

Anyway let me get back to the topic of this post, dandelions. They are one of the most robust little plants as I'm sure you've seen them pushing up through cracks in the sidewalks and through asphalt.
 


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Dandelions in the yard

If you can't beat them, eat them.

This was the advice I gave to my cousin who lives in Montana. She sent me a photo of one because she couldn't believe how many flowers this one plant contained. It was as though it knew it was going to have a short growing season and pushed out as many as it could.

My cousin hates the idea of spraying chemical weed killer anywhere. She has dug, used household products on the garden and even if she eradicates them from her space, the wind will carry in another lot of seeds from a neighboring yard.

She is exasperated about this ongoing problem.

As luck would have it, I found an interesting article about using dandelions in cooking. Let's face it,  with those dark green leaves, they simply must be rich in vitamin C, A and K. We just need to change our mindset with regards to this plant and see it as a valuable  food.

One thing to mention is you do not want to eat any which may have been sprayed with pesticides or in an area which is trafficked by dogs.  


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Dandelion seeds are plentiful
The upshot of all this is, dandelions grow easily and can be an integral part of your garden. Why struggle with a variety of greens which isn't right for your area when you probably have this prolific plant growing near you?

The seeds as you know blow easily away although are easily retained from a dandelion seed head.



I am sure you have seen upmarket chefs using these in their cooking. You can too.  

 
 
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In a time when we are trying to maximise the output of our farms, wouldn't it be great if you could get paid twice for the same plot? This is something we are doing on our tilapia farm although it can be adapted easily to a backyard pond, or even an aquarium. 


Aquaponics is the phrase given to plants which grown in water not soil. The best thing, in my opinion is NO WEEDS. Sure you get to eat healthy salads and plants from it with very little work and you can eat the fish as well. 


This type of combination is nothing new as in the far east they have been doing it for a long time. There they add fish (usually tilapia) into the flooded rice fields. When the rice is ready to pick, the fish are then consumed as well. It has taken the west awhile to catch up but now they have seen the sense in doing so. 


Just recently I read about the use of rice fields outside Sacramento in northern California for the rearing of salmon. Yes I said salmon. These weren't allowed to grow to full size but the fry (baby fish) were grown on considerably. 


Now you may be thinking, I don't grow rice. 

My point is the fish are beneficial to the water with their excrement providing a free fertilizer. 


What you can do, similar to our fish farm, is grow the plants on top of the water. The roots will draw up the needed nutrients from the lake, pond, aquarium below. 

Obviously these need to be above ground plants, not potatoes, beets or radishes. That isn't to say you can't use this fertile water for those plants you can. Draining some of the water over root crops is a brilliant idea.

Any plants such as lettuces, peppers, tomatoes can be grown in this way. Ground creeping plants such as cucumbers and squash can be grown using this system although they would be best with a frame for support of the veg.


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The fish which are suitable are Small mouth Bass, Crappie, Chinese Catfish, Tilapia, Koi, and Bluegill.In our lakes we have tilapia but also have other fish such as peacock bass.


We sell the majority of our plants which we grow through this aquaponics system and they sell easily as they are a deeper green than the ones currently available .
  

So to recap, no weeds, obviously no watering, and they are constantly being fed with fertilizer from the fish.  As you can see, there is no downside. 
 
 
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It's that time of year again when people begin thinking about planting a garden. The thought of eating juicy and flavorful homegrown tomatoes is enticing to be sure. Of course the correct time for planting out is dependent on your area, but you can still start your seeds and get them ready for the planting early.

Below are the zones for the USA, these are only guidelines, as of course the climate changes from year to year and even many an experienced farmer has been caught out by unseasonable weather changes.  



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As there is a greater and greater push to have GMO free food, consider purchasing seeds which come from specialist growers who are striving to increase the amount of GMO free food.  Opt for early fruiting varieties to get the tomatoes coming in as soon as possible.


  If you are planning to grow to sell at a farmers market then the sooner you can display red ripe tomatoes the better. You will be able to ask a higher price as well. Remember the consumer will have been eating tasteless ones all winter long. Although we hate to think that the customer might damage what we are selling by picking it up, suggest they pick it up and smell it. The aroma will sell them even if the tomatoes don't look perfect.  

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If you don't have a greenhouse, you can still get your seedlings ready inside, select a position near a window but away from a direct heat source.  Check them daily to see if they need watering.  Although this can seem like a hassle as often space is limited in some homes these days, the potential benefit of an early start makes it worth the effort.


Prepare your bed early with a high concentration of organic matter. Give this time to settle in before putting your young plants in it. A little preparation now can save hours of headaches later. 


Source your sticks, cages, or other supports. It is no good running around at the last minute looking for these when your crop is beginning to fall over due to the weight of fruit hanging on it. 


Remember to begin pinching off any side shoots once they start appearing.To get a strong central stem and a maximum crop yield,  this needs to be done regularly. 


Check your plants daily for insects and any other potential problems.  We have all been there, where we go outside and discover a caterpillar, has chewed through a good portion of the leaves. It is downright depressing when this happens after all the preparation and work which has gone in to your plants. By checking the leaves on the top and underneath you will be able to keep these at bay.  If you see butterflies, it is time to be extra vigiliant as they will undoubtedly be depositing their eggs on your plants. 
Aquaponics 4 You
 
 
I've spoken before about the potential of higher returns from tourists than from farming activities. Today's post is a combination of both. A crop and a tourist attraction.


Enter the maize maze or if you are in the USA/ Canada a corn maze. These are a popular attraction with people of all ages. With the use of a drone or helicopter, you will be able to take an aerial video of your maze. This is an excellent idea for promotions both online, and in the media. Journalists love having all the work done for them and if you can get a short video and a write up about the corn maze, its design, your farm etc, the newspapers and local TV love it. Free advertising that reaches local residents, who are most likely to be your customers is always a boost.



The times of merely cutting a few random paths through a field of corn are no more. Designs are intricate and sometimes recognizable images of famous people, characters or places. Designing and accurately cutting these to precise measurements is a skill. There are now  companies whose sole job it is to design and plan these with the farmer.


With the aid of GPS, these are cut to perfection.



According to some, a farmer can expect to bring in between $5,000- $50,000 in a season
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As always though the money sounds great but it takes planning and it takes money to get started. You'll need a designer, seeds, someone to market, machinery and staff who will take care of your customers. 


Opt for a variety of corn which has a long season. Remember kids go back to school in September, and you want your corn to be green until they are back in school. The longer it can stay looking great, the better for your returns. Your peak time will be over summer school vacation, when families are out and about. 


It isn't just kids who enjoy this though, people of all ages love to 'get lost' for awhile. It also isn't only daytime, opt for moonlight strolls, organize bat sightings, some even have zombie nights. This is where you need a marketing ninja. They can be worth they weight in gold, and will pay for their salary many times over.   
 
 
You may already know duckweed and think of it as a nuisance. It's true it is a very invasive plant if left to grow wild and uncontrolled.  Here on our farm we have built ponds dedicated to the growing of duckweed.

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The reason we have built these ponds is because we raise tilapia here in northeastern Brazil.  The duckweed plant is a great source of protein and has halved out food bill for the tilapia! For 10,000 fish, you can imagine this is quite a savings. 


If you would like to find out how to build duckweed ponds,  I have written an article on Hubpages. 


Although we use it for feeding our tilapia, there are people who feed it to chickens and other animals. It is also consumed by people in Asia. Besides using it as a feed supplement, you can also make money from growing duckweed. If you take a look at Ebay for example there will be people selling it. They are also selling it on Amazon.  When you realize how fast this plant grows you will understand that this could be a little gold mine. 


Let's look at what you will need to do to sell your plants. Firstly you will need an Ebay account. If you are like most people you already have one. On you write up about it, tout the benefits of using duckweed. Remember it isn't just about farm animals.  Think of all the people who have aquariums. Even in they grow it in a bowl on their kitchen counter for their goldfish,  they are still a potential customer of yours. 


For those who have a garden pond, they may like the idea of having duckweed either in their pond or as a feed for their fish. People who have chickens. All of these people could be your customers. Make a stunning sales page when describing the benefits of duckweed to sale on Ebay. You will need leakproof bags which you can send through the mail. Some people sell 50 plants and others sell 1/4 cup. Either way, when you see how fast this grows, it will be like a money plant. 

***One caveat here is, you can't sell plants abroad.  Check the restrictions in your country and with your postal service. Most countries do not allow this as the chance of transfering diseases and pests into a new environment is high. That said, their will be a market for it in your country. 
 
 
It is said that inspiration comes when you least expect it and this was the case for Charles Hudson.

With a farm of 650 acres in the Uk and only making ends meet, they realized they needed to modify the way their farm ran. But what changes could they make. Arable crops and beef were what his family did and what he knew.

It is easy for people to get stuck in their ways and continue doing the same old thing day in and day out but with an increasing overdraft and pressure from supermarkets, changes needed to be found.

Mr. Hudson attended a wedding service and noticed the paper confetti stuck to the ground outside the church. The vicar wasn't happy with the mess which paper confetti makes.


Back home, Charles glanced at the table where a vase of flowers was sitting. These had been there a few days and some of the petals had fallen and were scattered on the table. He picked a few up, and let them fall through his fingers. “Hmm, I wonder...”.


When Charles went to the farm manager, he got a quizzical look. This look was a common site as he told other farmers about his idea. Now, several years later, that has change and so has the landscape around his farm. He now farms 8 acres of delphiniums and those 8 acres account for 20% of the farm's revenue.


When you're venturing into unknown territory, there are going to be a few mistakes. Learning about which flowers work out to be the best for confetti. Although most people automatically associate rose petals, delphiniums are in fact what Mr. Hudson grows. These flower petals are hand picked and dried naturally which allows them to keep their color.

To cut out the middleman, The Real Flower Confetti company deals direct with brides and the wedding party. They will send out samples of the confetti petals so a bride can get just the colors they require.


This has been an uphill battle, but it is an increasing market and the wedding market in the UK alone is massive. There is a big push to use biodegrable and pesticide free products and this is another reason why their company is growing rapidly.


Now The Real Flower Confetti Company have not just delphiniums but also other flowers as well and has accessories such as personalized paper cones of confetti and baskets for sale as well.