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What is Market Gardening?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2016
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Market gardening is both a very old way to farm and a very new and popular one. The market gardener is someone who has a small area of land. The term small can be used in comparison to most large commercial farms, where acres possessed can be in the tens of thousands. Typically small could mean anywhere from one to a couple of acres to 50 or over. On this land the farmer grows whatever he or she wishes, but instead of growing it for commercial markets, produce is usually sold at places like farmer’s markets, or to small local grocery stores and restaurants. Sometimes the market gardener maintains a sales site on his or her land and sells directly to customers from the farm.

The farmer and family do much of the work involved in market gardening. Occasionally if a farm is on the larger side, workers might be hired on a temporary basis to harvest fruit or for other tasks. Yet just about every market gardener can attest that they perform hard physical labor to grow fruit and veggies. Part of the appeal of this type of farming to many consumers is that growing methods used are frequently organic, since this not only may reduce work, but also reduces costs. However some profits can be lost due to crop loss that may occur with organic farming, though there are many interventions that may save crops.

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While the work of market gardening is difficult, it is possible for some farmers to make a living with a small farm. Much depends on how well the farmer can assess market and determine what produce would be most profitable to grow. Other influencing factors on making a living include the quality of produce, and the way in which the farmer is able to successfully sell that produce. Market gardens often work best in areas where thriving community farmer's markets exist, since these are a natural place to sell things produced on the land and there is an appetite for supporting market farms.

Though there are a few market gardening owners who specialize in growing one type of vegetable, specialization is not that common. Most gardeners grow a variety of produce that could include small expensive item like blueberries and peaches to commonly requested vegetables like summer squash, tomatoes and lettuces. A few gardeners extend their growing season as long as possible by producing produce that grows well in fall and winter like pumpkins and other winter squash, or certain types of apples.

Like all farmers, those who practice market gardening are subject to the weather highs and lows of each year. Weather patterns at the wrong time in a growth season could decimate crops for a year, and this effect might be greatly felt from an economic standpoint. Farmers who choose this path don’t always rake in huge profits, though they do have the advantage of being able to provide many of the foods their family could need. This is often the path of the person who expects to work hard and loves to participate in the process of creating food.

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