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Horticulture

Horticultural Production Options

Drip irrigation of bell peppers

Drip or trickle irrigation is a very efficient method of applying water and nutrients to crops. For many crops, the conversion from sprinkler to drip irrigation can reduce water use by 50 percent.

Precipitation in Pennsylvania is usually sufficient for growing many agronomic and some horticultural crops. However, irrigation often is necessary because of the uneven distribution of precipitation throughout the year, especially during critical growth periods.

Organic production is a system that lends itself well to small-scale and part-time farming operations. Additionally, although the cost of certification and the time and labor involved in managing the system are high, returns have the potential to be high where markets are well developed for organic products.

Fruits

Golden Delicious Apples

Apples may be grown in many parts of the country and lend themselves well to part-time farming operations. Depending on the chosen production method, land preparation, and trees, initial investments may be considerable. However, this investment will be spread over a longer period of time than many crops, given an orchard lifetime of about 20 years.

Blueberries

Blueberries are well suited for small-scale and part-time farm operations. However, blueberry production is not for everyone due to the specialized cultivation requirements of the plants and the relatively short shelf life of the fruit.

Peaches

Peaches may be grown in many temperate areas of the United States. The startup costs for peaches can be high depending on the production method chosen, land preparation, and initial investment in the trees. However, the life of the orchard is expected to be at least 20 years, so this investment may be spread over a longer period of time than many crops.

Red Raspberries

Raspberry production is well suited to small farms, as a small area of raspberries can provide significant income and equipment needs for an acre or so of raspberries are not great.

Strawberries on Matted Row

Strawberry production can be a good fit for many small-scale and part-time farming operations. The high value of strawberries creates potential for significant profit from a small planting; however, management of this crop is intensive and there is the likelihood of encountering a number of production difficulties.

Grapes have been cultivated in Pennsylvania since the 1600s, and the first commercial vineyard in America was located here in the late eighteenth century. Grapes are produced in many areas throughout the Commonwealth and lend themselves well to small-scale and part-time farming operations.

Melons and Pumpkins

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupes (a common American name for muskmelons) are a crop that is well-suited to small-scale and part-time farms. There are multiple markets for growers with 5 acres or less, and many field operations - such as land preparation, planting, and harvesting - can be custom-hired.

Pumpkins

Pumpkins are a crop that is well-suited to small-scale and part-time farming operations. Many marketing opportunities, such as wholesale, retail, and pick-your-own, are available for small-scale growers.

Watermelon

Watermelons are a highly marketable crop for small-scale and part-time producers. There are multiple markets for growers with 5 acres or fewer, with fresh-market sales being predominant. Many field operations - such as land preparation, planting, and harvesting - can be custom-hired.

Vegetables

Asparagus

Asparagus is a perennial crop that lends itself well to small-scale and part-time farming operations. Multiple markets exist for growers with five acres or less, and those field operations that require machinery may be custom-hired.

Broccoli

Initial investment in a broccoli production operation is relatively low, and many field operations - such as land preparation, planting, and harvesting - can be custom hired. Equipment needs on a small-acreage farm are not very great, and most of the equipment can be used for other purposes.

Cucumber

Cucumbers lend themselves well to small-scale and part-time farming operations. Multiple markets exist for growers with fewer than 5 acres, and many field operations, such as land preparation, planting, and harvesting, can be custom hired.

Garlic Bulbs

Garlic is a crop that is well suited to a small acreage or as part of a larger direct marketing operation looking to diversify its mix of crops. It is well adapted for production in all parts of the United States. Yield and quality will vary with climate, region, altitude, soil and pH, cultural practices, and the variety of garlic.

Onions

Dry onions are a crop that lends itself well to small-scale and part-time farming operations. Multiple markets exist for growers with small acreages and the various colors and types of mature bulbs (red, yellow, and white) allow growers to find their market niche.

Peppers

Peppers lend themselves well to small-scale and part-time farming operations. Various markets exist for growers with small-acreage farms (those with fewer than 5 acres), and the multiple mature fruit colors (green, red, yellow, orange, purple, and brown), shapes, and varying hotness (from sweet to very hot) make it easier for growers to find niche markets.

Potatoes

Due to the wide diversity in types and high consumer consumption, potatoes fit well with many growers. They can be marketed direct to consumers at farm stands, farmers markets, and through other local retail outlets.

Snap Beans

Snap beans are a vegetable crop in the legume family, well-suited to small-scale and part-time farming operations. Initial investment is relatively low, and field operations - such as land preparation, planting, and mechanical harvesting - can be custom-hired. Equipment needs on a small-acreage farm are not very great, and most of the equipment can be used for other purposes.

Sweet Corn Ears

Sweet corn is a crop that lends itself well to small-scale and part-time farming operations. Initial investment is relatively low, and many field operations - such as land preparation, planting, and harvesting - can be custom-hired. Equipment needs on a small-acreage farm are not very great, and most of the equipment can be used for other purposes.

Tomatoes on the Vine

Tomatoes lend themselves well to small-scale and part-time farming operations. Many marketing opportunities are available for small-scale growers with multiple fruit colors (red, yellow, orange, and purple) and heirloom varieties, making it easier for growers to find niche markets.

Specialty Crops

Flower Production

The specialty cut-flower business may fit well into a small-scale and part-time farming operation. New growers can control startup costs by entering the business slowly through increasing investment and production as their businesses and markets grow.

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