11 Ways That Anyone Can Start in Agriculture

Drop everything to start a CSA tomorrow? No way. But if you dream of having a farm, here are some ways you can get started in the space you already have.

by Jesse Frost
PHOTO: Christopher Paquette/Flickr

Although I would never advocate that a person just quit his or her job outright to start a farm, I often tell people who dream of farming that they should—and could—start right now. The reality? You don’t have to change your entire life to take part in agriculture—to become a farmer.

You might not even have to move. Agriculture is scaleable. Want animals but don’t have large acreage? Raise smaller animals. Want a garden but have only a backyard? Try microgreens. Or build a greenhouse and sell plant starts. Anyone can get into agriculture and even make a little money at it, no matter your age, time or available space. You can move to a bigger farm once you get the hang of it.

Here are some options you can start with today.

What You Can Do With a Backyard or Rooftop

  • Beekeeping: Bees take almost no space and require minimal work compared with other agricultural endeavors. Plus, you can get your first hive for a couple of hundred dollars—not a bad investment.
  • Microgreens: Though some sunlight or supplemental light is necessary, microgreens take up very little space, grow quickly and are highly profitable, if you plan to sell.
  • Plant Starts: If you have enough room for a greenhouse, you could consider growing plant starts.
  • Greens & Small Vegetables: Do you have enough room to grow some vegetables? Less than half an acre is plenty—Urban farmer Curtis Stone makes a full living on one-third acre.
  • Mushrooms: Do you love mushrooms? Me too. The good news is they are not that difficult to grow and they take up almost no room. Outdoors, they can be grown in garden beds, in greenhouses, on logs or on porches. Tradd Cotter’s Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation is a great starting point.
  • Quail Eggs: When trying to start small, think small. Chickens are too big, too hungry and not very productive on a small scale. Quails, on the other hand, are small, efficient and productive, and their eggs fetch a nice premium at markets and restaurants.
  • Aquaponics: Aquapoinics uses fish and plants in symbiosis. The plants clean the water, the fish feed the plants, and the grower gets to reap fish and veggies. It takes some infrastructure, but there is a lot of good info out now about it to help you get started.
  • Rabbits: Again—if you’re interested in protein, think small. As pets or meat, rabbits take up very little space, they are quiet and clean, and they reproduce like, well, rabbits. Can be a great first farming venture.

What You Can Do With a Basement or Other Room

  • Mushrooms: Yes, mushrooms can be grown indoors or outdoors (or both). Certain crops thrive in very dark, controlled environments. These include buttons, shiitakes and portabellas.
  • Hydroponics: Don’t have a yard but want to grow something green? Don’t sweat it. Indoor agriculture is becoming a big business, and the information and technology available for growing greens indoors has greatly expanded. Grow bights are better, watering systems tightened up—it can be productive and efficient.
  • Worms and Worm Castings: Have a large garage or basement? Why not create some soil. Worms eat a large range of foods—much of which you could get free from restaurants—and can be very productive. The castings can be sold to gardeners or used on your own garden, while the worms make for excellent fish bait.

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