Specialty Crops

Backroad Ramblings

This time of year, you have probably already made a plan. You know what you’re going to grow and where it’s going to go. 


However, with prices the way they are, you might be holding off, hoping that something will become profitable. Well, wait no more, because here are a few rather unconventional suggestions:

1. LAVENDER: Don’t laugh. Lavender is a pretty purple flower that is dried and sold to florists or made into things like lavender oil or soap. According to the article I read, a quarter acre of lavender can make as much as $18,000. Try doing that with alfalfa.

2. GARLIC: Elephant garlic, which has extra big cloves, is sold for $6-8/lb. Gourmet garlic, which is far superior to ordinary garlic, goes for around $10 a pound. An acre of good soil can yield up to 15,000 lbs. of garlic. At a measly $6.00/lb., this is $90,000 per acre. 

3. MUSHROOMS: Mushrooms must be grown indoors, so you’ll have to clear a space in your shop. Don’t panic, it’s not much space, just a little 10x10 plot can grow more than $17,000 worth of mushrooms. Even the messiest shop can spare that much room.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to toss your corn planter into the ditch and find a lavender planter? Well, hold on because you know what they say about things that sound too good to be true. Here are a few of the drawbacks to these amazing crops.

1. LAVENDER: Lavender is a Mediterranean plant, so it needs a similar climate. It needs mild winters, not-too-hot summers, and low humidity. However, it’s been grown near the Great Lakes and in Washington state, so it is possible.

2. GARLIC: Garlic is fragile and must be harvested by hand – with a fork. Forks are recommended because they don’t slice through the bulbs as easily as shovels. For some reason $90,000 per acre doesn’t sound quite as good when you think about harvesting a whole acre on your hands and knees with a fork. It still sounds good, just not quite as good.

3. MUSHROOMS: Commercial mushroom farming is very expensive to get into. It takes high tech equipment because mushrooms are climate controlled for temperature, humidity and fresh air. They also need very specific compost to grow in. Mushroom farming – like any farming – is not for the faint hearted.

On top of all this, you also have the problem of where to market your crops. All three can be sold at farmer’s markets, but to make the big bucks, you would have to get out there and do your own marketing, and this might be tough.

Florists might buy a lot of lavender, but they might not want to buy it from some guy off the street. In other words, while it is possible to make money with this stuff, it’s not just a walk in the park.

But if you’re ready for a challenge and adventure, go for it. Who knows, maybe you’ll start a new fad and your neighbors will soon be throwing their corn planters in the ditch too. 

Or maybe that’s just because of corn prices.