25+ Profitable Small Farm Ideas
You have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into your small farm. You can discover small farm ideas to make money, so now it is time to turn it into a profitable agricultural business. Any ideas you have are the basis of your new business start-up. You must determine what kind of farming is profitable and doable for you. Let’s do an analysis of your situation before you begin. Write everything down, not only to remember your thoughts, but also to add and discard ideas. Find one or more of these profitable hobby farm ideas and you should be on the road to making some money.
Table of Contents
Where Do You Start?
Before you begin, assess your talents, likes, and dislikes. Avoid your dislikes, for you won’t do well pursuing them. You won’t put your heart into the effort. Look at what you are good at and what you like. That is where you will find success. Get serious about your agricultural business. Look at your assets, such as barns, outbuildings, fencing, and so on so that you can accomplish your dreams within the reality you have. Consider all farming ideas for small acreage before you begin.
What things do you like to do—for example, plant a garden or raise sheep? What assets or resources do you have available? Barn? Flat ground? Nice forest? Organic farm owners are a unique group of people committed to an ideal. Do you want to do organic farming or traditional? Do you mind having people visit/stay at your farm?
Investigate your farming business ideas, and make sure there is a market for your product. Years ago, we had a neighbor new to the concept of a small-scale farm. He had been living in a major city all of his life. The first thing he did was to go and buy 4 ostriches at $50,000 each because he planned to breed them, sell their eggs, meat, as well as ostrich chicks to the public. He created their “pasture” on an alfalfa field, and sat back and waited for the eggs to arrive.
He did not do any business planning or market research, and did not join any ostrich organization that might have helped him with raising or marketing his birds. He had very little knowledge of ostriches except what he was told by the seller of his birds, and never spent time learning how to maintain them properly. He had a total of one egg and no chicks. As a result, in three years, they ended up eating those ostriches—pretty expensive meat! And definitely not one of the profitable small farm ideas!
When considering small farm ideas, remember what you have to work with. The most profitable crop will depend upon your soil, climate, equipment, market, time, interest, and money you have.
Tree farming covers a number of different enterprises.
You can create a tree farm for lumber, wood pulp and paper products, wood-based composites (veneer, plywood), fruits, nuts, and fuel. This is definitely a long-term investment. Profits can be huge, but you have to wait a long time to collect, fifteen to twenty-five years or more.
You can also incorporate your tree farm into an agroforestry plan to make your land more efficient.
Drones are an ideal method of surveying and managing your woody crops. With a drone camera, you can assess the health of your crop, and if necessary, a drone can spray fertilizers or insecticides on the forest. A drone would make it much easier to effectively manage this investment.
Trees, for the most part, are easy keepers, even though this type of tree farming is expensive to get into. Often a farmer, early in life, will plant trees as part of their retirement program on their own farm.
Another long-term project, but not as long as a tree farm, is a Christmas tree farm. This is a seasonal business with a very small window to sell through. You need to choose a Christmas tree variety that works in your region, purchase and plant seedlings. Then your wait begins, anywhere from six to ten years or more.
You can sell your trees direct to the public or contract with a vendor and deliver cut products. Profit margins on a Christmas tree farm range between 25-30%, after expenses are debited.
Tree and Shrub Nursery
You can build a tree nursery where you would sell shrubs or young trees. The beauty of this program is that the young trees can be sold as they mature (at 1 year, 3 years, five or 10 years). Your trees, even if unsold at the end of a season, can be reintroduced the next season.
The trees never go to waste—if maintained. Some customers will want the young trees at a low cost, whereas others will want a more mature tree and are willing to pay more.
You can plant an orchard, and when the fruit ripens, you can sell that fruit or you can have a “pick your own farm” where you allow customers to harvest fruit trees. They come in, pick the amount of fruit they want, you weigh their produce, and get paid.
Orchards take a bit more work in that you would need to spray the trees several times a year to ensure good produce. Orchards are harder to grow organically, but it is doable and you can charge more for products grown by organic farming.
Multiple possibilities of cash crop income exist for you if you have a green thumb or are willing to learn to grow plants. If you add a fitted-out greenhouse to your assets, you can provide the different plants throughout the year, rather than just annually. Some of these crops are ideal for small-scale farms.
If you love growing flowers, this may be the farm business for you. You can grow cut flowers for grocery stores, florists, weddings, farmers’ markets, and wholesalers. You can start seedlings and sell them direct or wholesale to vendors.
In 2022, an acre of land can produce $30,000 profit from all types of flower ventures. Most flower farms are 5 acres or less, with big producers planting over 20 acres. For the right person, this can be a lucrative cash crop.
A farmer located on a major highway near us grew a field of ageratum one summer. It was unexpected to see along the highway, but people loved it and would stop their cars to look. They (with permission) took photos in the field, and everyone in the community talked about that beautiful field. I found out that the farmer was selling the seeds, and it was quite profitable for him.
There is a lavender farm not far from us. The land here is perfect for growing lavender, and they have planted several varieties in a 5-acre plot. In early July every year, they have a lavender festival where people can come and buy lavender products (soaps, bouquets, etc.), crafts, and take photos. This festival is a highly profitable business for the owners, but it has taken a number of years to grow to its current size.
Native plants, one of the newer ideas for small farm business, depend upon the specific region you live in. The business of native plants has been growing over the past 20 years, and it is one of the profitable crops. People realize that if they don’t fight Mother Nature and grow plants that are comfortable in their region, their gardens will benefit.
A plant is considered a native plant “if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction.” Scientists have found that their roots are much more readily established in the local soil and that they are compatible with the native wildlife (including bugs) of the area.
There are a number of online sources where you can purchase plants to get your native plant business started. For a part-time effort, you could earn at least $15,000, while full-time, native plants could earn you $55,000+. Native seeds are another income source, and these seeds have enormous profitability.
Herbs are another very profitable agricultural business, matching the flower businesses at about $30,000 an acre in profit. You have a lot of different directions you can take with herbs. You can grow and sell live plants, or dry herbs. You can do mixes of herbs, ethnic herbs, or follow current cooking trends. If you are knowledgeable, you can even prepare medicinal herbs.
Lavender also falls into the herb category as well as in the flower group, and it is one of the easiest herbs to grow.
There is a very large market for vegetables: farmers’ markets, individual customer orders, sell on-site, restaurants (especially organic vegetables), and even some local grocery stores. Local market demand makes a difference in this category.
Theoretically, with a great deal of work and 1.5 acres, you could earn $60,000-$140,000 annually from a market garden. It takes time to establish this type of business, and unless you are using a greenhouse, you are at the mercy of the weather. The farmers who have earned these figures say that there is an operating margin of about 50%.
Jean-Martin Fortier, one of the most successful of market gardening operators, says, “Market gardening is as much about selling as it is about growing, and having the farm close to the market is crucial.”
Microgreens are a specialty market that is growing by leaps and bounds, and can possibly make you a microgreen business profit. Microgreens are the early shoots of salad vegetables. Arugula, Swiss chard, mustard, and many other herbs and vegetables are picked just after the first leaves form. A micro-farm is easy to set up and you see a crop within days of sprouting.
Profitable micro-farming can give you $50 a pound or more. You only need a small space for this crop, but once you harvest, you have to start over again. Local restaurants will be quite interested in you can supply them on a regular basis.
In 2022, a mushroom farmer’s average salary ranged between $40,000 to over six figures. The compensation depends upon the farmer’s level of experience in mushroom farming as well as how much time he put into the enterprise. Gourmet mushrooms, a great high value crop in mushroom farming, can cost a retail customer upwards of $16 a pound, while the more common mushrooms sell for $6-$8 a pound. For mushroom farming, consider that you only need about 500 square feet of space to grow about 12,000 mushrooms a year, this is a good return.
Mushrooms are also a crop that even urban farmers can grow. As you can see, the space needed is small and can probably fit into a small part of a basement.
You can save seeds or grow seedlings for the next season. There is a smaller market where you can sell local seeds but you would have to develop that market, plus handling and packaging. Seedlings in the spring are a much larger market, but must be timely for sales.
Only attempt cannabis farming if it is legal in your state. Rules are very strict for growing and selling, so be sure that you know what you can and can’t do with this plant. It is a profitable crop, however. BUT stay legal.
This particular line of business is fraught with issues. If it is legal in your area, you can’t just grow it, expecting to sell it. You need to set up a legal, local way to sell your product. Go carefully here and plan well. Stay within the law.
Crops and Dual Crop Farming
Your area might have a microbrewery market for hops, barley, and other specialty grains. This might be an area to explore if you have the ability to grow these crops.
Consider dual cropping to create more income from your land. Dual cropping is when you plant two or more crops in the same area at the same time. In other words, you are using your land to generate two or more crops a year for greater income.
Starting a vineyard can be expensive the first three years. The initial setup can be as high as $12,000 an acre the first year, declining significantly the next two years. However, after the vines are established and you have created outlets for your crop, you can expect to earn anywhere from $2500-$5000 per acre in profit.
Grapes can be used for wine, table use, juice, or raisins. Depending upon your expertise, you can join a co-op for these ventures or sell on the open market. With the appropriate grapes and equipment—if this is your interest–you can make wine for personal use or for sale to the public. Selling publicly does have legal requirements, different in every state.
Land is important in this venture. You must purchase (best) or lease land with the correct PH, exposure, and water availability. A vineyard is labor-intensive and that could be another cost to your budget if you are not available to do the work.
Not everyone can raise animals. You have to like what you are doing so that you can feed and care for them every day throughout the year. There are no days off when you take care of animals. However, if this is something that interests you, it can be quite profitable.
Goats are those universal animals that can give you milk, meat, and hide, plus eat weeds and table scraps. I really enjoy goats, but won’t kid you (sorry, bad pun): they can be real trouble but so funny too! You can milk goats, then sell goat’s milk (REALLY good in coffee) and make cheese. We have local goat farmers doing small dairy farming who have developed a number of different goat cheese recipes and they sell these gourmet products online as well as locally.
You can also rent a goat herd to eat weeds to individuals as well as government entities. Some states (also in Canada) have regular goat herd contracts and use goats to keep down the undergrowth in forests. Possible enterprises are:
- Milk and milk products such as cheese, lotions, and soap
- Weed eaters
- 4H goats
Like goats, sheep can provide you with milk, meat, wool, and hides. They are a bit more finicky about eating, and most are not as friendly as goats. Some breeds are better for meat, while some are better for wool. You need to watch common wool prices for they are quite volatile, but there is a strong market for specialty wools. Lamb meat is always in demand. Possible enterprises are:
- Meat, for individuals and restaurants
- Milk and milk products such as cheese, lotions, and soap
- 4H lambs
You can raise steers, sheep, pigs, and goats for meat, either for individual customers or restaurants as custom meats. Normally, you get the order, then take the animal to a butcher. Your customer will give the butcher their cut instructions. You get paid for weight on the hook, and the butcher gets paid his normal cut and wrap fees. Since this is primarily a local business, fees will be set by the locality. Organically raised animals sell for a premium price.
You’ll need bigger pastures, good fencing, and more feed for these animals. Manure can become an issue, but you can compost that easily. However, the meat from these animals is a valuable commodity. Recently, many cattle owners have been selling off their breeding stock due to a lack of winter feed. You may be able to get into this market cheaper than before, but you do need to know how to care for cattle. Your state Extension Service can help you with information and contacts. Possible enterprises are:
- Meat, including custom meats for individuals and restaurants
- Breeding stock
Dairy farming is another area that should be thoroughly investigated if you are considering it. There is huge competition in the dairy farming industry from large commercial dairy farms. Another negative issue is that you (or employees) must milk cows twice a day throughout the year. If you have a small operation, you could allow calves to suckle when you don’t want to milk. This is a tough industry, however, because of all the downsides.
Many people, myself included, do not want a bull, ram, or buck on site. These testosterone-laden animals can be easy to handle or more likely, a handful of trouble. You need to be in top physical shape (strength), have strong pens, and knowledge of breeding techniques for the different species. Because of these requirements, you have an agricultural business niche that most people with animals need. You can breed onsite or rent out your animals.
Another source of income here is to learn to do artificial insemination (AI). A lovely, very petite lady that I know raises Angus cattle. Because she had an issue with a bull many years ago, she went and learned how to do AI for her cows. She now saves a bundle by doing the service herself. You can learn this service either for your animals or to sell your service to other animal owners.
You must be a skilled individual with horses having an adequate arena (preferably covered so that you can work year around), and if boarding, adequate stalls and runs. Possible enterprises are:
- Riding lessons
- Training horses
- Selling stock and breeding
*Be sure to check your insurance before doing any horse enterprises. The insurance cost could make this business untenable.
Anyone who has a dog or cat knows how hard it is to find a kennel that cares for their animal as they do. If you can offer that service, your kennel will prosper. You can specialize in just dogs or just cats. Possible enterprises on a small farm are:
- Breeding, selling stock
Headlines shout that we are losing pollinators, so if you can raise bees successfully, you will be doing a good deed for humanity as well as earning a nice, part-time salary. Learning the business and how to care for bees is difficult, so find a local organization and classes to give you a leg up.
A problem with this enterprise is that the expenses are primarily occurring within the first couple of years, so you will not make a profit until later. Salaries (part-time) run $28,000-$44,000, but as you gain experience and market, this salary can go higher. In other words, you can earn $300-$600 per hive per year.
You need a minimum of 2 hives to start selling products, but 5-20 hives to offer services. Most people only think to sell honey when they get bees, but there are a number of possible enterprises for bee farms are:
- Honey sales
- Wax candles, furniture polish, skincare
- Rent bees and hives to other farmers for pollination
- Bee services, such as collecting swarms
Having a fish farm (or pond) on your small farm gives you several possibilities of income. This can be a very attractive bonus for your agritourism visitors. Possible enterprises are:
- Fish sales to individuals and restaurants
- Fishing pond – anything customers catch and keep is sold to them
Animal Petting Farm
By accident, we had a petting farm for a few years. At one point, we had about 50 ewes and at lambing time, as busy as we were, people wanted to come, see the lambs, and hold them. The first year, we had about 40 people coming each Saturday for about a month, then word spread.
By the time we quit doing this, we had over 400 people each Saturday coming to our farm. We let them feed the chickens, play with the goats, hold and feed the lambs, and had pony rides in the arena. We set out bales of hay so people could sit and watch. Because we needed extra help, we paid a local 4H club to come and help us.
We did not charge anyone (and probably should have), but felt that this event answered the need of people to reconnect with the land. Also, we do not live in a large population area, so I feel that this could be even more successful in a larger community. Be prepared to have adequate parking.
Possible enterprises include having a collection of interesting and gentle pets that people can visit and feed.
As it grows, have your other farm products displayed for sale. You could even bring in other crafters and sell their goods on consignment. Your petting farm could also be considered part of your agritourism efforts.
Poultry and Wild Birds
Poultry can be defined as more than just chickens. Poultry farming can have ducks, geese, and turkeys. Then there are the wild birds such as quail, pheasant, grouse, and so on. Chicken eggs and meat are extremely popular in the poultry farming markets, but there is tremendous growth in the specialty markets. Spring is the best time to get started, especially with baby chicks.
Duck eggs are desired by gourmets and upscale restaurants. Turkeys and geese are in demand (and can be ordered by individuals ahead of the season) in late fall, particularly for Thanksgiving.
Raising quail, grouse, and pheasant for both eggs and birds can fill the demand for restaurant meat as well as supply birds for hunting clubs.
Possible enterprises for poultry farming are:
- Eggs (all kinds)
- Meat (all kinds)
- Specialty feathers (especially for fly-tyers)
- Raising specialty birds for hunting
Alpacas and Llamas
Both alpacas and llamas are pretty easy keepers on small farms and they can produce premium wools. Possible enterprises are:
- Pack animals
- Guard animals for sheep (llamas are terrific for this)
According to experts, rabbits could be one of the more profitable agricultural business ideas. With large litters and fast growth, they can allow you to have regular meat market sales. This can be a good year-round business. In addition, many people like rabbits as pets because they don’t require a lot of space and can even be housebroken. Select rabbit breeds that will allow you to meet your goals.
Rabbit breeders are said to make about $38,000 annually. There are the usual expenses for raising rabbits: buying stock, feed, equipment, labor, and marketing. Possible enterprises include:
If you don’t mind inviting strangers onto your land, agritourism might be a really profitable small business for you. You can have short-term, seasonal events like a corn maze all the way to a bed and breakfast, and everything in between.
People really like staying in the country, so with a little marketing, you could have a year-round income. Possible enterprises are:
- Corn maze
- Wedding and event venue
- Leasing hunting rights
- Educational farm (pick topics and teach people)
- Yoga studio (indoors or outdoors)
- Pumpkin patch
- Rent cabins, tiny houses, yurts, teepees, or campsites
- U-pick garden or orchard
- As mentioned previously, a petting farm
Odd Things to Pick Up a Little Income
Sometimes you just need to supplement the household income, so here are some suggestions of things that you might be interested in doing. Some require equipment while other tasks just require a skill. Possible enterprises are:
- Leaf and snow removal
- Engine repair
- Garden building, rototilling
- Sell extra firewood
- Crafts and home-produced goods such as jellies, etc.
- A drone business, particularly specializing in agriculture.
To Create a Viable, Profitable Small Farm
There are several steps that you should take to make sure that your enterprise will succeed. The experts have determined that small businesses that do these steps faithfully have a significantly higher chance of succeeding. If you don’t, the odds are that you will fail within the first two years. There are a number of small farm ideas for profit that you can probably utilize. Get your notebook out for the steps that are worth taking time to do:
- Analyze in detail any market that you wish to enter. For example, if you wish to sell herbs at the local farmers’ market, talk to the organizers. Find out what are the best sellers. Look at the competition and figure out how you can sell better. Write everything down.
- Is there enough of a market for you to make money in? For example, if there are 30 herb sellers in the market, will there be enough customers to buy from 31? Can you make money with such stiff competition?
- Research the costs of the enterprise you are considering. Many businesses are front-end loaded with costs, so you need to be aware that you need capital to start and probably won’t see an immediate return. Another item you need to check is insurance. Insurance costs (especially for horse enterprises) can be the difference between success and failure if you fail to take this cost into consideration.
- Create a business plan. This doesn’t have to be complicated, but the more detail you put into the document, the more prepared you are. If you plan to ask for a bank loan or grant, this business plan needs to be quite detailed with the info that they ask for. If the business plan is just for you, it needs to include your PRODUCT (what is it, how will you get/manufacture it, time needed), LABOR (who is working on this product sale), EXPENSES (setup and ongoing), anticipated RETURN (realistic time frame).
- Create a marketing plan. How and where are you going to sell your product? What is your marketing budget? Timeframe and how will you measure success?
Grants and Loans
For a number of small farm businesses, there are both state and federal grants and loan programs. If you can start with no loans or grants, and only apply for one when you need to expand (after you show success), your bottom line will be in much better shape. Don’t go into debt unless it is unavoidable.
With this list of profitable agricultural business ideas, you can probably find something that sounds interesting. Profitable small farm ideas are all around us, and some are unique to the area you live in. Most of these micro farm ideas can produce a good income, if set up properly. Find one that you are really interested in, and then make it happen! Here are some more ideas for you: