20 Most Profitable Small Farm Ideas

Cody Cromwell
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Rural Agriculture Profitable Small Farm Ideas

Rural agriculture is a profitable form of farming that accounts for a majority of all agricultural output in the United States. Despite public perception, much of this output is produced by farmers who are modestly sized, often no more than 2,000 acres in size, and owned by individuals of modest means. While these are rapidly declining trends, they also serve as an indication of the importance of this sector of agriculture and the type of profitability that is associated with the farming of food via crop or livestock.

If you are looking to get in the agricultural business there are options for entering the industry that don't involve the construction and equipping yourself with the appropriate assets of a large farm. If you do not have any capital to foot the bill of the equipment purchase, interest only loans are available in certain circumstances.

As with any business, there is a lot of risk involved in the farming industry including loss of yield. But an understanding of how much risk is present in your operation will allow you to make the appropriate financial decisions to ensure a successful business and a comfortable profit margin. You can insure some of your farm income and make your business idea more robust that way.

Tree Nursery

A Tree Nursery is a small agriculture business that produces and sells tree nurseries (e.g., willows, poplar, chestnut). This is an agriculture business idea with a long time horizon, as you need to plant the trees and then wait for several years before you can harvest and resell them. There are very seasonal variations of this like Christmas trees, but also more year round options for tree cultivation. There are some approaches to smooth out this challenging cash flow, like taking outside investment or more innovative ways like selling trees early to customers and then giving them regular updates about growth process.

Fish Farming

Farming fish has been a tradition of the Native Americans for centuries. In the late 1800's, the growing of fish stocks in the eastern seaboard allowed the growth of aquaculture within the United States.

Some of the notable methods of farming freshwater fish are:

Multi-Species Culture

This type of culture is designed to encourage more than one type of fish. Some common examples of multi-species culture farming are Asian fish farming, which includes popular species such as carps, carp, dace, tilapia and others, and the European fish farming, which includes popular species such as bream, flounder, grass, gudgeon and others.

Pond Farming

This form of culture involves creating a small body of water to attract growth of fish. Trout farming is a very popular and common form of pond farming. Pond farming is a common practice among many types of fish farmers and can include some evergreen varieties like tilapia, catfish, eel, cod, carp, as well as salmon.

Dual Crop Farming

A dual crop farm is made to increase yields and profits. This makes the farm sustainable and profitable for you and your family.

The key to making this solution work is to keep and maintain proper records of the dual crop farm activities. This will enable you to be fiscally responsible with the management of the farm from field to table. Also, by keeping a good record of the farm activities, you can more efficiently utilize the stewardship of your small farm.

There are many dual crop farming systems that are designed to create a rotating two crop system that involves the planting of different crops in a specific sequence. For instance, a dual crop farm will usually follow planting in an order like: corn-soybean-corn-soybean-corn-soybean-corn-soybean-corn-soybean and so on. This reduces your risk of loss and is healthy for the soil.

The staple crop (corn or soybean) will be grown in rotation with the crop of the fallow, and the field will not be used for other crops (e.g. wheat, barley, etc.), for at least three years. This can shorten the overall farm cycle for a particular region of land and work very well with some forms of specialty crops.

Dairy Farming

A dairy farm in its simplest form is a business that produces and sells milk with the goal of making money. Dairy farming is a business and it is important to understand that from the start. If someone asks you about making money from a farm, this is what they refer to.

The normal business model when it comes to producing and selling milk involves making money on four primary areas and one emphasis area:

  • The production of the dairy products that you make and the sale of your dairy production.
  • The sale of services that are related to your dairy production.
  • The sale of non-dairy products such as meat, hides or tallow.
  • The renting out of land that is part of a dairy farm.

This might sound like a lot, but it's not complicated at all. In fact, I've listed it as different areas because it's best to think of each topic in separate even though they are all closely interlinked. For example, selling cows & steers is selling a service related to milk production, not a dairy product directly. And leasing the land that's part of a dairy farm is actually a real estate business transaction about the land itself. Following this type of thinking can be helpful in developing your business plan and figuring out which type of business idea is the best fit for you, your strengths, and your farm.

Low Capital Profitable Small Farm Ideas

Herb Gardening

A number of herbs are especially suited to year-round container gardening. Consider all of the following herbs and which benefits they will provide your garden:

Basil is sold in pretty much every store around the country and always in demand. Due to its light weight, but large packaging volume it's best grown locally to reduce shipping cost. This can make small local farms profitable and competitive to even make it into supermarket chains.

Sage: Sage is an attractive evergreen with oval leaves that resemble flat-topped sage brushes. The dark purple flowers grow in clusters and are followed by the tasty leaves. Use this herb for flavoring poultry and stuffing, as well as in soups, stews, and salads.

Oregano: Oregano is another dark green herb that is attractive throughout most of the year. Its small leaves and tall, purple flowering spikes make it a great accent in any garden. The dried oregano leaves can be used to add a flavor note to a variety of dishes.

Marjoram: Marjoram, also known as sweet marjoram, is a top herb to grow in gardens because it grows all year in the right greenhouse setting and isn't bothered by most types of weather. The deep green leaves resemble crinkly ferns, and the small white flowers and seedpods make it a nice addition to any garden.

A combination of these herbs, each of which adds a different flavor or characteristic to a meal, will give you a great variety of flavor for the whole garden.

Bee Farming

Bee farming is one of the most profitable small farm ideas out there. These tiny pollinators can make your farm lots of money if you know how to keep them happy and healthy. This can be an option for a small urban farm, as we've even seen bee hives on top of skyscrapers in Chicago. That's the ultimate urban farmer who takes an elevator up 80 floors to tend to his bees.

What makes bee farming so lucrative is the high value of the raw materials needed for their survival. Comb honey, beeswax and pollination services are all commercialized agricultural products.

Today there is increasing demand for pollination services, which is why the demand for bees is even higher now. Beekeeping is also a very profitable profession earning you hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

To make your own bee farm easy you need to know how to keep bees healthy and happy. Having a healthy colony of bees can, however, be challenging and require time and effort.

Honey bees are a popular choice because they are easy to keep and breed. You can simply buy a queen bee from a local beekeeper or from a mail order supplier and raise them.

The most expensive tool you will need is a bee hive box. You can buy it from a local beekeeper or online, but also make it yourself easily if you are handy. Your bees will need the hive box to build their honeycomb and store their honey, pollen and wax.

Honey is a good and easy way to start your honey business. You can choose to add one or more different flavors to your honey to increase the marketability of it.


Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics, where you grow vegetables in water while raising fish in the same tank or in the ground nearby. It has become a wildly popular way to grow nutritious food in both small farms and in on-farm permaculture systems.

And it's super easy to get started. A 300-gallon (1,100-L) fish tank with hinged lid will adequately house some edible fish and generally you can figure that 1 pound of fish needs around 5 gallons of water minimum to thrive. The fish produce waste which is nutrient rich and can be used as the fertilizer for the plants in your aquaponics system.

The water from the fish tank that has been filtered by the plants then goes back into the fish tank. This system practically ensures self-sufficiency. Another advantage of this system is the waste that your fish produce is not toxic, but rather helpful for plant growth like animal manure and other organic components. Due to the closed loop system and the usual greenhouse setting you don't have to worry about unwanted pests or insects in the process as much as in standard farming.

You'll need to have a system where the fish tank, vegetable plants, and water pump are all well synced. You'll need to make sure that any system that you create is absolutely organic as you want to minimize the use of chemicals and pesticides.

Microgreens Farming

Microgreens are a small-scale form of agriculture specializing in growing microgreens like edible seeds. They are a high-yielding crop that is often grown indoors and doesn't require a lot of fertile soil or space to grow. They can be made from common seeds like arugula, kale, wheat, broccoli, and quinoa or can be made from seeds designed for the production of microgreens. These crops can be grown as a hobby and kept small, but larger scale production is required to sell. It's very similar to herb farming in many ways and can be further combined with hydroponics or aquaponics.

Some of the methods used to grow microgreens include the controlled environment of a greenhouse or indoor planting. They can also be grown in containers such as grow bags with horticultural fleece or fern fiber.

If your main focus is to get a high yield to offset the labor required to plant, nurture, and harvest, vegetables like arugula and kale are a good choice. If your focus is the nutrient-dense ingredients, microgreens are the way to go. Producing microgreens domestically helps reduce the price the carbon footprint for imported goods. If you are interested in producing microgreens, it's not too late to start now. Always use high quality growing media, and be sure to wash your hands before planting and harvesting to avoid spreading germs.

Urban Agriculture Profitable Small Farm Ideas

Urban agriculture projects have really gained traction and popularity in the last decade, and the most profitable small farm ideas for the urban community out there are, quite clearly, gardening, fruit orchards, seed and herb growing, lower cost versions of livestock farming and egg production.

Gardening is an easy to understand way to grow crops, especially in small spaces and produces a considerable amount of food at a low cost. You can find cheap beds, cheap lights and cheap tools to make growing urban gardens, cost effective. You can begin experimenting with growing vegetables and herbs in a tiny space. The cost of farmland is obviously a very significant factor in the profitability of farming, so being able to farm on multiple vertical levels is an immensely valuable advantage.

While you grow your own food, you can diversify your food sources, and you have the opportunity to save money. The second most profitable small farm idea for the urban community is poultry, which is a low cost, low space food production method for the urban (and suburban) community. Egg production is also a low cost (compared to livestock farming) food production method for the urban community. You can learn how to make money off your own free range eggs, whether you keep them for eating or for rearing chickens.

You can also begin to raise chickens for meat, as it's a very good source of lean protein. You can find low cost, low maintenance options for owning chickens.

Vegetable Landscaping

Last week I have talked about planting by the moon phases. Today I am going to talk about vegetable planting by the moon phases.

It is one of the most effective ways to grow vegetables, without using any fertilizer, chemical or pesticides.

It can increase the amount of vegetables you can produce. It can also help to repair the soil.

And because land is usually the most expensive cost for farming you could just use someone else's land and get even paid to do so. All you need is to use patches of backyards and land of your landscaping clients to grow vegetables and then sell them at a farmers market. It will be hard to scale, but on a small scale this could work.

Hydroponic Farming

The ability to bring in an income at home is important to anyone who wants to work from home and build a farm income stream. Growing a vegetable garden is one of the most common ways to earn money but there's a lot of planning needed if this is to become a successful and profitable business.

Once again this can be a pretty smart money move, because you can grow more product on less space. There are several different types of hydroponic farming (static, ebb & flow, continuous flow, and aeroponics) so make sure you truly figure out which approach is right for you before you buy the corresponding equipment.

It is all too common for people to try many different ideas without staying focused on one type of business to make money from. The bottom line is that no matter what you decide to do, you'd be wise to do it well.

Cannabis Farming

Growing Your Own Cannabis Plants: Can it be done and is it Easy?

Cannabis legalization has resulted in somewhat of a boom to the industry. Cannabis has been grown and harvested for its medicinal properties and its psychoactive effects. However, until recently this was done illegally. The situation now has changed, but it's still a very local question whether it's ok to do or not.

The education about marijuana and its farming is still ongoing but more and more people are looking to grow their own. In this article, we have gathered some of the best small scale farming ideas that you can use and this might just be the right one for you if you live in the right place. Most of them could be attempted by amateurs. Even those who have never handled a pair of pliers before must have tried their hands at it. The following list is one you would want to have a look at. Some use sustainable methods while others make use of self-sufficient designs to ensure efficient watering. You can achieve this without having to plough the whole field, but you will have to pay for an indoor irrigation system. Check with your legal advice before going this route.

Rooftop Tea Garden

The massive demand and high market price for tea means that tourism based on tea plantations is becoming a booming business too. Many tea plantations in faraway places are now establishing tea gardens on the rooftops of their tea factories. The Rooftop tea garden gives tea companies the opportunity to create something unique while simultaneously providing another business opportunity for tea plantation workers. The gardens are usually small, ranging between 50 square meters and 100 square meters. The roofs are covered with loose leaf tea plants and a drip irrigation system. But you can bring this idea closer to home and create urban rooftop tea gardens. It might not be possible to start serving tea up there, but it can be a good use of your space up there. Make sure it's ok with building codes and that you're in the right climate zone.

This technique is used in conjunction with the Rooftop tea garden to produce additional crops. Strawberries, beets, and herbs are grown not only for consumption but also as an additional revenue stream. This arrangement also helps eliminate waste from tea production, which is usually one of the largest costs for tea-production companies.

B2B Profitable Small Farm Ideas

The world is full of small farms but can you find a product that can make a big difference on your profit margin. The answer is yes. You can start to sell your farm products to your neighbor, retailers, wholesalers and also direct to the consumer.

If you don't want to deal with customers, then B2B can be a great way to go. The margins are smaller, but you have much less work and hassle that comes with customer service.

At some point you will run out of resources. But don't worry, almost all farms don't run out of resources. You can increase your productivity. You can start to look at setting up a processor for your products.

Processors are basically companies that deal with the moment that your products have arrived before that it gets to a store or a restaurant. They package and also market your products.

You can start to look at marketing through an auction website where you can sell your farm products.

Snail Farming

If you're looking for a small side hustle where you can only spend a few thousand dollars to start up, you could look into starting up a snail farm to join the ranks of that small-time gold rush headed up by the well-wishers of tiny ranching.

Snail farming as a tiny side business is similar to owning a small farm or being a breeder of insects. It's definitely an off the beaten path small farm business idea, but it can be extremely lucrative. There's not many people doing it. You don't even need to grow your own, but can ask organic farmers if you can just collect theirs. However, raising your own can be accomplished with a pretty straight forward setup of climate control, proper soil, and a good food source.

Snail farming is not a long-term project where you need to invest a lot of money and time up front. It will be a seasonal business where you might be able to get away with spending 20 or fewer hours per week handling the business, harvest and selling of snails.

If you're a person who is passionate about snail farming, you can find lots of information on how to get started and create a successful snail farming business.

The main misconceptions and some common points of snails sceptics is that they are "kind of gross." But they are a popular choice in many restaurants.

Snails are one of the most popular small farm business ideas and one of the most profitable. This is because snails are easy to start, it is less expensive and requires much less labor than most other types of livestock. Make sure to check with local and state regulations, because movement and shipping of snails across state lines is regulated by the USDA.

Mushroom Farming

Mushrooms are one of the most delicious and popular edible crops. They also add a lot of nutrients to the soil. Few people know that farming mushrooms is a fairly profitable crop if you know how to do it right. If you have space, a sunny location, and hot days, mushrooms are a good way to grow an easy to work with crop. However, in order to grow mushrooms, you need to find out what kind of house your mushrooms like. That's the most difficult part, as getting your ideal mushroom growing environment is a bit of a science. One mushroom house may not grow the same kind of mushroom as another.

Types of Mushrooms

There are many different kinds of mushrooms that you can grow. Flavorful Shiitake, Enoki, Oyster and Button mushrooms are on the top of the list, but there are other varieties as well.

Organic Farming

If you've ever picked up a magazine or newspaper, you know that the organic farming movement is very much alive and well. It's not surprising, since high-quality foods that come exclusively from organically grown crops are some of the best tasting and healthiest around. But unless you were lucky enough to grow up on a farm or are a farmer that can devote all of your time to the task, the reality is that you may not be able to start your own farm.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways to turn the soil in your yard or garden into farm by starting with something that doesn't need much of an upfront investment. That's the concept of a small farm. There are several ways to start a small farm, and many of them are a great way to introduce yourself into the world of organics. This applies to organic farming as well.

Poultry Farming

Urban Americans are increasingly seeking out a more sustainable and affordable way to feed their family. With the cost of eggs and poultry steady and eggs coming from other countries more and more, local food is becoming a thing. There are many ways that a person can establish a poultry farm and be successful by selling to local farmers…or to the general public. Some communities are even encouraging certain types of livestock in their neighborhoods. Such as chickens, goats, and bees. A person can make or can have a home-based business. Also, you can advertise on a social networking or social bookmarking site. One can also attend a seminar or conduct a personal interview with businesses. The method of acquiring chickens can differ with each person, but they can be acquired using the following methods:

  • Breeding the poultry yourself.
  • Using a fellow person’s flock of chickens.
  • Using local farmer’s flock of chickens.
  • Buying new chickens.
  • Buying already-laid chickens from a store or man.
  • Buying baby chickens from a store or man.

Agritourism Profitable Small Farm Ideas

For Festivals, Getaways, Festivals & Events.

Since the start of the 21st century, agritourism has become a multi-million dollar business for farmers to take advantage of. Although it's still difficult to make a profit, farming for agritourism is a great way for farmers to diversify their business and increase their bottom line.

So to help you with creating profitable agritourism concepts, we've put together this list of ideas for you to take advantage of and maximize your budget.

Great way to make extra income with minimal expenses. You could even use this idea for a side business that engages your youth. It doesn't have to be a long-term venture; it can last for a weekend, a week, a month or even longer. It all depends on your needs and budget.

Make sure you keep your agritourism activities simple; don't add new attractions to the farm unless they are required to make your agritourism business profitable.

Farmers' Festival: The first step is to offer a public event that is fun and successful for you and your visitors. Festivals can last for several days, such as a farmers' festival held during a local community event, or run for one day to celebrate an annual holiday.

Flower Farm

The fastest growing market. Many people do not even know that today's flowers are more profitable than earlier crops because of increased production and the broader availability of flower crop ingredients
Flowers are now grown commercially on a number of plots, despite their narrow utilization. They are somewhat more labor intensive and more consistent than other types of crops. They are not easy to transport, but require less soil, water and fertilizer than other crops-thus they need less management.

The need to move these plants around for fun and profit has resulted in an increased demand for greenhouse gases-the most common of which is carbon dioxide.

Animal Petting Farm

Common Animal Pets: Horses, Cows, Pigs, Goats, and Chickens

$$$ Profit/Win-Win: You can either rent out your animal(s) for the day or have them there for the enjoyment of your guests. Petting farms are also available at fairs, county and state fairs, to name a few. Promote it as a fundraiser for your favorite organization that will benefit from the proceeds of your rental. Like who has ever milked a goat before? It's a fun team building activity.

Ensure that you are licensed in your state before you start.

Although it might not be possible for you to sell any meat products from your animals, they do not have to die when the customer is done with them. They (the animals) can be sold back to a slaughterhouse.

You will need to have an adequate supply of pet food, oats, hay, vitamins, etc for the animals’ needs. Block out an entire day for this type of business, at least in the beginning.

Fruit Picking Farms

The fruit picking season tends to begin early – May to June is a great time to start picking for a few reasons and it can go as late as September or even October. Rural areas are perfect for this type of orchard farming.

Fruit trees are beautiful and popular in full bloom and have a bounty of fresh fruit later in the year. For example, you can run a profitable cherry farm business with minimal seasonal work in the field.

A pleasant cherry farm picking experience is the primary reason why a lot of people decide to get into the cherry picking business.

Fruit picking farms are great for fruit picking but there are equally good cherry picking jobs that involve fruit picking.

Bottom Line

Some of these individuals representing these ideas make a living (and some of them even millions of dollars every year), all while doing something they love. The 20 most profitable small farm ideas include organic vegetables and organic herb farming, beekeeping, mushroom growing, organic poultry farming, and so much more. We are sure there's something for you in there as well.