Ask a Question forum→Advice for Best Plants to Grow for Beginning Small Business

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Southeast Virginia
Oct 22, 2019 5:34 PM CST
Hello everybody. I am new to this forum and am seeking the advice of others more experienced than myself. I live in the Hampton Roads area of southeast Virginia and am looking to getting into gardening for profit. I love the idea that a small business offers and like to be my own boss plus get to work with my hands. I am not a total novice to gardening since I grew up in a rural area and grew radishes and flowers at home plus corn and soybeans on our hunting property. Knowing that I have the following questions:

1. What are the best cash crops to grow for a beginner? I am thinking about mushrooms, herbs, or flowers but am open to any other suggestions.

2. What is frequently in demand at farmers markets or commercial markets?

3. How to find vendors for my products? I have found websites like Range Me and there are also several large gourmet grocery chains like Fresh Market near me. Do you guys recommend that?

4. Best places to buy seeds, fertilizer, supplies, etc?

5. Any tips for growing in an urban environment?

6. Any other useful advice I should know?

Thank you so much everyone for their time.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Oct 22, 2019 6:35 PM CST

I would start with a business license and a booth at the local farmers market. Everyone grows corn, squash, cucumbers and tomatoes. Grow something no one else is growing. The people selling micro-greens and mushrooms made a killing this year at our local market. No competion and year round crops.

Or, Join a cooperative and add your product to 'produce baskets'.

I would avoid markets like Whole Foods for a couple reasons:

You are an unknown and they need to know you will be able to deliver.

That market is a little large for a first time 'farmer'. Start small and grow your business first. You have no idea what you are getting into.

Direct sales! Avoid the middleman.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Name: one-eye-luke US.Vet.
Texas (Zone 8a)
Quitter's never Win
Hummingbirder Birds Organic Gardener Dog Lover Cat Lover
Oct 23, 2019 5:53 AM CST
The price of wild ginseng roots has climbed in the last decade. Now domestic buyers pay $500 to $600 per pound compared with about $50 per pound of cultivated roots. Its out there in those hills and mountains in your State.
NOT A EXPERT! Just a grow worm! I never met a plant I didn’t love.✌

Composter Region: Florida Enjoys or suffers hot summers Birds Annuals Cactus and Succulents
Zinnias Organic Gardener Cottage Gardener Frugal Gardener Dragonflies Butterflies
Oct 23, 2019 6:19 AM CST
Hey Virginia, Welcome! to the site. I know for a fact that Farmer's Markets are a good place to start your biz. You will have a whole network of people to observe, ask questions, get feelers, and test your sales/marketing strategy.

Cut flowers is a very good biz to get started in, but you will need to be able to grow different kinds for different seasons. Fall is a good time for Sunflowers, Asters, Celosia's, etc., but you will need spring and summer types as well. I would go to your library and get all the books you can find on growing flowers and do some research. I would definitely check out the FM in your hometown, and I would call my county extension office to ask if they have any info on the subject. By networking you should be able to establish a good start-up business by next spring and you will have all winter to research and get ready to be a success.

You will need to apply for a business license before starting, and you will need to call the seed companies so that you can get the best pricing or value on your seeds. Don't be discouraged if everything does not click into place immediately. Everybody has to start somewhere, but I would start out slowly and grow my business. You can always expand your growing plot, and you can always branch out, but don't overload yourself at the beginning and get discouraged.

Good luck and Crossing Fingers! . I have grown flowers and dried them and made many wreaths and sold them. It was not at a FM, but it was at festivals. Have some cards printed up and just smile and talk to people who are interested. You will be amazed at the contacts you can make in a day. I met a lady who bought all my wreaths and called me for more. They are now hanging in the rental cabins at Gatlinburg, TN and the Great Smokey Mountains. Don't ever give up on your dream. I tip my hat to you.
'Only love can be divided endlessly and still not deminish' ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
Orchids, peace and beauty
Region: United States of America Critters Allowed Growing under artificial light Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan
Butterflies Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Orchids Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
Oct 23, 2019 7:19 AM CST
For me, you should be all about quality and patience!

You need to handle 50% of your business selling what everyone else is selling! Vegetables, flowers, hanging baskets, whatever needs to be clean, bright and eye catching. You need to make them see your business and you need to give them something visual to draw them in.
You need to display or "stage" your plants in such a way that you make passer byes want to stop in.

Then you need to specialize and add really quality items like large ceramic planters filled with spectacular plants. Offer a replanting service where your company, for a fee, will come out in the early spring and plant their containers for that new season.
Maybe carry a line of quality gardening tools. Perhaps seek out a few local, private bakers to offer candies, jams and jellies, and homemade salads and ready to heat and serve items made with the produce that you might sell.
Every garden center/nursery offers the basics but if you feature some harder to find quality things, people will seek you out, they will come back. And it is you services that you provide that could put you above the rest. People will say that they can get a ceramic planter anywhere but at "your place" they get that extra special care and attention that puts you above every one else.
Fish ponds with goldfish and koi might be another avenue to explore. You imagination needs to be in overdrive to place you apart from everyone else!!! Good Luck! Hurray!

Lastly, be patient, give your business time to grow. Word of mouth can be the key!
Rodney Wilcox Jones, my idol!
Businessman, Orchid grower, hybridizer, lived to 107!
[Last edited by BigBill - Oct 23, 2019 7:22 AM (+)]
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Portland, Oregon (Zone 7b)
Oct 23, 2019 7:16 PM CST
Well, not to rain on your parade, but...
The easy to grow stuff has stiff competition. If you're got the talent for mushrooms, I would push you towards the gourmet, or even the ones used medicinally. People, understandably are cautious about mushrooms and are willing to pay good money for the security of knowing they are safe.

If you are thinking farmer's market, you might want to consider items that can be baked/canned/dried if they don't sell in their fresh state, whether that be flowers, herbs, fruits or fish. You don't want to be throwing anything away.

Below is a link to apples that keep well.


I don't promote Amazon, but I do promote getting a copy of Dr. Amy Goldman's book if you are considering growing squashes. Some squashes can be stored up to two years.
Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
Oct 24, 2019 7:38 AM CST
A business license is not all that you will need, even to just sell locally at your Farmer's Market or offer your plants to local vendors wholesale. You will also need to contact the local branch of your Plant Industry office (i.e. the Government) and obtain a Nursery License in some form. This means that you will then become a 'licensed and inspected' nursery. In most states it is actually illegal to sell plants at venues like the Fram Market, from your house (advertising yourself as a nursery), wholesale to other retailers, and especially over state lines via the Internet, unless you hold a valid nursery license in your state. Most states operate on a reciprocity system, meaning if you are licensed in one state, you are put onto a master list of nurseries nationwide. You are also 'typed' into classes (it used to be Class A, Class B Class C etc). The difference in the classes is that you have certain 'certifications' that govern how, and to what other states, you can ship to.

Here, in addition to a retailers/merchants license (which is basically a business license /tax) if you are a home grower you must also have a permit from your local Code Enforcement office for a 'Home Based Business'. AND you must be licensed and inspected. There are different types of licenses, one is a reseller (you buy plants in bulk wholesale and simply resell them) another is what I used to have which is Growers License and sounds like what you want to do, this allows you to buy plants at wholesale cost, or seeds, and propagate them and grow them yourself for sale. You can keep 'stock' plants that you propagate and sell the overage of.

You will also automatically be entered into your state's sales tax collection and remittal system when you apply for a business license. That comes with your wholesale purchasing number.
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Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
Oct 24, 2019 11:41 AM CST
You've received some good advice already and I don't have anything to add except information regarding oneeyeluke's post:
oneeyeluke said:The price of wild ginseng roots has climbed in the last decade. Now domestic buyers pay $500 to $600 per pound compared with about $50 per pound of cultivated roots. Its out there in those hills and mountains in your State.

Wild Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is apparently a threatened plant in the state of Virginia. This page has useful information regarding harvesting of the plant:
~ I'm an old gal who still loves playing in the dirt!
~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot!

Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
Oct 24, 2019 12:52 PM CST
Wild collecting is illegal here in Florida
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