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A market garden is the relatively small-scale production of fruits, vegetables and flowers as cash crops, frequently sold directly to consumers and restaurants. The diversity of crops grown on a small area of land, typically from under one acre (0.4 ha) to a few acres, or sometimes in greenhouses, distinguishes it from other types of farming. A market garden is sometimes called a truck farm.
A market garden is a business that provides a wide range and steady supply of fresh produce through the local growing season. Unlike large, industrial farms, which practice monoculture and mechanization, many different crops and varieties are grown and more manual labour and gardening techniques are used. The small output requires selling through such local fresh produce outlets as on-farm stands, farmers' markets, community-supported agriculture subscriptions, restaurants and independent produce stores. Market gardening and orchard farming are closely related to horticulture, which concerns the growing of fruits and vegetables.
Traditionally, "market garden" was used to contrast farms devoted to raising vegetables and berries, a specialized type of farming, with the larger branches of grain, dairy, and orchard fruit farming; agricultural historians continue to thus use the term. Such operations were not necessarily small-scale. Indeed, many were very large, commercial farms that were called "gardens" not because of size, but because English-speaking farmers traditionally referred to their vegetable plots as "gardens": in English whether in common parlance or in anthropological or historical scholarship, husbandry done by the hoe is customarily called "gardening" and husbandry done by the plough as "farming" regardless of the scale of either. A "market garden" was simply a vegetable plot, the produce of which the farmer used to sell as opposed to use to feed his or her family. Market gardens are necessarily close to the markets, i.e. cities, that they serve.
Truck farms produce vegetables for market.The word 'truck' in Truck farms does not refer to the transportation truck, which is derived from Greek for "wheel", but rather from the old north French word troquer, which means "barter" or "exchange". The use for vegetables raised for market can be traced back to 1784 and truck farms to 1866.
Selling to the wholesale market usually earns 10–20% of the retail price, but direct-to-consumer selling earns 100%. Although highly variable, a conventional farm may return a few hundred to a few thousand dollars (US) per acre ($0.03/m2 to $0.30/m2) but an efficient market garden can earn in the $10,000–15,000 per acre ($3/m2 to $5/m2) range, or even higher. However, the size of a market garden has a practical upper bound based on this model, but with conventional farming can farm vast areas because access to a direct market is not a requirement.
Larger market gardens often sell to such local food outlets as supermarkets, food cooperatives, community-supported agriculture programs, farmers' markets, fresh food wholesalers, and any other higher-volume channels that benefit from buying a range of vegetables from a single supplier, their freshness allowing for a premium over the revenue from the supermarkets and frequently other local suppliers. A larger market garden can by mixed crop production maintain a sales alternative to the wholesale commodity-style channels often used by farms that specialize in high volumes of a limited number of crops.
Relying on cities for markets, however, can have drawbacks. For example, in England, south Sussex was famous for growing tomatoes for the London market that were delivered by train. The arrival of railways in the 19th century at first stimulated growth of market gardens in certain areas by providing quick access to the city, but it eventually allowed commuting residents to move there and turn many market garden areas into suburbs. Urban sprawl still eats up farmland in urban regions. Buying the rights to develop farmland from the farmers solved this problem in Suffolk County, New York.
In some more affluent countries, including Australia and the United States, market gardening is rated as a high social utility occupation. It is typically taken up by recent immigrant groups for one or two generations, until they can accumulate capital, language and trade skills. The succession of dominant market garden groups in Australia, for example, was – from the early 19th century Anglo-Celtic, people from German-speaking countries, Chinese (after the peak of the gold rushes in mid-late 19th century), then southern European migrants from Italy, Malta and Yugoslavia (before it disintegrated), then southeast Asian migrant and refugee communities following the Vietnam War, such as the Vietnamese and Cambodians.
Involvement in a market garden lets immigrant groups who otherwise have few marketable skills apart from their labour, become actively involved in the market economy. Benefits are that it does not rely on education or language, it adapts well to providing work for extended family groups, and in large market growing regions even wider community support networks. Sharing of knowledge and experience within communities reduces risks, and supports a network of other trades such as carriers, market agents, and heavy machinery contractors, and contract farm labour. Market-gardening land is typically relatively cheap and allows immigrants to purchase land, often with an accompanying residence, far more readily than in urban settings. However, like all agriculture it risks crop failure, market collapse and competition from industrialized broad-acre farming and 'fresh-frozen' imported produce. Other risks are from hazards such as pesticide use, especially where the market gardeners are not trained in their use or able to read product information. Another consequence is marginalization of the succeeding generation where they are relied upon as the fittest and strongest to succeed in continuing the farm rather than pursue other ambitions and opportunities.
Market gardening has in recent decades become an alternative business and lifestyle choice for individuals who wish to "return to the land", because the business model and niche allow a smaller start-up investment than conventional commercial farming, and generally offers a viable market (in microeconomics basic or staple foods are considered as necessities and have highly inelastic demand curves meaning that consumers will buy them in relatively constant quantities even if prices or incomes vary), especially with the recent popularity of organic and local food. It is in some instances considered hobby farming, although market gardening is a recognized type of farming with a distinct business model that can be significantly profitable and sustainable. There is a spectrum with overlap from with the efforts of amateur gardeners who sometimes sell from home or at markets, as an extension of their pastime, to fully commercial market gardening as the main or sole income stream. The latter requires the most discipline and business sense. Successful practitioners who have written books about it include Eliot Coleman and Jean-Martin Fortier.
An example of a market garden operation in North America might involve one farmer working full-time on two acres (8,000 m2). Most work is done with hand and light power tools, and perhaps a small tractor. Some 20 different crops are planted throughout the season. Hardier plants, like peas, spinach, radish, carrots and lettuce are seeded first, in earlier spring, followed by main season crops, like tomatoes, potatoes, corn, beans, cucumber, onions, and summer squash. A further planting timed for harvest in the cooler fall conditions might include more spinach and carrots, winter squash, cabbage, and rutabaga. Harvesting is done at least weekly, by hand, sometimes with part-time help, and produce is sorted, washed and sold fresh at the local farmers' market, and from an on-farm stand. A pick-up truck is used for short distance transport of crops and other farm materials. The workflow is a steady cycle of planting and harvesting right through the growing season, and usually comes to an end in the cold winter months.
A somewhat larger market garden operation, ranging from 10 to 100 acres (40,000 to 400,000 m2), may be referred to as intensive mixed vegetable production, although the essential business and farming tasks are the same. Such operations are often run by a full-time farmer or farm family, and a few full-time employees. The tractor is relied upon for many tasks, and manual labor requirements, particularly for setting transplants and harvesting, are often significant, with crews of 10, 20 or more people employed seasonally. This has led in the U.S. to groups of "transient" or "migrant" workers who follow the harvest seasons to different farms across the country. In cooler climates, greenhouses are generally used to produce transplants, and sometimes greenhouse production is extended through winter or with hydroponics. Harvest and post-harvest handling are more sophisticated at the larger scale, with some mechanized harvest and processing equipment, walk-in coolers, and refrigerated delivery vehicles.
Vegetable farming is the growing of vegetables for human consumption. The practice probably started in several parts of the world over ten thousand years ago, with families growing vegetables for their own consumption or to trade locally. At first manual labour was used but in time livestock were domesticated and the ground could be turned by the plough. More recently, mechanisation has revolutionised vegetable farming with nearly all processes being able to be performed by machine. Specialist producers grow the particular crops that do well in their locality. New methods—such as aquaponics, raised beds and cultivation under glass—are used. Marketing can be done locally in farmer's markets, traditional markets or pick-your-own operations, or farmers can contract their whole crops to wholesalers, canners or retailers.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to agriculture:
A farmer is a person engaged in agriculture, raising living organisms for food or raw materials. The term usually applies to people who do some combination of raising field crops, orchards, vineyards, poultry, or other livestock. A farmer might own the farmed land or might work as a laborer on land owned by others, but in advanced economies, a farmer is usually a farm owner, while employees of the farm are known as farm workers, or farmhands. However, in the not so distant past, a farmer was a person who promotes or improves the growth of by labor and attention, land or crops or raises animals.
Community-supported agriculture or cropsharing is a system that connects the producer and consumers within the food system more closely by allowing the consumer to subscribe to the harvest of a certain farm or group of farms. It is an alternative socioeconomic model of agriculture and food distribution that allows the producer and consumer to share the risks of farming. The model is a subcategory of civic agriculture that has an overarching goal of strengthening a sense of community through local markets.
In agriculture, season extension is any method that allows a crop to be grown and/or harvested beyond its normal outdoor growing season and harvesting time frame, or the extra time thus achieved.
Eliot Coleman is an American farmer, author, agricultural researcher and educator, and proponent of organic farming. His book The New Organic Grower is important reading for organic farmers, especially market gardeners. He served for two years as Executive Director of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), and was an advisor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture during its 1979–80 study, Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming, a document that formed the basis for today's legislated National Organic Program (2002) in the U.S.
Urban agriculture,urban farming, or urban gardening is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around urban areas. Urban agriculture is also the term used for animal husbandry, aquaculture, urban beekeeping, and horticulture. These activities occur in peri-urban areas as well. Peri-urban agriculture may have different characteristics.
Agribusiness refers to the enterprises, the industry, the system, and the field of study of the interrelated and interdependent value chains in agriculture and bio-economy. The primary goal of agribusiness is to maximize profit while sustainably satisfying the needs of consumers for products related to natural resources such as biotechnology, farms, food, forestry, fisheries, fuel, and fiber — usually with the exclusion of non-renewable resources such as mining.
An herb farm is usually a farm where herbs are grown for market sale. There is a case for the use of a small farm being dedicated to herb farming as the smaller farm is more efficient in terms of manpower usage and value of the crops on a per acre basis. In addition, the market for herbs is not as large as the more commercial crops, providing the justification for the small-scale herb farm. Herbs may be for culinary, medicinal or aromatic use, and sold fresh-cut or dried. Herbs may also be grown for their essential oils or as raw material for making herbal products. Many businesses calling themselves an herb farm sell potted herb plants for home gardens. Some herb farms also have gift shops, classes, and sometimes offer food for sale. In the United States, some herb farms belong to trade associations.
Organic horticulture is the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants by following the essential principles of organic agriculture in soil building and conservation, pest management, and heirloom variety preservation.
A smallholding or smallholder is a small farm operating under a small-scale agriculture model. Definitions vary widely for what constitutes a smallholder or small-scale farm, including factors such as size, food production technique or technology, involvement of family in labor and economic impact. Smallholdings are usually farms supporting a single family with a mixture of cash crops and subsistence farming. As a country becomes more affluent, smallholdings may not be self-sufficient, but may be valued for the rural lifestyle. As the sustainable food and local food movements grow in affluent countries, some of these smallholdings are gaining increased economic viability. There are an estimated 500 million smallholder farms in developing countries of the world alone, supporting almost two billion people.
Vertical farming is the practice of growing crops in vertically stacked layers. It often incorporates controlled-environment agriculture, which aims to optimize plant growth, and soilless farming techniques such as hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics. Some common choices of structures to house vertical farming systems include buildings, shipping containers, tunnels, and abandoned mine shafts. As of 2020, there is the equivalent of about 30 ha of operational vertical farmland in the world. The modern concept of vertical farming was proposed in 1999 by Dickson Despommier, professor of Public and Environmental Health at Columbia University. Despommier and his students came up with a design of a skyscraper farm that could feed 50,000 people. Although the design has not yet been built, it successfully popularized the idea of vertical farming. Current applications of vertical farmings coupled with other state-of-the-art technologies, such as specialized LED lights, have resulted in over 10 times the crop yield than would receive through traditional farming methods.
Intensive crop farming is a modern industrialized form of crop farming. Intensive crop farming's methods include innovation in agricultural machinery, farming methods, genetic engineering technology, techniques for achieving economies of scale in production, the creation of new markets for consumption, patent protection of genetic information, and global trade. These methods are widespread in developed nations.
A You-Pick ("U-Pick") or Pick-Your-Own (PYO) farm operation is a type of farm gate direct marketing (farm-to-table) strategy where the emphasis is on customers doing the harvesting themselves. A PYO farm might be preferred by people who like to select fresh, high quality, vine-ripened produce themselves at lower prices.
French intensive gardening also known as biodynamic, raised bed, wide bed, or French market gardening is a method of gardening in which plants are grown within a smaller space and with higher yields than other traditional gardening methods. The main principles for success are often listed as soil improvement, raised beds, close spacing, companion planting, succession planting and crop rotation. Originating in France, the practice is popular among urban gardeners and small for profit farming operations.
The Student Sustainable Farm at Rutgers is located at Rutgers' Horticultural Research Station in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on the G. H. Cook campus of Rutgers University.
Foodscaping is a modern term for the practice of integrating edible plants into ornamental landscapes. It is also referred to as edible landscaping and has been described as a crossbreed between landscaping and farming. As an ideology, foodscaping aims to show that edible plants are not only consumable, but can also be appreciated for their aesthetic qualities. Foodscaping spaces are seen as multi-functional landscapes which are visually attractive and also provide edible returns.
Urban agriculture in West Oakland involves the implementation of Urban agriculture in Oakland.
Jean-Martin Fortier is a Québécois farmer, author, educator and advocate for ecological, human-scale and economically-viable sustainable agriculture.
This glossary of agriculture is a list of definitions of terms and concepts used in agriculture, its sub-disciplines, and related fields. For other glossaries relevant to agricultural science, see Glossary of biology, Glossary of ecology, Glossary of environmental science, and Glossary of botany.
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Those farms considered as truck farms usually grow a variety of perishable crops throughout the season