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Greenhouse Growing For Pleasure And Profit | North American Farmer

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Greenhouse Growing For Pleasure And Profit

greenhouse growingA greenhouse is fun. There’s just no other way to say it. How could someone NOT enjoy making things grow? It’s such a great feeling. But a greenhouse can be an expensive hobby. Greenhouses aren’t a one-time expense. So…why not turn your hobby into profitable fun? It’s really not that difficult to do; especially when there are so many ways to do it.

The first thing you need to know is that you don’t have to have a commercial sized greenhouse to have a profitable greenhouse. A greenhouse as small as 8×12 can be profitable if its space is utilized efficiently and you find the right niche.

Finding the right niche-thinking outside the box-is the first step to being profitable. But don’t panic. It’s not as difficult as you might think…

The most ‘common’ method of making money with your greenhouse is to raise bedding plants (veggies and flowers) to sell at farmer’s markets or directly from the greenhouse. If you choose to do this, you need to make sure that you can grow enough plants to be able to sell for the entire growing season. This means you’ll sow seed in stages so your plants won’t all be ready at the same time.

You can also specialize. This means you concentrate your efforts on growing just a few things rather than a large variety. It’s doing two or three things extremely well instead of a bunch of things well. And if you really want to take it up a notch, specialize in something unusual yet easy for everyone to grow. Some examples of this include a variety of scented geraniums, two or three varieties of heirloom flowers, succulents or not-so-common herbs.

Instead of trying to reach the masses, grow for just a few people or businesses. This will require you to develop working relationships with your potential clients. Some examples of this sort of greenhouse venture include:

  • A certain variety (or two or three) of green plants or cut flowers for the local florist
  • Filling your greenhouse with growing boxes to grow a variety of salad greens for a local café or restaurant
  • Growing container herb gardens or salad ‘bowls’ for a local florist or gift shop
  • Growing a variety of houseplants for local businesses; including real estate agents for home staging and as gifts for their customers
  • Using your greenhouse to grow heirloom variety bit-sized tomatoes (red and yellow) for a local cafés salad bar
  • Wholesaling your bedding plants to the local feed store or other smaller market
  • Connecting with the local childcare facilities to supply them with bedding plants and growing kits as part of their learning how things grow curriculum

If you have a viable farmer’s market and do well with bedding plants but want to extend your season into the fall and winter months, consider enhancing your sell-ability with value-added products. What are value-added products? Glad you asked. They are products that extend the value or sell-ability of your base product. For example: someone who grows vegetable and annual bedding plants puts together growing kits that include soil, plant cells and three or four varieties of seed in a cute little burlap or fabric bag. Tie it with a ribbon, attach growing instructions and sell them online, at local craft stores or fairs, market them to pre-schools, elementary schools or other children’s organizations. Or… someone who grows house plants has a holiday open house or participates in holiday bazaars to sell plants in decorative containers for gift giving. You can also take the approach of putting together small planters of varied plants and offer them to any number of professionals to give their employees for holiday gifts or new clients, etc. Or… you can continue to grow flowers such as zinnias, daisies, violets, petunias and other small flowers to dry and craft pressed flower glass coasters, bookmarks and other pretties.

Selling locally is a great thing and definitely where you should start. But don’t stop there. The world of technology is a wonderful thing; especially when it comes to growing small home-based businesses. Check out sites like www.localharvest.org, www.etsy.com or through your state’s department of agriculture’s value-added program. You should also take advantage of using your own Facebook page or creating one solely for your business and inviting all sorts of people to “LIKE” it. You can also easily (and I do stress ‘easily’) create your own website using the templates on www.webstarts.com or other similar sites.

Operating a greenhouse as a business has plenty of advantages, but with those advantages come a few responsibilities; ones we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention here. Let’s go with the advantages first, though.

More money; that never hurts. And the gratification that you are contributing to your family’s finances doing something you truly love is a great feeling.

Your greenhouse can give you certain tax write-offs! If you have income from your greenhouse, you will file either Schedule F or Schedule C with the IRS when you do your taxes each year. There are other forms that might need to be filed if you depreciate out the structure itself and a vehicle used to conduct business.

Okay, now for the responsibilities… Depending on how much you sell and who you sell to, you will need to obtain a tax number from your state. This isn’t difficult and costs little or nothing. You will need to either collect sales tax from your customers or report that you sell wholesale to other businesses. This isn’t really difficult and in fact, you can simply add the tax to your retail price and go from there. This can work to your advantage, though, as well. Having a tax number will allow you to purchase your greenhouse supplies tax-free.

The other main responsibility is treating your greenhouse like a business. If you commit to selling plants to businesses or supply a café with salad greens then you need to follow through on the commitment. This includes having a backup plan if you incur difficulties.

Greenhouse growing for fun and profit is possible. You just need to remember that no one stands to win or lose except you, so you have to be your best and biggest marketing ‘agent’. That doesn’t mean you’re all alone, though. For help and information, contact your state’s department of agriculture or other growers.