Vegetable gardens, even small ones, can become a profit source as well as a hobby. Not everyone has the time, space or inclination to garden, but non-gardeners often still enjoy the high-quality produce you can grow in your own vegetable patch. It takes some time to build up your own best system, but you will be investing in great plants and great relationships, and soon being paid for it, too.
Find a Market
As organic herbs of any kind are a premium garden product, they can be sold at a higher price. You can approach local produce stands or grocery stores; many produce managers of larger grocers are interested in offering fresh, local produce. You can also set up your own booth at a local farmers market to build up word-of-mouth business and take orders for repeat customers. A great feature of herbs is that you can easily dry or otherwise preserve what you don't sell, and sell these high-quality dried herbs as well. You also have a lot of options for expanding into herbal products.
Grow and sell heirloom vegetables. Heirloom vegetables are unique, old-fashioned varieties which are often hard to find at the local grocery store or at farmers markets. Heirloom seeds are preserved by gardeners and help maintain the genetic variety of vegetables and garden fruits. Select a careful assortment of popular vegetables, but in heirloom varieties. You might also talk to local grocers before you plant and see if they have special requests.
Become a custom supplier for small restaurants, cafes and delis. Those oriented toward local and organic food will often be happy to purchase vegetables, fruits and herbs from local gardeners. It's nice if you can talk to the chef or restaurant owner before you plant; if they already have suppliers for the bulk of their produce orders, you can offer to grow exactly what they need to fill any supply gaps.
Build Your Business
Practice succession planting to make the most use of your space. Succession planting is the practice of pulling up plants that have already been harvested and planting a new crop of different plants in their place. One-time producing plants such as potatoes, carrots, corn, radishes and greens work well for this practice; once you have harvested, remove the remaining plant and start a new crop of a vegetables or herbs.
Choose unique vegetables or special varieties. Anybody can grow a tomato, but you can grow cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes, or specialize in seven different kinds of squash, or produce the fattest pole beans or hottest peppers. Find a niche that gets you excited and you'll be able to offer something different and interesting that gets other people excited, too.
Plan your garden for long-term production by investing in perennial crops, as well as annual vegetables. Many herbs are perennials and will grow larger and produce more with each year. Other perennial crops such as blueberries, blackberries and strawberries can be sold at a much higher price than other garden produce.
Build relationships with the gardeners, grocers and restaurant owners/managers in your community, as well as with local farmers and food-related business owners. Don't think of people as competitors but as potential partners; be aware that many folks may not initially take your offer, but as they see you produce and deliver high-quality products, they'll be impressed enough to establish a working relationship.
Value your produce appropriately. Many home gardeners sell themselves short and don't take into consideration the long hours of labor they put into producing home-grown fruits and vegetables. See what local produce usually sells for and price yours along the same lines, increasing the price if your produce has additional features, such as being organic or heirloom.