List of Alternative Crops and Enterprises for Small Farm Diversification

Compiled by:

Mary Gold and Rebecca S. Thompson
The Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC)
National Agricultural Library (NAL)
U.S. Department of Agriculture

Reviewed November 2014


  1. About this list
  2. What can alternative crops and enterprises do for my farm?
  3. Where can I find information on agricultural alternatives?
  4. The List of Alternative Crops and Enterprises
  5. Resources
    1. Extension Office or Land Grant University Directories and Publication Sites
    2. Other Resources for Agricultural Alternatives

About this list

This list of alternatives was compiled using AFSIC reference request files, the subject files in our office, as well as previously compiled lists, most notably "Innovative Farming Idea List," (1987) compiled by Nancy Grudens Schuck, Farming Alternatives Project, Cornell University and "Ideas for Alternative Agricultural Enterprises," (1996) put together by the Missouri Alternatives
Center. [See their Web site's database of Extension and related on-line publications about alternatives:]. This list is not comprehensive, but presents some of the more accessible innovations available to farmers.

What can alternative crops and enterprises do for my farm?

The "Diversifying Cropping Systems" Bulletin for farmers and agricultural educators is a primer on planning diversification with alternative crops, agroforestry, and cover crops. This Sustainable Agriculture Network resource features "factors to consider before diversifying, specific diversification strategies and expert sources of information."

Where can I find information on agricultural alternatives?

  1. To find out more about alternatives suited to your area, start by contacting your local or State Extension office. A listing of Extension Office directories and alternative agriculture publication sites is included below.

  2. The Alternative Farming Systems Information Center maintains the Alternative Crops and Plants Web site and publishes Great Places to Find Information about Farming Alternatives, both of which offer a selection of information-rich Web sites and organizations.

  3. Agricultural Sustainability Notes Series: Questions to Ask About Alternative Crops (Washington State Univ.) lists questions on economic and production issues to explore before selecting a specific crop alternative.

  4. Evaluating a Rural Enterprise (ATTRA) provides more detailed discussion about assessing farming alternatives.

  5. The Small Farm Today "The Original How-to Magazine of Alternative and Traditional Crops, Livestock, and Direct Marketing"

  6. Alternative Crop Suitability Maps (Illinois State Water Survey) presents "climate and soil requirements for alternative and traditional crops."

  7. Additional resources on specific agricultural alternatives may be found at your State Department of Agriculture, crop and livestock associations, searchable publication lists and databases, as well as at your local and/or university library.
    [See Resources section, below]

The list:

Small male pheasant.

Field Crops:

Feed and Forage...

  • Bird seed (sunflower, proso millet, canary grass, etc.)
  • Forage brassicas - turnips, rutabagas
  • Kochia
  • Medics
  • Sainfoin
  • Switchgrass

Fiber, Fuel, Edible and Industrial Oils...

  • Borage
  • Broomcorn
  • Canola
  • Castor beans
  • Comfrey
  • Corn (for oil)
  • Crambe
  • Cuphea
  • Flax
  • Guayule
  • Jojoba
  • Kenaf
  • Lesquerella
  • Lupine
  • Meadowfoam
  • Milkweed
  • Perilla
  • Safflower
  • Sesame
  • Sunflowers
  • Vernonia

Food Grains, Pseudocereals, Legumes, etc....

  • Adzuki beans
  • Amaranth (food and feed)
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Dry edible beans (fieldbeans)
  • Einkorn
  • Emmer
  • Field peas (food and feed)
  • Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • Hops
  • Indian corn
  • Jerusalem artichokes (food and feed)
  • Kamut
  • Lentils
  • Malting barley
  • Mung beans
  • Organically grown grains of all types
  • Peanuts
  • Pearl millet
  • Popcorn, white and colored
  • Psyllium (medicinal)
  • Quinoa
  • Seed production - registered and certified seed, turfgrass, etc.
  • Sesame (seeds)
  • Sorghum (syrup)
  • Soybeans, incl. natto soybeans for tofu, tempeh; and Edible soybeans (edamame)
  • Spelt
  • Triticale
  • Wheatgrass
  • Wild rice

Specialty and Ethnic Vegetables:

See also Field Crops

  • Asparagus
  • Baby vegetables
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Chinese water chestnuts
  • Cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi)
  • Corn, miniature
  • Fenugreek
  • Edible flowers
  • Garlic
  • Gourds, ornamental
  • Gourmet vegetables
  • Greenhouse production for out-of-season crops
  • Heirloom varieties of any vegetable
  • Herbs - culinary and medicinal
  • Horseradish
  • Luffa gourds
  • Mushrooms- agaricus, shiitake, oyster, morel, etc.
  • Onions (transplants, shallots, sweet, early)
  • Organically grown vegetables of all types
  • Oriental vegetables
  • Peas and pea shoots
  • Peppers - specialty types (purple, hot, etc.)
  • Pumpkins
  • Red beets
  • Salad greens - mesclun
  • Sprouts (alfalfa, bean, etc.)
  • Squash
  • Sweet corn
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes - specialty types
  • Truffles
  • Wasabi

Fruits and Nuts:

  • Apples, esp. Heirloom varieties
  • Asian pears
  • Brambles - blackberries, raspberries, loganberries, blackraspberries, etc.
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries, currants
  • Elderberries
  • Gooseberries
  • Kiwi, hardy
  • Lingonberries
  • Melons - specialty types
  • Paw paw
  • Rhubarb products
  • Strawberries, day neutral types
  • Table grapes, seeded and seedless
  • Wine grapes for home brewing market


  • Bedding plants - annual flowers, herbs, etc.
  • Field grown cut flowers
  • Field grown mums
  • Flowers for drying
  • Greenhouse production
  • Hydroponic production
  • Organically grown bedding plants and fruit trees
  • Potted annuals
  • Native plants/wild flowers and seeds
  • Regionally hardy shrubs and perennial flowers

Agroforestry/Forest Products:

  • Bamboo
  • Christmas trees
  • Firewood
  • Paulownia
  • Sawlogs
  • Tree seed collection
  • Wild nuts


Game Related...

  • Beefalo (hybrid of buffalo and beef)
  • Buffalo (American Bison)
  • Deer - fallow deer, red deer
  • Elk (wapiti) for meat and antlers
  • Fish bait - worms, minnows
  • Pheasant for release/restocking programs and meat

Exotic Livestock/Minor Breeds/Special Uses...

  • Alpacas and llamas for pack animals, hair, and pets
  • Boar
  • Butterflies (for gardeners)
  • Fox, red, silver, and blue
  • Goats for milk, meat, and hair (Angora)
  • Horses - draft horse breeding, miniatures, exotics
  • Mink
  • Mules and donkeys
  • Ostriches, rheas, emus
  • Rabbits for meat, lab animals, and hair (Angora)
  • Reindeer
  • Sheep/Lambs for meat, wool, milk (for cheese)
  • Veal, conventional and certified
  • Water buffalo
  • Worms (for composting)
  • Yaks


  • Balut (duck eggs partially incubated)
  • Chicken eggs partially developed (for Asian markets)
  • Doves
  • Duck - meat and paté
  • Free range poultry of all types
  • Geese
  • Guinea fowl
  • Organically raised poultry of all types
  • Peafowl/Peacocks (feathers)
  • Pigeons
  • Quail/Squab
  • Turkey


  • Aquaponics (combining aquaculture and hydroponic operations)
  • Bass, Trout, Catfish, Crayfish, Tilapia
  • Watercress and other aquatic plants

Pet and Medicine Related...

  • Dogs (guardian)
  • Guinea pigs
  • Pet foods - crickets, mealyworms, etc.

Farm and Home Enterprises:


  • Antique shop/Antique restoration
  • Boat storage
  • Direct marketing operations - U-pick, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), farmstand
  • Child care in country setting
  • Composting services and products
  • Custom machinery work
  • Custom planting and care of window boxes and container annuals
  • Custom planting and care of vegetable gardens
  • Custom slaughter
  • Farm sitting
  • Gift shops
  • Pet motels for large as well as small animals
  • Religious services held on farm, e.g. sunrise Easter services, weddings
  • Restaurant
  • Seed and supplies distributor
  • Small engine repair
  • Taxidermy

Recreation and Education...

  • Barn dances
  • Bed and breakfast
  • Campground
  • Chuck wagon
  • Fee hunting and fishing/game farms
  • Hunting, fishing, and nature hike guides
  • Lectures on herbs, gardening at farm
  • Museum of old farm equipment on working farm
  • Petting zoo
  • Sleigh rides with work horses
  • Tours for public, school children
  • Trail rides
  • Vacations on farm
  • Wagon trains

Value-added Products/On-farm Processing...

  • Cheese
  • Cider and other apple products
  • Confections and candles
  • Corn snack foods
  • Crafts
  • Dried flowers, e.g., cultivated, arid, wild
  • Dried Fruits
  • Fresh or stone ground grains
  • Furniture, e.g. outdoor chairs, picnic tables
  • Honey and beeswax products
  • Meat processing, e.g., jerky
  • Sawmill
  • Soapmaking
  • Tanning hides
  • Toys from wood
  • Wheatweaving
  • Winemaking
  • Wool processing and spinning


Extension Office or Land Grant University Directories and Publication Sites

  1. National Institute of Food and Agriculture Cooperative Extension System Offices

  2. E-answers is a searchable Web site for research-based information on a wide range of Extension or Outreach-oriented subjects.

  3. Missouri Alternatives Center and MAC Link List of Extension information on Alternatives

  4. Alabama Cooperative Extension (Auburn Univ.). Publications

  5. Univ. of Arkansas

  6. Univ. of California

  7. Colorado State Univ. Cooperative Extension

  8. Univ. of Florida. Cooperative Extension

  9. Univ. of Georgia. Cooperative Extension
    College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. Publications

  10. Univ. of Hawaii
    College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Publications or

  11. Univ. of Idaho

  12. Iowa State Univ.
    Agriculture and Natural Resources

  13. Kansas State Univ.

  14. Univ. of Kentucky

  15. Louisiana State University Ag Center. Research and Extension

  16. Univ. of Maine

  17. Univ. of Maryland

  18. University of Massachusetts

  19. Michigan State Univ. Extension

  20. Univ. of Minnesota. Extension

  21. Mississippi State Univ. Cooperative Extension,
    Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station

  22. Univ. of Missouri

  23. Montana State Univ.

  24. Univ. of Nebraska. Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources

  25. Rutgers State Univ. of New Jersey Cooperative Extension. Publications

  26. North Carolina State Univ. and Cooperative Extension

  27. North Dakota State Univ. Extension

  28. Ohio State Univ. Extension

  29. Oklahoma State Univ.

  30. Oregon State Univ. Extension and Experiment Station

  31. Penn State Univ.

  32. Clemson Univ. Cooperative Extension

  33. Univ. of Tennessee/Tennessee Farm Bureau

  34. Texas A & M Univ.

  35. Virginia State Univ., and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ.

  36. Washington State Univ. Cooperative Extension.

  37. West Virginia Univ. Cooperative Extension

  38. Univ. of Wisconsin. Cooperative Extension

Other Resources for Agricultural Alternatives

  1. The National Agricultural Library's AGRICOLA database

  2. The Agricultural Network Information Center (AgNIC) includes a searchable database.

  3. The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) identifies directories of value-added agriculture resources, and it provides production and marketing information for many commodities and products. or

  4. Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)

  5. Aquaculture information sources include 1) AFSIC's Aquaculture Resources Web page, 2) eXtension's resources on Freshwater Aquaculture and Marine Aquaculture and 3) ATTRA's publication, Aquaculture Enterprises: Considerations and Strategies.

  6. Australian New Crops

  7. The Livestock Conservancy

  8. State Departments of Agriculture (

  9. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

  10. Univ. of California

    • Small Farm Program
      Specialty Crops
      Includes the Specialty and Minor Crops Handbook; UC Vegetable Research and Information Center; UC Fruit and Nut Research Center; crop profiles; articles and more
  11. Illinois State Water Survey

  12. Maryland Small Ruminant Page
  13. Univ. of Minnesota
    Minnesota Farm Opportunities. Diversification Options.

  14. Ohio State Univ. PlantFacts Database

  15. Oklahoma State Univ. Breeds of Livestock

  16. Plants For A Future database or

  17. Purdue Univ., Center for New Crops and Plant Products

  18. Univ. of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension, Univ. of Minnesota Extension Service, and the Center for Alternative Plant and Animal Products

  19. Alberta Agriculture

  20. Manitoba Agriculture and Food

  21. World Crops