List of Alternative Crops and Enterprises for Small Farm Diversification
List of Alternative Crops and Enterprises for Small Farm Diversification
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
- About this list
- What can alternative crops and enterprises do for my farm?
- Where can I find information on agricultural alternatives?
- The List of Alternative Crops and Enterprises
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: http://agebb.missouri.edu/mac/]. 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?
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.
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.
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.
Evaluating a Rural Enterprise (ATTRA) provides more detailed discussion about assessing farming alternatives.
A PRIMER for Selecting New Enterprises for Your Farm (University of Kentucky), a tool for evaluating new enterprises
for a farm or family business, is based on worksheets used to evaluate the "Profitability, Resource requirements, Information needs, Marketing decisions, Enthusiasm for, and the Risk associated with a new enterprise."
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]
- Field Crops
- Specialty and Ethnic Vegetables (see also Field Crops)
- Fruits and Nuts
- Agroforestry/Forest Products
- Farm and Home Enterprises
- Bird seed (sunflower, proso millet, canary grass, etc.)
- Forage brassicas - turnips, rutabagas
- Castor beans
- Corn (for oil)
- Adzuki beans
- Amaranth (food and feed)
- Dry edible beans (fieldbeans)
- Field peas (food and feed)
- Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- Indian corn
- Jerusalem artichokes (food and feed)
- Malting barley
- Mung beans
- Organically grown grains of all types
- Pearl millet
- Popcorn, white and colored
- Psyllium (medicinal)
- Seed production - registered and certified seed, turfgrass, etc.
- Sesame (seeds)
- Sorghum (syrup)
- Soybeans, incl. natto soybeans for tofu, tempeh; and Edible soybeans (edamame)
- Wild rice
Specialty and Ethnic Vegetables:
See also Field Crops
- Baby vegetables
- Chinese water chestnuts
- Cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi)
- Corn, miniature
- Edible flowers
- Gourds, ornamental
- Gourmet vegetables
- Greenhouse production for out-of-season crops
- Heirloom varieties of any vegetable
- Herbs - culinary and medicinal
- 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.)
- Red beets
- Salad greens - mesclun
- Sprouts (alfalfa, bean, etc.)
- Sweet corn
- Sweet potatoes
- Tomatoes - specialty types
Fruits and Nuts:
- Apples, esp. Heirloom varieties
- Asian pears
- Brambles - blackberries, raspberries, loganberries, blackraspberries, etc.
- Cranberries, currants
- Kiwi, hardy
- 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
- Christmas trees
- Tree seed collection
- Wild nuts
- 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
- Alpacas and llamas for pack animals, hair, and pets
- Butterflies (for gardeners)
- Fox, red, silver, and blue
- Goats for milk, meat, and hair (Angora)
- Horses - draft horse breeding, miniatures, exotics
- Mules and donkeys
- Ostriches, rheas, emus
- Rabbits for meat, lab animals, and hair (Angora)
- Sheep/Lambs for meat, wool, milk (for cheese)
- Veal, conventional and certified
- Water buffalo
- Worms (for composting)
- Balut (duck eggs partially incubated)
- Chicken eggs partially developed (for Asian markets)
- Duck - meat and paté
- Free range poultry of all types
- Guinea fowl
- Organically raised poultry of all types
- Peafowl/Peacocks (feathers)
- Aquaponics (combining aquaculture and hydroponic operations)
- Bass, Trout, Catfish, Crayfish, Tilapia
- Watercress and other aquatic plants
- 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
- Seed and supplies distributor
- Small engine repair
- Barn dances
- Bed and breakfast
- 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
- Cider and other apple products
- Confections and candles
- Corn snack foods
- 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
- Tanning hides
- Toys from wood
- Wool processing and spinning
Extension Office or Land Grant University Directories and Publication Sites
National Institute of Food and Agriculture Cooperative Extension System Offices
E-answers is a searchable Web site for research-based information on a wide range of Extension or Outreach-oriented subjects.
Alabama Cooperative Extension (Auburn Univ.). Publications
Univ. of Arkansas
Univ. of California
- Agriculture and Natural Resources Publications
- Agronomy Research and Information Center
- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program
- Cooperative Extension Service
Vegetable Research and Information Center
Colorado State Univ. Cooperative Extension
Univ. of Florida. Cooperative Extension
Univ. of Georgia. Cooperative Extension
College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. Publications
Univ. of Idaho
Iowa State Univ.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Kansas State Univ.
Univ. of Kentucky
Louisiana State University Ag Center. Research and Extension
Univ. of Maine
Univ. of Maryland
University of Massachusetts
Michigan State Univ. Extension
Univ. of Minnesota. Extension
Mississippi State Univ. Cooperative Extension,
Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station
Univ. of Missouri
Montana State Univ.
Univ. of Nebraska. Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Rutgers State Univ. of New Jersey Cooperative Extension. Publications
North Carolina State Univ. and Cooperative Extension
North Dakota State Univ. Extension
Ohio State Univ. Extension
Oklahoma State Univ.
Oregon State Univ. Extension and Experiment Station
Penn State Univ.
Clemson Univ. Cooperative Extension
Univ. of Tennessee/Tennessee Farm Bureau
Texas A & M Univ.
Virginia State Univ., and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ.
Washington State Univ. Cooperative Extension.
West Virginia Univ. Cooperative Extension
Univ. of Wisconsin. Cooperative Extension
Other Resources for Agricultural Alternatives
The National Agricultural Library's AGRICOLA database
The Agricultural Network Information Center (AgNIC) includes a searchable database.
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.http://www.agmrc.org/directories__state_resources/ or
Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)
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.
State Departments of Agriculture (USA.gov)
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service
Univ. of California
- Small Farm Program
Includes the Specialty and Minor Crops Handbook; UC Vegetable Research and Information Center; UC Fruit and Nut Research Center; crop profiles; articles and more
Illinois State Water Survey
- Maryland Small Ruminant Page
Univ. of Minnesota
Minnesota Farm Opportunities. Diversification Options.
Ohio State Univ. PlantFacts Database
Oklahoma State Univ. Breeds of Livestock
Purdue Univ., Center for New Crops and Plant Products
Univ. of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension, Univ. of Minnesota Extension Service, and the Center for Alternative Plant and Animal Products
- Special Crops Web site
Manitoba Agriculture and Food