What vegetables should you grow?

Well I could tell you to grow profitable crops.

I could also tell you to grow crops that don’t take a lot of space for the volume you harvest.

Or I could tell you to grow crops that fit with your current weeding tools and systems.

But today, I’m going to tell you to grow the crops that folks want to eat.

And one way to think about what folks want to eat is to break crops down into different tiers.

Four Crop Tiers

Crop Tiers are an idea my co-farmer Emily came up with when she used to plan the Tourne-Sol CSA baskets.

  • Tier 1 is the vegetables that most of your clients use all the time.
  • Tier 2 + 3 are vegetables that some of your client use all the time but that a lot of your clients don’t use that often.
  • Tier 4 is the vegetables that almost nobody is clamouring for on a regular basis.

I turned these teas into a chart with how different % of your clients use veggies in a specific tier.

Warning: I have completely made up these %. They are based on nothing more than my gut feeling.

Crop Tiers At Tourne-Sol

This is how I consider the crops we grow at Tourne-Sol farm:

Tier 1: Carrots, Cucumbers, Lettuce, Tomatoes

Tier 2: Kale, Onions, Garlic, Sweet Peppers,

Tier 3: Beets, Eggplants, Cilantro, Hot Peppers

Tier 4: Sage, Jerusalem Artichokes

Your crop tiers might look very different based on who your clients are.

(And I’ll mention that there would probably be some disagreement at Tourne-Sol on what crops are in Tiers 2-4 – I would be surprised if anyone contested the Tier 1 list.)

What this look like in a crop plan

If you’re a CSA farmer, then plan on

  • Tier 1 crops every week for all your clients.
  • Tier 2 crops every 2-3 weeks for all your clients, or include them more regularly as choices.
  • Tier 3 crops should usually only be choices.
  • Tier 4 crops … hmm, should  you be growing these?

If you’re a farmers market grower, you’ll probably be selling a lot of of Tier 1 crops, quite a few Tier 2 crops, and not so many Tier 3 crops.

Of course, you might choose to niche down and be the pepper guy or the garlic guru or the Jerusalem artichoke Queen. And you might be able be able to sell a lot of Tier 3 or Tier 4 crops that way.

But not all growers in the same market can niche down that way, and most growers will be relying on Tier 1 and Tier 2 crops to make their clients happy.

What do your clients like to eat?

Next workshop: Tuesday Dec 6 at 2pm Eastern

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