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List of Alternative Crops and Enterprises for Small Farm Diversification

Don't put all your eggs in one basket. This holds true for farming as it does for most things.

Grow diverse crops, raise multiple animal species, or employ other techniques to minimize the risk of any farming endeavor. Explore the many lists and ideas on this page to get you started.


Farm Diversification

What can alternative crops and enterprises do for my small farm?

In "Diversification of Your Operation, Why," the authors discuss ideas and techniques farmers can use to diversify their farms and spread "the downside risk over more than one enterprise."

Further research on the challenges, opportunities, and benefits presented by diversification is being conducted at the Ohio State University in a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture-funded project.

The Alternative Farming Systems Information Center maintains the Specialty Crops Web page which offers a selection of information-rich websites and organizations.

This list is not comprehensive, but presents some of the more accessible innovations available to farmers.

List of 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
  • Hemp
  • Jojoba
  • Kenaf
  • Lesquerella
  • Lupine
  • Meadowfoam
  • Milkweed
  • Pennycress
  • Perilla
  • Safflower
  • Sesame
  • Sunflowers
  • Vernonia
Food Grains, Pseudocereals, Legumes, etc.
  • Adzuki beans
  • Amaranth (food and feed)
  • Barley (I.e., Multi-use Naked Barley for Organic Systems)
  • Buckwheat
  • Dry edible beans (fieldbeans)
  • Einkorn
  • Emmer
  • Field peas (food and feed)
  • Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • Hops
  • Indian corn
  • Jerusalem artichokes (food and feed)
  • Kamut
  • Kernza (See: Kernza)
  • Lentils
  • Malting barley
  • Mung beans
  • Organically grown grains of all types
  • Peanuts
  • Pearl millet
  • Popcorn, white and colored
  • Psyllium (medicinal)
  • Quinoa
  • Rye
  • Seed production - registered and certified seed, turfgrass, etc.
  • Sesame (seeds)
  • Sorghum (syrup)
  • Soybeans, incl. natto soybeans for tofu, tempeh; and Edible soybeans (edamame)
  • Spelt
  • Tef
  • Triticale
  • Wheatgrass
  • Wild rice

List of Vegetables

Specialty and Ethnic Vegetables
  • Baby vegetables
  • Chinese water chestnuts
  • Cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kalettes, kohlrabi)
  • Corn, miniature
  • Edible flowers
  • Endive (See: SARE Project no. FNE16-841)
  • Fenugreek
  • Garlic, Garlic Scapes
  • Gourds, ornamental
  • Greenhouse, hoophouse, or high tunnel production for out-of-season crops
  • Heirloom varieties of any vegetable (See AFSIC's Raising Specialty Vegetables Web page)
  • Herbs - culinary and medicinal
  • Horseradish
  • Leafy Greens (Kale, Chard, Collards, Bok Choy, Mustard...)
  • Luffa gourds
  • Microgreens
  • Mushrooms- shiitake, oyster, morel, etc.
  • Onions (transplants, shallots, sweet, early)
  • Organically grown vegetables of all types
  • African, Asian, Hispanic vegetables
  • Peppers - specialty types (purple, hot, etc.)
  • Salad greens - mesclun
  • Sprouts (alfalfa, bean, etc.)
  • Tomatoes - specialty and heirloom types
  • Wasabi
dwarf ornamental pepper plant

List of Fruits and Nuts; Horticultural/Nursery; and Agroforestry/Forestry Products

Fruits and Nuts
  • Apples, esp. Heirloom varieties, cider varieties
  • Aronia berries
  • Asian pears
  • Brambles - blackberries, raspberries, loganberries, blackraspberries, etc.
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries, currants
  • Elderberries
  • Gooseberries
  • Kiwi, hardy
  • Lingonberries
  • Melons - specialty types
  • Paw paw
  • Rhubarb products
  • Starfruit
  • 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
  • Herbs
  • Mushrooms (log shiitake or foraged)
  • Sawlogs
  • Silvopastured livestock
  • Syrup (maple, birch)
  • Tree seed collection
  • Wild nuts

List of Livestock/Animals

Saxon Merino ewes;
Exotic Livestock/Minor Breeds/Special Uses
  • Alpacas and llamas for pack animals, hair, and pets
  • Bees
  • Boar
  • Butterflies (for gardeners)
  • Fox, red, silver, and blue
  • Goats for milk, meat, and hair (Angora)
  • Horses - draft horse breeding, miniatures, exotics
  • Insects, edible, i.e. crickets
  • 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

List of Farm and Home Enterprises

  • Antique shop/Antique restoration
  • Boat storage
  • Direct marketing operations - U-pick, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), farmstand, online sales
  • 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, farm-to-table dinners
  • Seed and supplies distributor
  • Small engine repair
  • Taxidermy
Recreation and Education
  • Barn dances
  • Bed and breakfast, farm stay
  • 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
  • On-farm weddings and receptions
Value-added Products/On-farm Processing
  • Cheese and yogurt
  • Cider, sauce, 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
  • Pies
  • Sauces, salsas, etc.
  • Sawmill
  • Seasonal wreaths (See: SARE Project no. FNE18-892)
  • Soapmaking
  • Tanning hides
  • Toys from wood
  • Beverages: teas, shrubs, Verjuice (See: SARE Project no. FNE18-915)
  • Wheatweaving
  • Winemaking
  • Wool processing and spinning

Find Additional Resources

State departments of agriculture; local or university libraries; & crop or livestock associations
Extension Office or Land Grant University Directories and Publication Sites
Agricultural Alternatives: More Sources

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