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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
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Updated by Vanessa S Gordon, Ph.D., October 2021.


  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

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About this list

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

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What can alternative crops and enterprises do for my 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.

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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 Specialty Crops 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. Evaluating a Rural Enterprise (ATTRA) provides more detailed discussion about assessing farming alternatives.
  4. Additional resources are available from your State Department of Agriculture; your local and/or university library; and crop and livestock associations.

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The list:

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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

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Specialty and Ethnic Vegetables:

See also Field Crops

  • 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 Heirloom Varieties 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

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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

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  • 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

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Agroforestry/Forest Products:

  • Bamboo
  • Christmas trees
  • Firewood
  • Herbs
  • Mushrooms (log shiitake or foraged)
  • Sawlogs
  • Silvopastured livestock
  • Syrup (maple, birch)
  • Tree seed collection
  • Wild nuts

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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
  • 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

Pet and Medicine Related...

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

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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

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Extension Office or Land Grant University Directories and Publication Sites

Other Resources for Agricultural Alternatives

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