Helping you answer two key questions for small farm diversification

“DON’T PUT all of your eggs in the same basket.” The adage that originated in agriculture — the wise diversification advice applied most often to investment strategy — has come full circle in a big way. Diversity in financial investments and business services is a smart move, and so it is in the business of agriculture.

Too many things can go wrong to stake your entire income on a single commodity. That’s one reason for agricultural diversification. Another reason to diversify is simply to supply consumer demand for other products. Still another is to take advantage of new opportunities — like the citrus grower who starts a peach orchard or the blueberry grower who delves into blackberries.

Conveniently, the farmer, grower or rancher who wants to diversify his or her business doesn’t have to do a lot of homework to get started. Resources are as close by as your local extension office or your most handy connection to the Internet.

Once such resource is a leg of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Library website. It’s the Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, or AFSIC (http://afsic.nal.usda.gov). Among its many tools, tips, and links, this site points to a list of alternative crops and enterprises for small farm diversification. It helps to answer two key questions: 1) “What can alternative crops and enterprises do for my farm?” and 2) “Where can I find information on agricultural alternatives?”

In its list of farming and ranching options, the AFSIC site goes into detail with seven primary categories: Field Crops, Specialty and Ethnic Vegetables, Fruits and Nuts, Horticultural/Nursery, Agroforestry/Forest Products, Livestock/Animals, and Farm and Home Enterprises. Resource links include one to the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service.

If you’re seriously considering a launch into alternative crops or agricultural enterprises, the AFSIC site is a must-have addition to your Web browser bookmarks.

CREDIT

column by BAXTER TROUTMAN

BIO: Baxter Troutman is founder and chief executive officer of Labor Solutions, a staffing company with offices in Bartow, Winter Haven, Lake Wales, and Arcadia. A citrus grower who served in the Florida House of Representatives, Troutman understands the challenges and concerns of today’s farmer.