Growing produce in your backyard has many benefits. It’s an excellent hobby and will provide you with cheap, organically made produce, but could it also help you make some money?
You can make money growing lettuce. Lettuce is an easy-to-grow, cheap crop to cultivate, so your business costs would be minimal. Additionally, your organically grown lettuce can be sold at or above market value at farmers’ markets, grocery stores, or restaurants.
Growing lettuce can “profit” you in the long run, as it is cheap to grow and saves you money at the grocery store. Below, I will break down the profitability of lettuce and then give you some starter tips on selling your crop.
Is Lettuce a Profitable Crop?
When you think about a profitable crop, you may be thinking of the trendy, glamorous items you think would be sold at a farmer’s market, such as kale, acai, pumpkins, or other farmers’ market classics that are profitable due to their popularity. But how does lettuce match up?
Lettuce is a profitable crop, but you must be willing to put the time in and weigh out your costs. The start-up costs of growing lettuce, like the seeds and materials, are low. Time spent selling at the market, making business deals with local grocers, or working as a co-op should be considered.
Lettuce has been named one of the top ten most profitable crops to grow and is a staple crop that can be used in numerous ways. It can be used for salads, wraps, burgers, or sandwiches.
One attractive thing about growing lettuce that makes it more profitable is that it can be grown year-round. Additionally, there are dozens of kinds of lettuce you can grow. You can go with the classic iceberg, attempt butter lettuce, or do something like kale or romaine.
With all of the choices out there, you’ll have optimal room for creativity.
The Cost of Growing Lettuce
Most gardeners agree that lettuce is pretty easy to grow, whether as a beginner or a novice. If you’re thinking of selling lettuce because your lettuce crop has flourished, you know already how easy it is to grow lettuce.
If you’re beginning your backyard farming journey, you may be looking up the particulars that would do best at the market.
Lettuce doesn’t take too much time or require any extra tools. Additionally, the “Cut and Come Again” method for lettuce makes your lettuce seeds last quite a long time. Lettuce gardeners cut the mature leaves off the lettuce and allow the seed to stay in the ground, producing another head of lettuce.
This video shows what the cut and comes again method looks like:
Lettuce seeds are also inexpensive. You can get them at your local gardening store or any market that sells seeds.
Other Garden Costs
With lettuce seeds being so inexpensive, you may be ready to rev your engine and get to gardening. It’s also important to consider the other gardening costs, too. You’ll need space, supplies, and need to consider basic business start-up costs.
Space for Gardening
As a gardener, you are going to need some space. Depending on how serious you are about growing lettuce, this means dedicating a large portion of your garden to lettuce alone, which may cut profits for other things you are growing.
If you want a big crop going or are interested in a U-Pick farm, you might need to purchase more land or landscaping.
No space? No worries. When you consider the cost of land and space, you’ll most likely not want to have a massive space for lettuce growing. Lettuce grows just as well in small spaces, but you won’t get as big of a yield.
Some people grow lettuce in just containers. This video explains how to do that:
Soil and Gardening Tools
Another gardening essential is soil. Yards come with their dirt, but making sure it’s nutrient-dense and has the right pH for your lettuce plants might cost some time, research, and money.
Lettuce needs a pH between 6.0 and 7.0, as well as a proper balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are nutrients found in healthy soil.
Additionally, you’ll need some essential gardening tools. For beginner gardeners, a gardening toolbox usually contains:
- Compost or mulch
- Watering can or hose
- Moisture meter
- Harvesting tools, such as baskets or containers.
These things can be found at your local dollar store, online, or even at the supermarket.
Other Business Costs
Depending on how you plan on selling your lettuce, other things might also come into play. If you want to sell at a local farmers’ market, you may be interested in your lettuce’s packaging, whether reusable or plastic.
Packaging can range from $0.04 a count for cheaper, plastic bags or $1.00 each for plastic, reusable zip bags.
Lastly, think about the average costs you’d associate with a business start-up. If you want to make business cards, invest in small business equipment like notebooks, or other things of this nature, this will add to your overall costs.
While it depends highly on your method for sale, marketing should always be accounted for. Even farmer’s market marketing, which can be as simple as colorful signs for your table or price boards, will add to your bottom line.
How Much You Can Make Selling Lettuce
According to the Ag Marketing Resource Center, lettuce is a $1.9 billion industry, making it the “leading vegetable crop in value.”
Farmers are typically paid $0.39 per standard unit for regular, green leaf lettuce. Romaine lettuce brings in about $0.46 on average, and red leaf lettuce brings in $0.43. These types of lettuce are sold for either double or triple what the average farmer pays at the average retail location in Atlanta, Chicago, LA, or New York.
Depending on who you are selling to and in what quantities, you will be able to be intentional with your pricing.
If you notice a dozen lettuce sellers at the farmer’s market, each selling for five cents less than the next, you may consider cutting the price even more to set yourself apart. Or, make sure your lettuce crop is of the best quality, so people are willing to pay a higher price.
However, if you are the only person selling lettuce at the market or offering it to local grocers, you can be a little less conservative with your prices.
Just make sure that you’re never dropping the price below what your time and space are worth. If you spent three hours gardening your lettuce yield and five hours at the market, you need to be sure you’re being adequately compensated, seed costs aside.
How Do I Sell Lettuce?
Deciding where you want to sell your lettuce crops will significantly determine how profitable your venture will be. Every person has a different market, audience, and niche at their disposal. Pick out early on what you want to do and see if you can map out what this will look like regarding your costs and potential profits.
You can sell lettuce at a local farmers’ market, strike up deals with local grocers or businesses, or invest in a community co-op. These options have pros and cons, and what works for one backyard farmer might not work for another one.
Most people choose to sell their lettuce at one of the following:
- Farmers markets
- Local grocers
- U-Pick gardens
There are a few factors you should consider before making your choice. Most importantly, you need to consider the time, energy, and investment you are willing to put into your lettuce crop.
If you have a small container garden but have a bountiful crop you don’t know what to do with, co-oping might be the best option. However, a U-Pick garden would be perfect if you have a large crop but don’t want to spend time harvesting or at the market.
Different Ways to Sell
Most people consider selling their crops at farmers’ markets, and there are numerous benefits to doing this. You can spend time within the community with other local growers, the start-up costs are meager, and you will walk away from the market with cash. However, they are time-consuming.
Usually, you have to run the stand yourself.
Chefs will always use lettuce, whether for salads or burgers, or more elevated meals. Selling to a restaurant is also an excellent bet for organic lettuce farmers.
This video shows some tips for selling to restaurants:
You can also sell to grocery stores, but this also requires time on your end making deals and traveling to and from. Additionally, you’ll need packaging and permits.
However, you will likely get a large payout if you bring in a lot of crops.
U-Pick markets are markets in your backyard, where you invite the public and community members to pay the price to come and pick their lettuce. This is less popular currently, as organic food is often at people’s disposal at the grocery store, but you can use this venture creatively, such as a paid field trip for schools.
If you don’t have the time or ability to harvest your lettuce crops or go to market, this will work great.
Another creative option is Co-ops, which are locally owned and operated organizations where local farmers and dealers come to share their crops. You can trade your lettuce for carrots, farm-fresh meats, or other products at a co-op.
It’ll be less money-making as a profit and more money-saving.
Lettuce is one of the most profitable vegetables to grow. It takes little time and energy to turn a profit because lettuce seeds are so cheap and easy to grow, and lettuce sells so well at most markets.
If you want to create a more extensive operation, going with lettuce allows you to start small and expand over several years. Additionally, growing year-round means you can make money even after the gardening season.