September is a very full month for us on the homestead as we continue to preserve food for winter plus one of my cash crops is in full bloom and needs harvested frequently – dahlias! A good portion of our one acre plus garden space is for growing food for our family, but we also have space for some cash crops to help with farm income. In the spring, we raise salad greens to sell and from May to October we raise cut flowers for weddings and other events. September and October are prime wedding season and dahlias are the star of the show for making bouquets. We have 400 plants in the ground in numerous colors and are heavy on the trending colors of white, blush and burgundy. The dahlias are indeed a labor of love as they grow from tubers that needs to be dug each fall, stored in the root cellar, divided in the spring, planted mid-May and staked to keep from falling over. To go along with the dahlias, we also grow zinnias, snapdragons, sunflowers, celosia, lisianthus and numerous other varieties. We also grow a number of bushes for foliage with one of our favorites being ninebark which is an Ohio native sporting dark red leaves.
Currently, the local flower movement is gaining speed, right on the heels of the local food movement. I especially appreciate the brides who are looking to enjoy seasonal flowers, value supporting local farmers and want eco-friendly options. We can create some lovely arrangements if given creative license to use what is blooming most beautifully in their color scheme the week of their wedding. We have even done some arrangements in unique vessels from Lehman’s. So if you or someone you know are planning a wedding, check out the local flower options for your wedding date and get creative with your vessels.
Over the years we have tried various cash crops in the garden, everything from a small CSA (weekly veggie boxes) to selling extra greenhouse plants to raising 5000 garlic bulbs. There are always new ideas we are contemplating for the future such as growing elderberries and asparagus. Here are some things to consider if you are looking for a cash crop, whether plants or animals, for your homestead:
- What is your land suited to grow?
- What market demand exists?
- How much time can you commit? What help is available?
- How much do you want to invest up front in plants/animals/equipment?
In most cases, it is wise to try several small experiments and see where things go. We weren’t intending to get into cut flower production but always had a few rows of flowers mixed in with our vegetables. Our first big order happened 12 years ago when a neighbor gal asked if we would grow orange and purple zinnias for her wedding. We continued getting requests and then 5 years ago we decided to ramp up the flower production and get a walk in cooler so we could accommodate more people. The flowers were growing well in our soil, our children were enjoying helping and demand was increasing. It was a good family project that allowed me to do most of the work at home. It is also exciting to watch some of our children growing their own flowers and making bouquets for a cash crop of their own. It has definitely been a privilege to grow and share some of God’s beauty to help people celebrate special occasions.
What cash crops do you grow on your homestead?
Karen Geiser is a regular demonstrator and homesteading class teacher at Lehman’s. Photos by her daughter, Elizabeth Geiser ©2019.