If you are considering farming, there are a number of factors to think about. The first step is to determine your resources. How much time can you devote to farming? How much space do you have? How much can you afford to spend? Different crops will require different amounts of space and can vary greatly in how long they take to mature and, in turn, make a profit for you. Once you’ve assessed your resources, you can begin to think about what type of crops you might like to grow.
After you’ve established the basics, you’ll need to determine your soil type. You can get a home kit or have a company test your soil’s pH level. Once you know your soil type, you’ll want to determine what type of crop will be best suited for your space. You can change the composition of your soil with additives but, typically, it’s best to work with what you have.
Some of the most commonly grown crops by small Jamaican farms are sweet potatoes and yams, beans, cassava and tomatoes.
If you’re considering sweet potatoes, you should have sandy soil and a large sunny space. You can grow 50 sprouts from the peelings of one potato so it’s a low upfront investment. They take about 16-18 weeks to mature and they need to be harvested as soon as they mature so don’t grow more than you can manage. The two biggest risks are water-logging and sweet potato weevils.
Yams are a good choice if your soil has a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5. They grow well at 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit, like a lot of compost, and require fertilization every two weeks. They take about one year to mature. The most common problems arise from fungal issues, which can be treated with fungicide.
If you’re thinking about growing tomatoes, you’ll need to start by growing them in pots filled with potting soil until they are three- five weeks old so plan for more upfront costs than you would with sweet potatoes or yams. They’ll also require stakes once they grow to about two feet tall. They grow best when watered every other day and fertilized every three weeks. They mature after two to three months. Pests are always a risk and regular weeding will be required.
There is a type of crop that will work in nearly every condition but it can be difficult to decide what will be best for you. Before you make a commitment to growing a particular crop, you need to determine: the required soil type, ideal temperature/ light range, necessary irrigation, yield and maturation time, potential risks, and total costs involved.
Like most things, it’s best to start small. If you think you might want to grow tomatoes, just start with a few pots. This will give you a very good idea of how much time and money you’ll need to invest.
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Cost of Production – “The cost of production estimates are used to guide and inform new and existing farmers as to the potential costs associated with various crops.”
Operating A Profitable Small Farm (by University of Maryland)