University of Maryland Extension

Crops with the most potential

Ginger S. Myers, Extension Specialist, Marketing, University of Maryland Extension and Kim Rush Lynch, Extension Educator, University of Maryland Extension

Urban Ag home | Table of contents


One of the most common questions aspiring growers ask is, “What crops should I grow?" Unfortunately, the answer is not clear cut.

When choosing what to grow, it is important to balance what you can produce well, what your customers want, and what customers are willing to purchase at a price that will cover your costs. For urban growers with a food access mission, it may be necessary to raise some crops that can be sold for high prices to customers who can afford them (herbs, microgreens, etc.) in order to subsidize the costs of raising other more calorically dense crops destined for the community you are trying to serve. Alternatively, if job creation is a primary goal, you may need to focus more on high-value crops to pay good wages.

In an urban setting, space is a limiting factor, whether you are growing outdoors on a side lot or indoors hydroponically. So urban growers can benefit from choosing to raise crops and livestock that are physically small, thrive in small spaces and challenging growing conditions, and have fast life cycles. The last point is important to maximize the amount of income or food produced per square foot.

For those growing using organic methods, most organic buyers in this region have indicated that if a conventional produce item does well then its organic counterpart has potential to sell as well. Also, crops which typically have few insect and disease problems are perhaps the easiest crops to produce organically.

Really knowing and understanding your product is the first step in determining your marketing strategies. Your ability to describe what products you sell, what they do, what makes them unique or special, who will buy them, and how much you will sell them for starts the marketing process. Focusing greater attention on matching your product’s traits with customers’ needs will result in greater marketing success.

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