USDA advice on truck farming

Here are some quotes from the USDA’s Yearbook of Agriculture from years gone by. Wise advice and as true today as ever. . .



The production of garden vegetables, commonly called truck farming, is one of the most intensive types of farming, and requires a comparatively high capitalization as well a a large amount of labor.
At the same time, where markets are good, the income is so large that a family can make a living on a very small area of land. In fact, 10 acres would be a large truck farm, and 2 or 3 acres properly managed, with good markets, will bring a fair living to an ordinary family. There is abundant literature about the cultivating of the various truck crops, and this type of farming is a desirable one for beginners, although a great deal of study and some experience are necessary before success can be attained. Truck farming assumes three phases: First, every farm should have a garden which produces such vegetables and small fruits as are needed for home use. Second, in the vicinity of every city, town, and village there is room for a small number  of truck farmers who can supply local markets. This is a much safer form of trucking than the one mentioned later, and is, generally speaking, to be recommended. The crops to be grown must be determined by climate, soil and market demand. The third system of trucking, which is widely developed along the Atlantic seaboard and is found to some extent in other sections, is that of growing vegetables for shipment to distant markets. This type of trucking requires not only a large capital and great expense, but it also requires a large amount of reserve capital on account of the great fluctuations in receipts for products shipped. Some years enormous incomes are obtained per acre; other years there is a dead loss. The business is very uncertain and is not recommended to beginners.

USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, 1978. p 681


We will now pass to the consideration of market gardening in its proper sense, i.e., the cultivation of vegetables to be sold immediately in their fresh state. This may properly and advantageously be made a special department of the work of any farmer who is properly situated as to available markets.
The most desirable location is near a good town, where the products may be taken as soon as gathered and either sold to a dealer or retailed direct to the consumer. This is more profitable than growing for shipment to distant markets, as cost of packages and labor of packing is avoided; there are no express charges or middleman’s commission to pay; no losses from produce damaged during transportation, or from remaining in store so long as to become unsalable.
It is always well, however, for the gardener to establish acquaintance with a good commission dealer in his nearest city, to whom surplus produce may be sent in event of the home market not requiring his entire supply.
For the market garden the best land on the farm will not be too good; fit this for cultivation as well as you may, by draining, deep plowing, thorough tillage, and heavy manuring, and it will yet pay you to make it better still. In market gardening the last load of manure always pays better than the first one. Preferably the piece should be level, and as best adapted to all vegetable crops, should be deep, mellow loam. In arranging for the labor here, in connection with the farm, there should be at least one hand detailed (whether more than one will depend upon the extent of the garden) whose sole duty it is to attend to this work. He should be the most intelligent man upon the place. Robustness or ability to perform heavy labor is not so important as that he should be industrious, faithful, and vigilant in attention to minute details.

About Leigh Hallett

Leigh has been Executive Director of the Federation since 2014. She can be reached by email ([email protected]) or by calling the MFFM offices (487-7114).