Establishing a goal of developing an alternative, or specialty agricultural enterprise is usually the result of a desire to pursue a personal interest while also generating an economic return from your land. These types of agricultural enterprises can take a variety of forms, some examples include: new and different crops or livestock enterprises, value added products, agritourism or recreation, natural and organic production systems, or biodynamic food, as well as direct marketing strategies through farmers markets, roadside stands, community supported agriculture, and even online delivery.
An approach to determining the potential success of a particular agricultural enterprise involves consideration of key factors including production, marketing, and management. A wise agricultural entrepreneur would need to have a thorough business plan, including an inventory of natural and personal resources, and clear answers to the following:
1) Do I have the personal characteristics and business skills to be a successful entrepreneur?
2) Do I have the physical resources and capability to consistently produce a quality product?
3) Do I have a plan, reliable labor, and financing to determine production considerations?
4) Do I have a reliable marketing plan in place to profitably sell my products?
For a number of products, particularly the value added types, the processing step is most challenging. In many instances this is the critical part in adding product differentiation to maximize market potential. In the case of fresh specialty products, planning for post harvest handling facilities are most important in maintaining product quality and customer satisfaction. Other factors to consider may include: products not being able to be processed on the farm; facilities to process product are not located in the area; and processing facilities requiring larger amount of raw product than currently available. Identifying local and out of area producers of a particular product is usually the best way to access information regarding processing possibilities. Prospective value added cottage food producers are encouraged to review Cottage Food Act, SB12-048, by Senator Gail Schwartz.
A detailed market assessment is critical in determining the potential profitability of a new agricultural enterprise. The assessment should include market potential, competitive advantage (product characteristics, pricing, promotion, personnel, product distribution, etc.), and the marketing strategies to reach targeted customers.
Cooperative community efforts, in some cases supported by the local business community, is an example of a potential marketing and promotion strategy that has contributed to the success of agricultural producers selling alternative and specialty crop enterprises. Examples include: commodity festivals like the Olathe Sweet Corn, Cherry Days, October Fest Apple Festival, Palisade Peaches, and Wine Fest. There are also innovative marketing and promotional opportunities through the development of agritourism, bike tours, and U-pick farm fresh operations.
The following is a list of potential alternative and specialty agricultural enterprises. This is not an all-inclusive list, but rather examples of common alternative enterprises:
Aquaculture Ethnic Crops
Beekeeping Halloween Pumpkins
Specialty Mushrooms Organic Produce
Specialty Corn Vermiculture
Specialty Potatoes Small-Scale Woodlots
Farm Fresh Eggs Exotic Soaps
Alpacas Goat Milk
Specialty Wine Grapes Fresh Cider
Pasture & Hay Ornamental Trees & Shrubs
Certified Hay Turf Grass
Exotic Livestock Organic Fruits & Vegetables
Specialty Flowers Grass Fed Livestock
Specialty Garlic Christmas Trees