The Small-Scale Organic Urban Farmer: What you need to know.

Many culinary careers are available for those who prefer a culinary career outside the kitchen. In this article, we look at the small-scale organic farmer as an alternative culinary-related career to the traditional role of being a chef.

What is a small-scale organic Farmer?

A small-scale organic farmer is urban-based, growing in-demand food products, like oyster mushrooms, often not found in large local markets. Using natural, pesticide-free methods like hydroponics, food is produced in smaller quantities to supply places like local restaurants or health stores.

A small-scale organic farmer is one of the more accessible careers to transition into when you have had your fill of working in the kitchen of a food establishment and are now looking for a career change that offers greater flexibility in working hours and a different lifestyle.

The role, work set-up and requisites of a small-scale farmer.

Understanding what the work entails can help you decide if this is an outside-of-the-kitchen alternative career you may enjoy.

The role of a small-scale organic food farmer.

With an increasing emphasis on eating healthy and consuming organically grown food, the role of a small-scale organic farmer is to meet that need and provide local clients like food markets with fresh, organic produce.

Places like restaurants prefer their products as fresh as possible, and living and working near their clientele, a small-scale organic farmer, can meet this need.

Further, there are several food products that chefs need for meal preparations that are not readily available and small-scale organic farmers can supply that.

The work environment of a small-scale farmer.

Starting, you are likely to work alone and from home, and much of your time will be spent cultivating your crop in your greenhouse or basement,

In addition, time at your desk is needed for marketing your product to potential clients.

Your work also involves travel time to meet with potential clients to understand their business and how your product fits into it and to deliver your products to the client’s premises.

As your business grows, you can naturally get more support.

Requirements for becoming an organic food farmer.

Anyone can become an organic food farmer. However, your culinary knowledge and experience in the food and restaurant industry give you the edge, especially if you have some hard-core experience working in the kitchen.

With the inside scoop, you know what chefs want and need. For example, you will know that chefs love to use products like microgreens for garnishing or cooking.

However, you must love working with plants, or else you will not enjoy this work.

You don’t need much money or space to start small-scale organic farming. You can, for example, grow mushrooms on a small scale in trays, using a greenhouse or if you have a spare room or a basement in your home.

7 Tips to being an excellent organic food farmer.

Below are some guidelines for becoming a good organic farmer and building a solid business.

1. Research how to start, build and sustain your business.

Much information is available on the internet and from books to guide you. Spend time researching small-scale organic farming.

Use this information and either formulate your start-up plan after listening to the suggested best practices or find a resource you have come to know and trust and can relate to.

You can subscribe to courses that guide you from start-up to marketing and sustaining your business. Some offer community groups where you get support from others as you grow your business.

It is vital to ensure the course you invest in is worth it before laying down your finances. On YouTube, you will also find free material but find what suits your present situation.

You may, for example, only have one room to start your product rather than a vast backyard or small holding and will need more initial support on farming in a tiny space.

2. Research the market for crops in demand.

s a chef, you have probably built up a network of people from your culinary school training and your work experience if you have worked in the food establishment business for several years before deciding to transition to an organic urban farmer.

Use your experience to assess market needs, contact your network to do thorough research on the products the market needs, and assess which will be easier for you to supply as a start-up business.

You can also visit your local farmers market, greengrocer or supermarket to monitor which products are in demand and sell out faster than others.

Monitor the sale trends of produce.

3. Start small with one or two in-demand products.

Start with only one or two products and only a few clients.  This allows you time to deal with all the teething phases of your business, to learn from and correct the mistakes you are making and allows for time to become good at what you are doing and for your confidence and client base to grow.

4. Start with small clients, then move to bigger ones.

Being a culinarian, you may already have a foot in the door with more prominent restaurants.

Still, it is advisable to start small and first finesse the service you are providing with smaller food establishments like restaurants with about 20 tables.

You could also consider selling your product to direct customers, friends and family, farmers market or a local greengrocer before proceeding to smaller than bigger food establishments.

A small-scale organic farmer can build a good client base out of the following:

  • Direct to consumers
  • Organic food markets
  • Organic and health food stores
  • Food outlets
  • Small to big Restaurants, including health restaurants

5. Stay trendy on changes in food demands.

Keep up to date with trends in the world of food so that you can produce in-demand food. For example, with so much emphasis now on eating healthier, there’s been a pop-up of health and organic food restaurants that serve farm-to-table, organic produce.

In line with this trend, ordinary restaurants include healthier food options on their menus, making products like sweet potatoes, for example, in greater demand.

Keeping up to date with trends can help you identify in-demand-scarce food products you can grow locally.

With a background in culinary, build strong networks within the food and restaurant industry, and assess trending needs of in-demand and not readily available food.

6. Build your brand as a small-scale organic farmer.

Don’t hold back; instead, put yourself out there on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Market yourself to local restaurants, creating awareness of your products.

Do things like hand out your product to potential clients to sample. Be prompt in responding to potential and existing clients to create an excellent personal and business brand.

7. Take care of your existing clients.

Follow up regularly on how your clients find your product and the service you are providing, if they have enough or need larger quantities or if there are any other products they would like you to provide.

It’s good to keep track of the buying habits of your clients so that you can supply their needs. They may need more of your product during one part of the year compared to another.

Knowing your client well, providing an excellent service to meet their need and building a good rapport will likely ensure that you make a long-term client base and a stable business.

Products that are profitable to grow.

Microgreens and mushrooms are good income sources and can be done on a small scale.


These crops have become increasingly popular for chefs to cook with and use as a garnish on food and salads.

They don’t require much space to grow in, especially at the outset. You can start with only a few trays and then build from there.

As microgreens are plants harvested after they sprout but before growing into a full-sized vegetables, they have a speedy growth cycle of a couple of weeks.

Microgreens have a short shelf life; the sooner they reach the client, following harvesting, the fresher the product is, making it an ideal product to grow as an urban farmer living close to your clients.

Chefs use microgreens as a garnish for food.


Mushrooms are in demand and, like microgreens, don’t need much space to grow. You can start with a single room to develop them and grow them vertically to make good use of your space.

As they also have a fast growth cycle, you can have greater yields, although they are more demanding to grow when compared to tomatoes, for example.

Mushrooms are in demand and profitable to grow.

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