Growing heirloom tomatoes for profit is a rewarding and inexpensive business to start. You can turn a part of your garden into a money-maker with these tasty treats, with only 2-3 months to harvest and profits. Plus – heirloom tomato sales are booming, as more and more people discover the exceptional taste and flavor of heirlooms. Here’s how you can start a profitable heirloom tomato business in just 6 simple steps:
1. Find out what people want.
Ask the seed suppliers who sell to commercial growers what is popular. There are dozens of varieties that sell well year after year because of their delicious flavor and repeat customers for the popular varieties. Brandywine is a good example of a best-selling variety. Be sure to choose varieties that will do well in your climate.
2. Check your soil.
Heirloom tomatoes do best in healthy soil with lots of humus and organic matter and a neutral Ph just under 7. This helps reduce pests and disease problems. In addition, the humus holds water like a sponge and reduces water stress, which can cause cracking of the tender heirloom tomato skins. It’s a good idea to test the soil before planting to ensure it has the nutrients to grow big healthy tomatoes. You can test the soil yourself, or have a nearby soil laboratory do it.
3. Start planting.
Seeds should be planted indoor 6-8 weeks before they are ready to transplant to the garden. Most growers find a spacing of 18” to 24”apart, with 36” to 48” between rows, works best for most varieties. If you are growing other vegetables, try to place the tomato plants on the North side of your garden, where the tall vines will not block the sun for lower growing vegetables.
4. Monitor plant growth.
As your tomato plants grow, make sure they have the care they will need to produce an abundant harvest of fruit. Water regularly to reduce water stress. Thin suckers to ensure good air circulation and encourages the growth of fruit rather than leaves. Add organic fertilizer as needed and weed regularly so the tomato plants get the soil nutrients, not the weeds!
5. Harvest your heirlooms.
Your tomatoes are almost ready to harvest when their natural color, whether it is red, yellow, pink or purple, is fully developed. Some growers stop watering in the final week or two, as that can increase the sugar content and improve flavor.
6. Start selling your heirlooms.
When your heirloom tomatoes are ready to sell, you should have picked your customers, such as restaurant chefs, the local grocery stores or a booth or shared stand at the local farmers market. Some growers with good road access to their gardens prefer to sell direct from the garden. Culled tomatoes can also be used to make salsa or sauces, or sold at a discount to customers who want to do their own sauce making.
In six easy steps, your new tomato growing business can be on the way to a nice profit, especially with the premium prices enjoyed by heirloom tomatoes. Follow these simple steps and you could be growing and selling your own profitable tomato crop. To discover more about growing and marketing these profitable plants, read Profitable Heirloom Tomatoes.