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NC State Extension

FAQ: What Should I Grow?

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In an effort to answer your questions in a timely manner, I have decided to post a Frequently Asked Question Section. Before calling or emailing me, please check to see if your question has already been posted here. I apologize that this is rather impersonal, but I can’t even begin to answer all the emails and phone calls I receive now. Since I also need to leave time to do research, write, and speak, I hope you find this a useful alternative.

What Should I Grow?

Q1:  I have been reading over the literature at the County Extension Service office. I have made plans to grow different varieties of gourds, but I would like to explore other options. I was looking at grape production but I would prefer something that would give me a crop in a year. I have 5 acres.AThere are many crop options for you to consider. In addition to reading the literature at the Extension office, I suggest you search the Internet for other new crop ideas. The N.C. Specialty Crops Program website (

A:  There are many crop options for you to consider. In addition to reading the literature at the Extension office, I suggest you search the Internet for other new crop ideas. The N.C. Specialty Crops Program page is a good place to start. It has a long list of crops that extension agents and researchers in North Carolina have studied for many years. Don’t forget to give careful consideration to how to plan to sell your crops, too. That should be an important part of your decision process. Do you plan to sell direct to the consumer at a tailgate market or roadside stand, or sell large volumes to a repacker or wholesaler, or sell to an independent market? Just as an example, if you were planning to sell at a tailgate market, gourds, heirloom tomatoes, and cut flowers might be a good mix for you. If, however, you were planning to sell to a small independent market, larger volumes of gourds and pumpkins might be appropriate. Your equipment, labor, time, and financial resources must also be considered. I suggest that you make an appointment with your county extension agent to discuss some options that might be appropriate for your area.

Q2:  I have some forested land that I would like to harvest for timber some day in the distant future. In the meantime, I would like to make some quick money from my woods by trying forest farming. Is that feasible? Where would I learn more?A

Diversifying into forest farming might work out well for you in the long term, but it does not usually result in quick profits. Unless you have many berries, nuts, medicinal herbs, and wild foods (such as ramps, miners lettuce, fiddlehead ferns, etc.) already present in your woods, it is going to take some time to get something established and to harvestable stage. If you don’t have anything present already, one of the fastest products to produce is mushrooms, such as shiitakes. But first you need to consider how and where you are going to sell these products. There is a great deal of information on my website for you.

I suggest you read over the information on this page, including looking at the ebook indicated on the top of the page:

And check out some of these decision tools and “How to pick a high-value crop” tools.

Jeanine Davis, NC Alternative Crops and Organics Program, Department of Horticultural Science, NC State University (updated 7/20/2022).