Why Try Something New?
Market farming is much like every other business in this rapidly changing world in that there is always something new. Plant breeders develop varieties with better flavor, yield, disease resistance, appearance, or earliness. Researchers find new ways to control pests. Engineers tinker with tools and equipment to build them better. The allied industry thrives on the motto that improvements are just waiting to be discovered.
But as Mark Twain observed in his travelogue, Roughing It, "Necessity is the mother of 'taking chances'. " With the parade of new products every year, the wide range of choices can be perplexing. You don't want to overlook important new developments, while recognizing the measure of risk inherent in change.
Narrowing the Field
To better forecast which "new and improved" products are worth your time, attention, and money, it makes sense to take a methodical approach. Here's what we recommend:
Introducing New Varieties
Much of your success as a market farmer depends on choosing the seed varieties that will perform best in your climate and soil. If you’ve been growing for a long time, you probably have found varieties that do better than others and tend to stick with them. If you’re a newer grower, you may be trying multiple varieties in search of the best performers. In either case, you should take a systematic approach to adopting new varieties by conducting on-farm trials.
Trials run the gamut from rigorous research involving randomized replications to more casual observational trials grown in small test plots. Even the most simplistic trials can be time-consuming, so remember to take on only what you can handle. It’s better to get a few valid results than to have more data than you can evaluate.
Here are some of the factors to consider as you get set up for trialing new products:
If you are thinking of growing something completely new, then you have no existing basis of comparison. In this case the best strategy is to read up on and choose several varieties, planting test rows of each. For example, if you are thinking of growing sunflowers to brighten your market stand, review our article, How to Choose Sunflower Varieties, take a look at our comparison charts for Tall Sunflower Varieties and Dwarf Sunflower Varieties, then select three or four varieties from the Brightest and Best Sunflowers to grow in a test plot. With luck, all of them will do well and you'll have plenty of flowers to take to market. But some may do noticeably better than others, and you will know to grow them again next season, possibly as the control group for another trial.
By setting objectives, planning your trials, and following through with evaluations, you will find the new products that are going to help you be a better farmer.
Learn more about trialing new crop varieties from the following resources.
- Concise Guide to Conducting a Variety Trial at Your Farm. Conduct scale-appropriate trials that deliver results you can use, with instructions from Johnny's Trialing Team. »
- About Johnny's Seed Variety Trialing Program. An overview of the process whereby new products are trialed and brought to you from Johnny's each year, featuring the story of our Artisan™ Tomato line »
- Learn More about advanced and replicated variety trialing programs for organic crops by visiting the website of the Organic Seed Alliance »
- Browse all products New This Year »