What is It?
Advantages • Disadvantages
• Production • Marketing
Specialty or alternative agricultural production has received much attention
in recent years. It is a way to use small acreages of land to produce enough
income from a specialty enterprise for it to become a viable and profitable
business venture. In Arkansas several different specialty enterprises have been
successfully established and maintained. These include both plant and animal,
and include some of the following: but a are by no means restricted to these
:Animals; beefalo, rabbits, sheep and goats, ratites, deer, quail and camelids:
Plants; medicinal herbs, kenaf, culinary herbs, organic vegetables, shitake
mushrooms and many more. There are advantages as well as disadvantages to the
production of specialty agricultural products and they are primarily the same
regardless of what type of enterprise you chose for your farm or type of product
you plan to produce. About 1/3 of conventional farmers survive, about 1/6th of
specialty producers survive. All specialty enterprises are capital, labor, and
management intensive, and all are high risk with very few established markets.
With most you will have to learn new animal husbandry and production techniques
and new cultural practices and marketing methods for your specialty crops. We
can offer advise on a number of subjects related to specialty enterprises
including, planning, enterprise budgets, production, marketing and value added
- Land or resources not suited for conventional agriculture
can be utilized.
- Specialty livestock and plant production are specifically
suited to niche or specialty markets.
- Because of niche marketing, a higher price can be secured
for your product when marketed properly.
- Specialty agricultural production provides an opportunity to
stimulate local economies through use of labor and resources not
- This type of enterprise provides employment for one or more
members of the family thus allowing on-farm employment for one
or more people.
All specialty enterprises are labor intensive.
All have high initial input costs.
Specialty agricultural production requires more intensive and
higher levels of management than do conventional enterprises.
A different approach to marketing is required with specialty
Most specialty enterprises are high risk.
Proper location, site selection, and enterprises suited to an
area are required for successful farming.
Odor and noise produced by the animals may be offensive to
Several years may be required before production of specialty
livestock or crops become profitable.
The production of specialty animals requires learning animal husbandry
techniques unique to the type or types of animal being produced. The
same is true for production of specialty crops. New methods must be
learned on production and marketing. Information is available from local
Cooperative Extension Service offices, universities and colleges,
associations and other producers.
Before deciding to go into the specialty agriculture business, talk
with several producers concerning what to produce, how much, what the
potential problems are, and how to market your products.
Most producers do not choose to market through mainline markets.
Specialty products are usually marketed through niche markets. This
requires that producers not only have knowledge of how to produce, but
knowledge of how to market as well. If you cannot successfully market
what you produce for a profit, you will not remain in business long.
Most successful producers locate and survey markets before going into
Specialty agricultural products can be and are profitably grown by
small producers all over the United States and other parts of the world.
There are specific advantages and disadvantages to be considered when
planning a specialty enterprise.
Production practices will be specific for a given animal or group of
animals. Production information is available from a variety of sources
including other producers. This information should be obtained and
considered before beginning an enterprise.
Marketing specialty animals is different from marketing conventional
commodities. Know your animals, grow what you like, and know your markets. This
will insure a more profitable enterprise.
Remember, however, there is much hard work involved in specialty animal
production and very few things will sell themselves.