How to Become a Market Gardener

Career Path Guide

Becoming a market gardener is an excellent career choice for those who like to be outdoors and be their own boss.


Self-employment, producing fresh food and turning a hobby or passion into a living are some of the main attractions of this profession.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to succeed in a career as a market gardener. We've also included helpful occupational information, such as a general job description, a list of typical job duties, salary expectations, and much more!



Educational Requirements for Becoming a Market Gardener

There are no specific educational requirements to become a market gardener, although having an educational background in certain areas can be a great asset. 


An undergraduate education in areas such as botany, environmental science, environmental engineering and marketing can help provide aspiring market gardeners with skills and competencies in areas that are crucial to their success.


Market Gardeners need working knowledge in the following areas:


• Local soil and climate conditions

• Effective planting and harvesting techniques

• Sales and marketing

• How to operate and manage a small business

• How to set prices for market garden products

• Plant disease and insect problems

• When and how to apply pesticides in a safe and effective manner

• Pesticide and herbicide alternatives

• Knowledge of which plants and seeds will fit a specific environment and marketing niche 





General Job Description

Market gardeners are responsible for growing and selling high-value crops, including fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers to consumers in local markets. Market gardeners run farm operations smaller than traditional farms, yet larger than home gardens, and they must apply principles of both to be successful in their business.



Typical Job Duties

• Analyze market and climate conditions in order to determine which crops to grow

• Begin growing seeds in a greenhouse to prepare them for transplantation in the spring

• Develop plans for planting and harvesting crops

• Order and purchase seeds or plants, fertilizer and other production materials, supplies and equipment 

• Till and fertilize soil

• Manage weeds, diseases and insects

• Plant and manage crops

• Harvest crops and bring to market

• Keep records of financial transactions 

• Keep records of crop and operation schedules

• Order, install, operate and maintain equipment



Market Gardener Salary

It's difficult to determine how much market gardeners make, as it is very difficult to acquire accurate information regarding salary levels. This is largely due to the fact that market gardeners own and operate businesses and don’t usually earn traditional salaries.


Market Gardener Salary in Alberta: According to the 2019 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the average salary level of Albertans working in the “Market Gardener” occupational group is $70,992 per year.


Salary - United States: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the “Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers” occupational group is $67,950 per year.


Note: The earnings of market gardeners can vary greatly, depending on whether or not they farm full time, which products they farm, weather conditions and many other factors.



Personal Characteristics of Successful Market Gardeners

• Good physical health and stamina

• An interest in working with plants and the land

• An interest in sales activities, such as attending farmer’s markets

• A methodical approach to work activities

• Must have patience

• Must have self-discipline 





Gaining Work Experience as a Market Gardener

It’s very common for aspiring market gardeners to gain experience by working under more experienced gardeners. You can typically find these work experience opportunities by visiting local farmers markets.


Employing this strategy can introduce you to a wide variety of specialist farmers, who run farms of various sizes and who grow a wide variety of crops. This will allow you to express your interest in becoming a market gardener and meet someone who can mentor you through the process.


Tip for Success: Offering to help a market gardener for free can be a great way to learn from them and offer something to them in return!



How Market Gardeners Make Profits

Unlike traditional farmers who typically rely on selling vast quantities of goods to realize profits, market gardeners have the opportunity to make substantial profits from a small amount of land, using a small amount of equipment.


The high value of the crops they sell to local consumers, combined with the low costs for equipment, machinery and land allows market gardeners to enjoy high yields on their initial investments. They typically attend farmer's markets, or sell to local businesses such as restaurants, to generate sales.


Much of the success of market gardeners depends on market and weather conditions, as well as the amount of their products they are able to sell to local, and in some cases national or international, consumers. Market gardeners are also able to produce crops year round typically, as they may be able to plant and harvest certain crops during the spring months, others during the summers and fall months.


Some market gardeners may supplement their income by producing and selling value added products such as preserves, spice mixtures, dips and other such products. Other market gardeners may supplement their incomes by working a second job or relying on the income of a spouse.



Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are jobs that are similar in nature to "market gardener", as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.




Greenhouse Operator





Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a market gardener.


Occupations in Alberta:Market Gardener.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved March 1, 2020.

Management:Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers.” (September 4, 2019). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved March 1, 2020.

Articles:How to Make a Living From a 1.5 Acre Market Garden.” (March 22, 2015). Permaculture Apprentice website. Retrieved January 1, 2020.



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Scholarships for Becoming a Market Gardener

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that are relevant for becoming a market gardener can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant University Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for this profession. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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