Nine Unusual Things Farmers Grow

Farming is one of the oldest and most primitive of human occupations, and today, societies rely on farmers for most of all their food. Many people enjoy hobby farming, but few home farmers produce enough food in enough variety to supply all their needs, especially in developed countries. While most people think of basic crops like corn, rice, and other grains when they think of farming, there are thousands of different things being grown on farms and in greenhouses, plantations, orchards, and nurseries around the world. Many of these plants are exotic and unusual and we often don’t consider the wide variety of things being grown. Here are some of the more unusual and exotic things that are farmed and sold around the world:


While not entirely uncommon, mushrooms are a unique crop that requires careful cultivation and a specific growing environment. They are often grown indoors in a controlled environment where they can receive the necessary growing conditions. Some mushroom varieties require very low light or even darkness in order to grow. They also require specific growth mediums, such as composted manure, which contains rotting or composted organic matter and stays moist throughout the growth cycle. In addition, mushrooms often require very sterile conditions in order to prevent the growth of other fungi. They are usually used for food but can also be grown for medicine and other purposes.


In many states and countries, marijuana is legal to own and grow for personal use. Different varieties of the plant are also grown in greenhouses and fields for commercial uses such as hemp fabric, medicine, and oils. New varieties of hemp and marijuana are being created by breeders, such as the intriguingly-named cereal milk strain. Growing cannabis is easy in many places, as it can tolerate a variety of conditions. The plants prefer a lot of sunlight and sufficient water and need well-draining soil with enough nutrients to support their rapid growth. 


This spicy Japanese condiment is notoriously difficult to grow and requires a specific set of growing conditions to thrive. While it is traditionally grown in Japan, some farmers in the United States have begun experimenting with wasabi cultivation as well. In order to grow wasabi, which is harvested for its spicy rhizome (or root stalk), the farmer will need to create the ideal conditions this picky plant needs.

Wasabi prefers soil that stays consistently moist, cool temperatures that don’t fluctuate, and a shady location. In addition, it needs slightly acidic soil and it takes a long time to grow. Wasabi is used as a spice in traditional Japanese dishes and is commonly used as a condiment served with sushi, as well as being a popular seasoning for nuts and snacks.


This exotic fruit is native to Central and South America but is now grown around the world in tropical and subtropical climates. Dragon fruit is usually grown in areas with a lot of rainfall and a tropical temperature. In areas where it is too cold or hot, dragon fruit is sometimes grown indoors. Dragonfruit is one of the main crops grown in Vietnam. It has a unique appearance and flavor and is prized for its nutritional value. Many people enjoy eating dragon fruit because of its fresh, tropical, fruity taste. 


This fragrant plant is often associated with perfumes and cosmetics, but it can also be grown for its culinary uses. Lavender is grown in large fields in areas that are suitable for its needs. It is also grown as an ornamental plant and an herb in gardens and backyards. Lavender prefers slightly arid, well-drained soil and a lot of sun.

For this reason, lavender has become a favorite ornamental in the American Southwest and other dry areas, as well as being farmed as a crop. Lavender can be used to flavor everything from tea and baked goods to cocktails and savory dishes. It is also a popular aromatic and essential oil, prized as a relaxant and a soothing scent that people use to help them sleep. It is often found in scented lotions and candles.

Venus Flytraps

While not technically a crop, Venus flytraps are unique plants that are often grown in greenhouses. Venus flytraps are native to the eastern US and can only be grown in specialized conditions. They need soil that stays consistently moist, yet is never waterlogged or soggy. They also need acidic soil that is poor in nutritional quality.

Many people use substrates like peat moss in order to get the needed conditions. This plant is also a low-growing understory plant, so it needs shady conditions. These carnivorous plants capture insects with their specialized leaves, making them a fascinating addition to any greenhouse collection. Many people enjoy keeping Venus flytraps as houseplants.


While tea is a common beverage around the world, many people may not realize that it is grown on farms. Tea plants require specific growing conditions and can be found in countries such as China, India, and Sri Lanka. The plants are often grown in tropical, warm mountain areas that have high humidity and plenty of rain. They are grown from cuttings that are planted out when they are around one year old. The plants are then pruned regularly to keep them manageable and the tea leaves are harvested by hand. Tea is rarely grown in the United States as the conditions in most of the country aren’t favorable for this plant. Tea is one of the most popular drinks around the world and has been grown, shipped, and traded between nations for centuries. 


Orchids are grown as houseplants rather than garden plants in most areas because many of them cannot stand cold weather. They are prized for their beautiful, long-lasting blooms and tropical appearance. There are around 30,000 types of orchids, and they grow nearly everywhere, but the ones grown as houseplants are usually tropical and can’t stand cold temperatures. In some areas, orchids can be grown outdoors for part or all of the year.

Orchids are usually grown in a special orchid potting mix or soil that is well-draining and doesn’t contain a lot of compost. It is usually rather poor and light. Orchids also need a humid environment to thrive and most species prefer to be grown in shady areas with bright, indirect light. This mimics their natural environment where they grow in tropical forests.


This expensive spice is derived from the stigmas of the saffron crocus and requires careful cultivation and harvesting. It is often grown in countries such as Iran and Spain and is prized for its unique flavor and color. Saffron is so expensive because each plant only produces a few stigmas a year, and each stigma makes a very tiny amount of saffron once processed. Saffron is traditionally used to season middle eastern and Persian dishes. It is also used to make saffron bread, a traditional treat served on St. Lucia’s Day in Scandinavia. 


There are many strange, exotic, and unusual things being farmed both in North America and around the world. It is interesting to learn about these different plants and their uses, and in some cases, to try growing them for yourself in your yard or house. Many gardeners and houseplant collectors enjoy branching out beyond the traditional plants and trying new things. 

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