A market garden is a business that provides a wide range and steady supply of fresh produce through the local growing season. Unlike large, industrial farms, which practice monoculture and mechanization, many different crops and varieties are grown and more manual labor and gardening techniques are used. The small output requires selling through such local fresh produce outlets as on-farm stands, farmers' markets, community-supported agriculture subscriptions, restaurants and independent produce stores. Market gardening and orchard farming are closely related to horticulture, which concerns the growing of fruits and vegetables.
Traditionally, "market garden" was used to contrast farms devoted to raising vegetables and berries, a specialized type of farming, with the larger branches of grain, dairy, and orchard fruit farming; agricultural historians continue to thus use the term. Such operations were not necessarily small-scale. Indeed, many were very large, commercial farms that were called "gardens" not because of size, but because English-speaking farmers traditionally referred to their vegetable plots as "gardens": in English whether in common parlance or in anthropological or historical scholarship, husbandry done by the hoe is customarily called "gardening" and husbandry done by the plough as "farming" regardless of the scale of either. A "market garden" was simply a vegetable plot, the produce of which the farmer used to sell as opposed to use to feed his or her family. Market gardens are necessarily close to the markets, i.e. cities, that they serve.
The word 'truck' in Truck farms does not refer to the transportation truck, which is derived from Latin for wheel, but rather from the old north French word troquer, which means "barter" or "exchange". The use for vegetables raised for market can be traced back to 1784 and truck farms to 1866.
Selling to the wholesale market usually earns 10–20% of the retail price, but direct-to-consumer selling earns 100%. Although highly variable, a conventional farm may return a few hundred to a few thousand dollars (US) per acre ($0.03/m² to $0.30/m²) but an efficient market garden can earn in the $10,000–15,000 per acre ($3/m² to $5/m²) range, or even higher. However, the size of a market garden has a practical upper bound based on this model, but with conventional farming can farm vast areas because access to a direct market is not a requirement.
Larger market gardens often sell to such local food outlets as supermarkets, food cooperatives, community-supported agriculture programs, farmers' markets, fresh food wholesalers, and any other higher-volume channels that benefit from buying a range of vegetables from a single supplier, their freshness allowing for a premium over the revenue from the supermarkets and frequently other local suppliers. A larger market garden can by mixed crop production maintain a sales alternative to the wholesale commodity-style channels often used by farms that specialize in high volumes of a limited number of crops.