Planning Your Small Farm for Pleasure and Profit

Final Report for LNC02-218

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $98,480.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $34,010.00
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Ronald Macher
Sustainable Alternative Farming Institute (SAFI)
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Project Information

Summary:

The project allowed the development of the Small Farm Planning Program online at www.esafi.com. This program provides budgets, ideas, and resources for a variety of crops and livestock, plus provides the starting basics to work out a farm plan to start a new farm or replan an existing farm.

The program looks at soil types, experience, labor, and capital available to provide suitable crops and livestock for a sustainable farm.

A fee to pay for future developments and updates provides six months of access to the program. Plans are to continue adding new crops and livestock and to continually update current budgets.

Introduction:

The biggest reason beginning farmers fail is they have no plan. Normal farm plans take a considerable amount of time and figuring. The Small Farm Plan Program can help develop a plan quickly and easily in one day or less, without hours of research. It allows for future changes and allows the farmer to choose different combinations of crops and livestock that match his or her land, labor, and capital.

Project Objectives:

Lack of planning is the biggest reason for failure for beginning farmers. The objective of this project was to provide a way for beginning farmers to make a farm plan by developing a computer program for them to work through. This objective was achieved after switching to an online program for easy access and updates. The program looks at soil types, experience, labor, land, and capital available. These areas are site-specific to each individual farm and its particular resources.

Research

Materials and methods:

After some thought and consideration, the program was switched from a disk to an online program at www.esafi.com, allowing for quick updates and immediate access to the information and changes. Interested farmers need only submit payment and an e-mail address to SAFI (Sustainable Alternative Farming Institute, 800-633-2535). Request for a password and instructions will be sent to them within a week. Once password is received, program access will begin within two business days and will be allowed for six months.

Research results and discussion:

The Small Farm Plan Program is now online at www.esafi.com. $49.95 allows six months access to develop a farm plan.

Research conclusions:

Although we feel that this program will eventually be useful to beginning farmers, we have had problems convincing farmers to use the program. Out of our initial 60, we received feedback from only 8 people. We have received good feedback from these and several other farmers/educators who have looked at the program and feel it is useful and helpful. SAFI plans to make some changes for improvement based on their suggestions.

Economic Analysis

The price of the program is low enough to be affordable, yet it will allow funds for budget updates and new additions.

Beginning farmers should find it useful in developing their farm, allowing their operation to be sustainable and profitable.

Farmer Adoption

Although we feel that this program will eventually be useful to beginning farmers, we have had problems convincing farmers to use the program. Out of our initial 60, we received feedback from only 8 people. We have received good feedback from these and several other farmers/educators who have looked at the program and feel it is useful and helpful. SAFI plans to make some changes for improvement based on their suggestions.

We feel the slow start of the program is similar to the reception of Ron Macher’s book, Making Your Small Farm Profitable, which is a written (early) version of the program. The book has now sold 40,000 copies and continues to sell well. The program should develop similarly.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

Advertising for the program begins in the next issue of Small Farm Today magazine (Nov/Dec 2005), and online at both www.esafi.com and at www.smallfarmtoday.com. The program will also be promoted at various farm/trade shows and events.

Extension offices will also be notified about the program.

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

SAFI plans to update the program’s current budgets and add more crops and livestock over time. There are a multitude of crops and livestock that can be added, as well as providing area-specifics for different parts of the country.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.