Understanding On-Farm Costs of Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $9,400.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Sarah Brown
Diggin' Roots Farm

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts


  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance


    Diggin’ Roots Farm is pleased to report the successful completion of this project. Determining on-farm costs of production is a significant task and with the support of WSARE the farm was able to develop the systems and infrastructure to facilitate data collection and integrate this work into everyday tasks.


    During the 2015 and 2016 growing seasons, Diggin’ Roots Farm participated in a Cost Study Cohort Pilot project that was developed and facilitated by Oregon Tilth and OSU. This project used an activity-based time study approach that focused on one activity on the farm at a time. For example, during the spring we spent a few weeks recording the time it takes to do various activities in the greenhouse. The activity areas followed the typical progression of the growing season starting with greenhouse, and moving on to bed preparation, seeding and planting, watering, weeding and trellising, harvesting and post harvest handling, marketing, cover cropping and field clean up. The majority of what was tracked focused on the time it takes to do various activities related to a unit of space of a unit of crop (count or weight). This project proposed the development of farm and employee systems and capacity to facilitate successful data collection.

    Project objectives:

    Diggin’ Roots Farm met all proposed objectives. Staff training and time tracking occurred as outlined in the project proposal. Data analysis was slightly delayed but did occur and provided useful insight that was later included in the case study. 

    Due to the complex nature of the work in-person engagements allowed for greater explanation and understanding for farmer audiences. Diggin’ Roots Farm joined Oregon Tilth to present a farmer’s experience collecting time study data at the following events:

    • OSU Small Farms Conference, Feb. 18th, Tracking and Using Cost of Production Information, 80 farmers in attendance.
    • Headwaters Incubator Project, January 23rd, Intro to Business Management Class, 15 beginning farmers in attendance.

    Unfortunately workshop proposals were not accepted for Ecofarm, Organicology, or the North Willamette Horticulture Society Annual Organic Day.

    The written case study was developed and shared through farmer networks, including the 50 farmer Cost Study listserv in Oregon and Washington. Oregon Tilth and OSU are planning on developing the case study into a video to incorporate into their online Growing Farms curriculum. This has the potential to reach a much greater audience than expected with this proposed project.

    Information about this project was included in the farm newsletter. Further outreach materials are being considered. The farm regularly fields inquiries from farmer’s market customers regarding price and is therefore considering an informational postcard providing increased transparency and explanation for customers hoping to understand what prices include.

    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.