It All Adds Up: Data Collection to Increase Profitability of Small-scale Vegetable Growers on the Northern Great Plains

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2015: $196,145.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2019
Grant Recipient: Dakota College at Bottineau ECH
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Holly Mawby
Dakota College at Bottineau ECH

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, cucurbits, garlic, greens (leafy), greens (lettuces), onions, peas (culinary), peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes


  • Crop Production: high tunnels or hoop houses, multiple cropping, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, budgets/cost and returns, business planning, farmers' markets/farm stands

    Proposal abstract:

    Small-scale vegetable and fruit growers in North Dakota need farm planning data tailored to the region’s extreme climate and sparse population. The Entrepreneurial Center for Horticulture (ECH) has gathered a diverse group of vegetable growers and agriculture professionals to identify the most useful data and data collection methods and engage in data collection on farms across the state. Over a three-year period data will be collected monthly and aggregated data shared online twice a year. By the project’s end, a Northern Plains Specialty Crop Data Toolkit will be published online including all data collected and the data collection tools used. The Data Toolkit will be a resource Northern Plains specialty crop growers will use in farm business planning for increased social, environmental, and economic sustainability.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Outputs will include



      1. Selection of at least five data types which farmers will collect


      1. Selection of the best collection and reporting tools for those five data types


      1. Monthly data collection reports from 10 partner farmers submitted to ECH staff


      1. Two data reports per year posted to the ECH website, showing aggregated farmer data on at least five types of data.


      1. At least five data sets collected over three growing seasons, with each set having data from at least two, and up to ten farms.


      1. One online Northern Plains Specialty Crop Data Toolbox posted to the ECH website at the end of the project period, which will provide all the data collected over the three year period and provide access to data collection tools.



    Expected Outcomes

    Inputs (What you’re investing)

    Outputs and Activities (What’s produced--activities and information products)

    Evaluation / Monitoring Plan; Measurement Methods

    Learning Outcomes:

    Through farmer surveys and advisory board input the ECH will determine what types of data farmers need most.


    Ten Partner Farmers will become proficient in data collection methods




    Staff time from three ECH staff to conduct training, provide hands-on mentoring and aggregate and publish data sets

    At least five types of data selected by Advisory Board


    Appropriate data collection and reporting tools selected by the Advisory Board for each of the (at least) five types of data.


    Ten farmers submitting monthly data reports to the ECH over three years (360 monthly reports)


    Annual advisory board feedback sessions


    Farmers complete brief training evaluation after data collection training session


    Consistency of farmers’ monthly data reports and/or farmers reporting challenges in data collection

    Action Outcomes:

    Ten Partner Farmers will collect data and provide monthly data reports over three growing seasons


    Small-scale vegetable and fruit growers will use the new data in farm business planning.


    Data collection tools


    Data reporting tools


    Stipends for advisory board members and farmers

    At least five data sets, each containing data from two-ten farmers


    One Northern Plains Small Farm Data Toolkit published on ECH’s website at end of project period containing at least five complete data sets and data collection tools


    Initial survey to determine what types of data farmers need. Follow up survey in February 2018 to determine if farmers are using the data collected and if they are satisfied with types of data collected.

    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.