[Market-farming] time budget info for various field crops?

Richard Robinson rrobinson at nasw.org
Sun Jan 12 09:22:30 EST 2014

This is an excellent question, and one for which I've never seen an answer. The closest I've seen to what you are looking for are estimates from expert farmers on the dollars of crop per hour of harvest time (lettuce is huge, raspberries are terrible). But the usefulness of this figure rests on the assumption that the rest of the season's work is either proportionate or fixed. That's not necessarily true for all.

I tracked my own time by crop for one year a couple years ago, and confirmed what I mostly knew already. There were some time hogs (artichokes, potatoes) and some cash cows (tomatoes, kale, lettuce). I dropped the artichokes (but hope to reintroduce them eventually), rethought how I grew potatoes, and thanked my tomatoes each time I entered the hoophouse. To be what you are looking for, I would have needed income from each crop, so I could figure out what my hourly rate was for each, but that was more precision than I could wring from my honor stand and CSA. I figured that on average, I was doing somewhat better than minimum wage. That's not enough. 

  Richard Robinson
  Hopestill Farm

On 1/12/2014 at 9:04:36 AM, Kathryn Kerby wrote:
> I am looking for something which maybe doesn’t
> exist.  A table of estimated or averaged manhours required for different
> kinds of veggie crops.  For instance, something which would list the
> approximate manhours required to take tomatoes from seeding through harvest,
> on a per-plant or per-row-foot or per-square-foot basis.  I know there are a
> lot of variables, such as whether stuff is direct-seeded vs transplanted,
> whether each step is done manually or via machinery, and probably a lot of
> stuff I haven’t even thought of.  But maybe something like this exists?  I’ve
> been doing Google searches on phrases like “time budget for vegetable crops”
> but keep coming up with hits for enterprise budgets, ie, how much money was
> spent on seeds and fertilizer and so on.  Not what I’m looking for.
> I’m asking for several related reasons.  First, we’re trying to decide
> whether to add any additional crops to our existing work schedule for the
> year.  Also, we’re wondering if there is some kind of comparison between
> crops, such that if we wanted to add a few more, we could choose based (in
> part) on how much manpower they’d require, versus how much time we can give
> that new crop.  Maybe tomatoes would be too time-intensive, but perhaps
> onions wouldn’t.  I also would like to compare the limited manhours info I
> have for crops we’ve done in the past, versus how much manhours those same
> crops required other farms.  See if we’re taking more time than is really
> needed, on X crop.  If we’re spending five times more man hours in the field
> on squash, compared to some kind of national average, it would be nice to
> learn that so we can figure out why.
> Anyone have any resources they could point me towards? 
> Thanks all………….
> Kathryn Kerby
> Frogchorusfarm.com
> Snohomish, WA

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