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

Robert G. Hadad rgh26 at cornell.edu
Mon Jan 13 09:31:33 EST 2014

   I certainly agree. Getting into the habit of taking notes is the only way to keep track of what you are doing in the field.  Keeping a clip board with paper and a plastic cover to protect from rain etc. is handy. Ideally, having some printed out pages for certain topics like tractor and equipment usage, time for operations on seeding and production of transplants, time it takes to hoe a length of row in the field etc. Having a harvest log and a log for market inventory, sales, price, what's left over, and culls is hugely important.
   I teach cost of production classes and have used Richard Wiswall's spreadsheets. Since he is from the Northeast, his numbers are similar to what would be seeing in NY on some things. The rest we just have to plug in as we go along. I have the class participants estimate their time, labor and costs to start out with to give a baseline. Then collect the data through the season. No one ever gets all the data but at the end of the season, there are some real numbers to plug back in. Comparing the two gives a great view of what is going on with the farm operation. Many farmers are really surprised at what they thought the numbers were and what they really were (both good or bad). It is all a matter of habit in keeping track of things. Keeping the clipboard with you becomes an extension of your arm. 
   Without the financial information at your fingertips, the lack of hard numbers makes it more difficult to make informed decisions. What should you be really charging for produce at the markets? Can you afford to hire labor? How much more product do you need to grow to pay for additional labor? Are you paying yourself enough up front and what is your real profit (or loss) on each crop? Where in the production practices are you losing money and where can you make changes to be more efficient? All important information that can be at your disposal.


Robert Hadad
Cornell Vegetable Program
WNY Regional Vegetable Specialist
Rgh26 at cornell.edu
-----Original Message-----Hi,
From: market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Shoemaker, William H
Sent: Sunday, January 12, 2014 9:47 PM
To: Market Farming
Subject: Re: [Market-farming] time budget info for various field crops?

I think the challenge is to have a set of data that is relevant to a large audience. Production systems vary so widely, partly due to site/climate/ecology, partly due to markets, but mostly due to management choices. There is sooo much variability on the farm, and across farming operations. Developing a relevant database would require a large, diverse source of data, and you would still be left with the challenge of relevancy to your own operation. I think Steve mentioned the discipline of Engineers to take meticulous notes. In the end, that seems to be the real treasure chest. That data is there in Winter and will open your eyes to your own successes and failures. I'd encourage you to be a good documenter of your open business. Besides, you don't want averages to refer to. You want to build a superior market farming business based on the reality of your own experience.

William H. Shoemaker
Retired fruit and vegetable horticulturist University of Illinois wshoemak at illinois.edu

From: market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] on behalf of Kathryn Kerby [kakerby at aol.com]
Sent: Saturday, January 11, 2014 9:38 PM
To: 'Market Farming'
Subject: [Market-farming] time budget info for various field crops?

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
Snohomish, WA
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