Since we started farming we have tried different enterprises (types of crops to grow and value-added farm products) and made decisions on which ones produced and sold well, but also which ones we enjoyed doing. We started to farm as a way to put into practice our environmental values, spend time outside, be independent by creating our own jobs, and produce food for our community and ourselves. We quickly realized that if small-scale local agriculture is to compete with large production farms, we needed to also spend time analyzing numbers. Paying the bills with a job in agriculture proved to be tighter than any other job Marci or myself had ever had, and this forced us to take a broad approach to viewing the profitability of the farm and delving into record keeping and accurate crop analysis.
We started looking at the standard equation of gross revenue - expenses = profit, and turning it around by starting with the question of how much do we need to make in order to live the way we desired? Through this we trimmed down our personal living expenses to the minimum in order to fulfill our dream. Then the equation looked like 'desired profit = gross revenue - expenses. This means that we set a realistic goal of how much income we need and then figure out what we need to grow and produce to fulfill that need. Asking ourselves, do we need to grow more of certain crops? Do we need to cut out certain, unprofitable crops? Do we need to change where we sell our stuff? Can we become more efficient in our production methods? As we finalize our growing and production plans for 2014, all of these questions are asked and help determine what our plans look like and where we spend our time.