Newer Farmers Benefit from Stories of Profit and Loss

Iowa vegetable farmer Danelle Myer admits she was both a bit headstrong and starry-eyed when she started farming, and that’s why she’s eager to share lessons learned from her seven-year undertaking. Myer is participating in the Whole Farm Financial Project through Practical Farmers of Iowa that evaluates profitability and helps with sustainability of the local food movement. She grew up on a farm, but didn’t take up vegetable farming until 2011 when she was 40.

Myer says by sharing her financial data with other farmers who participate in the project, there’s a chance to compare and contrast, learning what’s profitable and what isn’t. The project analyzed data from 2013 to 2016, and can be reviewed online at practicalfarmers.org. Myer says like many new farmers, she originally stretched herself too thin. Looking at her financials over several years, she has simplified operations, eliminating online orders and pop-up farm stands. 

One agriculture expert says a good, stable vegetable farm takes about 3 to 5 years to become profitable, and 8 to 10 years to become stable and self-functioning. Myer says being part of the Practical Farmers study has improved her perspective on her accomplishments.

Data from the three-year report shows that of the eight fruit and vegetable farms participating, four had a “favorable” four-year average net-income ratio. On average, 7 of the 8 farms earned from 79 to 100 percent of their total farm income from their crops.