On April 10th, I led a workshop on seed economics and marketing at the most recent ECOSGN event. Over the next few weeks, I will review the key points of this workshop. To keep these posts from getting too heavy, I will break the topic into a series of short posts.
We’ll start off with the economics part.
The basic question is “Is it worth it to add a seed crop to my farm mix?” To answer this question you need to compare the profitability of seeds vs. whatever else you’re doing on your farm – in our case that’s vegetables.
A true profitability analysis would be to detail all your expenses (including your labour) and allocate them between the crops you grow. Next, you take your gross sales for each crop and subtract your expenses to get your net profit. This can be tough to accomplish – it takes a lot of good record keeping and judicious decisions in allocating your costs, it also takes quite a bit of time. If you have the inclination to do this, go for it – your farm will be the better for it. A great reference for this type of profit analysis is Richard Wiswal’s book The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook (or see his Webinar).
At our farm, we do a simple analysis to evaluate profitability in function of two resources limited on all the farms I know: Time and Space. These are the tools I use to evaluate seed crop profitability. (This analysis applied to veggies is covered in chapter 10 of the hot new Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Grower by Fred Thériault and myself.)
For new seed growers, analyzing seed crop profitability in space is more important than looking at time. So, that’s what we’ll start looking at in the next post!