AMES, Iowa – Small farmers and specialty crop growers often receive a higher price for their products compared to commodity crops. Direct marketing and niche markets usually lead to higher returns per unit.
But is growing specialty crops more profitable? The answer depends on many factors, including the total cost of marketing.
To help producers track their cost of marketing, the Farm, Food and Enterprise Development Program at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has developed the Market-Based Enterprise Budgets Toolkit.
The toolkit contains sample marketing budgets for 10 crops or enterprises and allows producers to enter and track their numbers. Included are costs like packaging and labeling, delivery and mileage, and labor.
Each crop in the toolkit includes a free, downloadable Excel budget workbook that farmers can use to enter their own farm’s information for analysis.
“The intent of the toolkit is to help specialty growers understand their costs a little better,” said Emily Coll, program coordinator with Farm, Food and Enterprise Development at ISU Extension and Outreach. “The toolkit provides farmers the information they need to determine what sales market outlets to further develop or reduce, and how a basic change in production practices can influence their bottom line.”
Coll said it’s common for specialty growers to not track marketing costs.
“They’re getting a higher cost per unit when they sell at a direct consumer market, but their transaction costs are often much higher,” she said.
So far, budgets are available for vegetable, flower and herb transplants; asparagus; high tunnel mixed greens; greenhouse basil; greenhouse butterhead; high tunnel tomato; green beans; sweet pepper; scallions; and carrots.
The budgets were developed through a study of participating farmers who voluntarily shared their numbers. Coll said additional crops will be added to the toolkit in 2020.
Specialty crop farmers can help expand the toolkit by volunteering to participate in the study. For more information about the toolkit, or partnering with the study, contact Coll at 515-296-0586 or firstname.lastname@example.org.