Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's A Cuke Worth?

Once again - we have a number crunching post.  For those who don't get much out of these, you can scroll to the end and see what conclusions we make for the farm.  For those who do like them - enjoy.

One of the questions we get to ask ourselves is "What is this veg worth?" It is important to figure these things out in order to inform our pricing for the CSA, direct sales and for market prices.  Clearly, none of this is perfect and precise. But, the exercise of getting the numbers lined up is informative and useful to us.

This year, we have harvested 7200 cucumbers (all numbers are approximations)
  • 4200  have gone to the CSA
  • 50 have sold at market
  • 400 have been sold to other outlets
  • 1400 have been donated to various locations
  • 1100 been used on the farm to feed birds or for events, promotional usages, etc
If we assign values
  • We sell cucumbers for 75 cents at market
  • We assign 50 cent values to cucumbers given to CSA or donated. We figure in these cases that there is a discount because of the ability to move bulk amounts.
  • We sell to other outlets in bulk at 40 cents.
  • We assign 5 cent value to things used on the farm. There is still value - even if it is used to feed birds (or even compost).
That gives us a value so far of $2900 for this one crop.
This works out to about $4.32 per row foot assigned to cucumbers.

Working at it from the other direction, we ask ourselves what the costs are for this crop:
  • Seed cost isn't terrible. $62
  • We direct seed these (into the ground, no starting in pots or soil blocks)
  • typically we only irrigate to get them started. However, a dry year will require more irrigation.
  • Labor includes early cultivation before plants crawl and two weedings once they crawl.
  • and, of course, labor to clean, pack and distribution. Packing and distribution is often a portion of overhead cost for all crops. Cleaning is only really necessary after a rain makes fruit muddy.
  • But, the real labor cost is in the picking.  
Estimate of person hours labor spent on this crop = 160 hours.
Assign a value of $10/hour and you have a labor cost of $1600
For a net value of $1238 from the crop, not including overhead expense splits.

And, what does this exercise tell me about this crop and our farm?
  • We could increase our direct sales to increase the value of this crop (realizing that marketing does add some labor hours - so it may be a matter of finding the time).  
  • Labor cost in this crop is relatively high during picking.  It has physical costs as well since we allow cucumbers to crawl over the ground.  Picking vining cucumbers requires a fair amount of stretching and bending with this set up.  We could look into trellising to see if there is a net labor savings.
  • We did not "lose money" on this crop in 2010.  Since most of our produce goes to the CSA - you might consider this a moot point.  However, we have to balance crops that are loss leaders (such as green beans) with crops that have a profit margin (such as cucumbers and tomatoes). 
  • We do not need to increase production of this crop, nor do we need to consider a reduction at this point.  A fairly small portion of the crop was not utilized in a fashion that was best for the farm.

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