FarmSelect™ is ready for use!
Use this first-generation online tool to compare the field-scale economics of organic and conventional grain-farming practices

January 27, 2005: Finally! Over the past few months you’ve heard about the progress of our economic modeling tool, FarmSelect™. Well, it’s here!

As of today, FarmSelect has its own home on the NewFarm.org website, and a place on the main navigation bar. Please try it out, then let us know what you think of it.

What exactly is FarmSelect, and what does it do? Put simply, FarmSelect allows you to compare the economic returns of organic and conventional production. But it can be used for more than just that. The way we’ve arranged things, any two fields of a given size, in any region of the country, can be compared growing any of the five most widely grown row crops in the country. We’ll add more crops later. You can have one field organic and one conventional, both organic or both conventional, however you like it.

We kept a few things topmost in our minds as we designed FarmSelect:

  • Accessibility
  • Ease of Use
  • Convenience
  • Credibility
  • Transparency

Our design team includes not just programmers, but farmers and business people, who understand the realities of making a profit in a tough economy. And we are rural people, who appreciate the limited computer power of many farmers. FarmSelect is short on long-to-load graphics and wide screens that require a lot of scrolling. It will run just fine on the kinds of computers you bought 4 to 5 years ago and haven’t used up yet!

Nationwide production data

To make things quick and easy, we did a lot of background research, both here on The Rodale Institute® Experimental Farm and through the USDA. The department’s statistics allow us to provide you with solid numbers for crop yields, current prices and production costs for every region of the United States. Using those default numbers, a run through FarmSelect takes less than a minute and produces an overview of the crop comparison you selected.

But since every farm is unique, we also made it possible for you to change those numbers to reflect your own experience, or to do “what-if” analysis. You can get a sense of which variables are most important to success in your farming operation.

Make the number real

If you pay more (or less) for your rented acreage than the default figure or you are far from organic buying points, you can raise the rent or put in a hauling expense to make the adjustment. The same goes for other inputs, like seeds, water, fertilizer; you can change any of the numbers – and if they are radically different from what we’ve found, we’ll remind you of that, but let you use them anyway.

And that’s not the only help you’ll get. Throughout the FarmSelect model you’ll find underlined text. With a quick mouse rollover you’ll get extra information. In the case of numbers we’ve supplied you’ll see the actual source, so you can draw your own conclusions about its reliability. In many cases, you will see the actual data that was used to derive the number. We tell you how we got the number and how reliable we think it is. We explain terms that are open to multiple interpretations – like “Depreciation” on the Profit and Loss chart .

Final report with notes

At the end, FarmSelect gives you the option to print out a simple but comprehensive paper report with or without the kind of accrued costs that bankers like to see. Both reports include the pop-up tips from the screen report, printed out as references below the charts.

Later this year, the next version of FarmSelect will have an expanded list of crops and include better modeling of crops in rotation.

Your feedback…

After you’ve visited FarmSelect, please let us know how you like it, or post your thoughts at the special web log (blog) we’ve set up to allow some on-line discussion.

FarmSelect will experience many improvements. Your comments will help us to know which ones to work on first.