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