January 27, 2005: Finally!
Over the past few months you’ve heard about the progress of
our economic modeling tool, FarmSelect™. Well, it’s
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:
- 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 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
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
Later this year, the next version of FarmSelect will have an expanded
list of crops and include better modeling of crops in rotation.
After you’ve visited FarmSelect, please let
us know how you like it, or post your thoughts at the
web log (blog) we’ve set up to allow some on-line
FarmSelect will experience many improvements. Your comments will
help us to know which ones to work on first.