Fruit and vegetable crop budgets available for specialty growers

Iowa State University Extension
Young lady watering a garden.

Specialty crop growers can get a better handle on their production costs and returns by using fruit and vegetable production budgets developed by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

The budgets cover all major costs and returns for common fruits and vegetables grown in Iowa, for both annual crops and perennials.

“Growers are often looking for ways to diversify their farm or acreage, or they are looking to start fruit and vegetable production,” said Olivia Hanlon, education extension specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s Farm, Food and Enterprise Development program. “These enterprise budgets use numbers that can be expected with each enterprise, and producers can update the numbers to reflect their own situation.

The budgets track the sales of food products sold and the cost of the land where they are grown. They also look at the costs of planting and growing the product, harvest and packaging expenses, ownership costs (land, machinery, irrigation equipment), and the summary of returns.

Because specialty crop growers often grow a wide variety of crops, Hanlon said it makes sense to prioritize budget keeping with the bigger, more expensive crops, which offer the most opportunity for profit or loss.

Budgets can be as comprehensive as the producer chooses, and the Excel document can be modified to each producer’s preference.

Hanlon said one cost specialty crop producers often overlook is the cost of their own labor. They should consider how much time they spend for each task, including weeding and crop maintenance, and whether their earnings are commensurate with what they could earn doing something else.

In addition to labor, the budgets help producers track costs for supplies like seed, fertilizer, plants and mulch; and costs related to longer-term ownership, such as machinery, irrigation equipment and land.

The publications and accompanying budgets are as follows:

The publications were prepared by Hanlon, along with Craig Chase, program manager for Farm, Food and Enterprise Development with ISU Extension and Outreach. Both authors note that the budgets are intended to be used as estimates of what a particular crop could average over time and location. Individual farm results will vary based on soil types, location to markets and management decisions.

 For more information, Hanlon can be reached at 515-296-0586 or ohanlon@iastate.edu.