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Sharing Stories of Profit, Loss Helps Motivate Newer Iowa Farmers

Iowa farmer Danelle Myer started her One Farm on a half-acre in 2011 to grow tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, beets and other vegetables. (Danelle Myer)
Iowa farmer Danelle Myer started her One Farm on a half-acre in 2011 to grow tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, beets and other vegetables. (Danelle Myer)
August 6, 2018

LOGAN, Iowa – Iowa vegetable farmer Danelle Myer admits she was both a bit headstrong and starry-eyed when she started farming in Harrison County, and that's why she's eager to share lessons learned from her seven-year undertaking.

Myer is participating in the Whole Farm Financial Project through Practical Farmers of Iowa that evaluates profitability and helps with sustainability of the local food movement.

Myer grew up on a farm, but didn't take up vegetable farming until 2011 when she was 40

"And since the beginning, I've had kind of this stubborn, idealistic goal of making a living off of a farm, and so I thought this study would help me look at my numbers," she relates.

Myer says by sharing her financial data with other farmers who participate in the project, there's a chance to compare and contrast, learning what's profitable and what isn't.

The project analyzed data from 2013 to 2016, and can be reviewed online at practicalfarmers.org.

Myer says like many new farmers, she originally stretched herself too thin. Looking at her financials over several years, she has simplified operations, eliminating online orders and pop-up farm stands.

"So, what I'm trying to do now is get better at what we do, get more efficient at what we do,” she states. “And instead of it being about more, more, more, it's like, let's just do a better job of growing less food and sell every single thing that we grow."

One agriculture expert says a good, stable vegetable farm takes about 3 to 5 years to become profitable, and 8 to 10 years to become stable and self-functioning.

Myer says being part of the Practical Farmers study has improved her perspective on her accomplishments.

"It did give me a little bit of a positive boost, where I'm like, 'You know what? I'm okay!'” she explains. “Even if I'm not making a living off of this within in the first five years of my farm, I am in the same boat with everybody else."

Data from the three-year report shows that of the eight fruit and vegetable farms participating, four had a "favorable" four-year average net-income ratio. On average, 7 of the 8 farms earned from 79 to 100 percent of their total farm income from their crops.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA