Farm Financial Challenge: Bringing Transparency to Small-Scale Agriculture

Dan Berube
Berube Farm

Hi there! Dan Berube here. I am a second year incubator farmer with the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, a beginning farmer training program in my hometown of Dracut, MA. When I decided to start my farming journey, I did A LOT of research to try and understand the financial implications of creating a small farm. There are plenty of stories out there, both good and bad, but useful numbers can be hard to find.

Sure, if I wanted to grow acres of corn or soybeans I could find accurate yield numbers easily, but for someone looking to grow a variety of row crops on a quarter of an acre, this wasn't very helpful. Luckily, I have New Entry nearby and could take their Farm Business Training course, which was a big help. Unfortunately, not everyone has a program like this nearby.

This lack of transparency has always bothered me. When starting a business, it is very important to have accurate information that feeds into your business plan. Expectations are everything in life. Many beginning farmers are coming from families that haven't farmed for a few generations now, so it is hard for them to know what they are getting themselves into.


                                                                        Hard at work on the field.

So when I found out about the Farm Finance Challenge, I knew it was time to step up and share my experiences as a beginning farmer. The Farm Finance Challenge was started by John Suscovich, a beginning chicken farmer in Connecticut, who shares his farming journey on the Growing Farms podcast. When John announced that he would be sharing his production and financial records every month for the duration of 2015 and asked for other farms to participate, I knew I wanted in. This would be a chance to help bring some transparency to the movement and create a case study for future farmers. In total, there are 14 farms participating from 11 states, including a variety of operations including vegetables, fruits, chickens, livestock, maple syrup, and even Aquaponics.

Even though we have only published our January numbers so far, we've already started to get great feedback on the project. I hope you will follow along throughout the season to get a sense what it is like to own a farm. We'll be sharing our income, expenses, production records and time spent farming, along with more than a few hard lessons learned.

If you are a beginning farmer or are thinking about farming, check out the Farm Finance Challenge. See who is running an operation similar to yours, and be sure to ask questions! This is going to be a great learning experience for everyone involved. If you want to see how my farm is doing, check out the Berube Farm hub and all my financial reports.

Dan Berube lives in Dracut, MA with his wife, Alexandra, two cats, four degus, and a goldfish named Big Guy. When not farming, you can find him playing bass guitar in an 80s cover band.