Farm Viability Indicators Task Force

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Viability Rules of Thumb

The Farm Viability Indicators Task Force has been compiling viability "rules of thumb" (e.g., gain per day, acres per cow, paid labor to gross sales ratio) for Vermont's agricultural sectors (e.g., dairy, beef, vegetables) that will be useful for farmers when assessing their operations and evaluating management changes.

The rules of thumb are broken into 5 categories: Production, Environment/land use, Labor, Market, and Other. For each category the task force is compiling rules of thumb (i.e., benchmarks that can be used to help assess the viability of a farm or sector) that service providers have developed through their personal experience working with viable farms or rules of thumb that have been identified through research.

With a standardized set of "rules of thumb" farm managers will be better equiped to set measurable goals and evaluate how existing or new management practices are effecting the viability of their operation. Using the rules of thumb, farmers can ask more informed questions that can guide how they invest their time and money into the farm: for example beef producers can assess if their beef cows are gaining 2 pounds per day, vegetable producers if their farm's paid labor to gross sales ratio is around 35%, and organic dairy producers if their pounds of grain fed to pound of milk produced is in the range of 1:3/1:5.

Through this process, the Farm Viability Indicators Task Force is also identifying benchmarks it would like to have to better understand the viability of both individual farms and sectors as a whole, which will help to prioritize farm viability research efforts.