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What Does It Cost to Farm?

November 20, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s easy to see the dollar signs when it comes to buying food. It’s easy to think different options should all be the same – a head of lettuce is a head of lettuce, right?

So let’s say I borrow $45,000 for a hydroponic aquaculture system – this doesn’t include fish, water, food, any chemicals needed, seed, etc. It also assumes one has a greenhouse to put it in (add a good deal more if those are an issue!). The supplies to plant add up also, as well as labor. It’s easy to look at that and say “Gosh, in two years that’s 3200 heads of lettuce. less than a buck and a half and it’s paid for…the fish is profit! But wait.

That assumes no errors, ideal production. It doesn’t account for the seed, fish, supplies and so on. It doesn’t include power, backup power, labor, etc. It’s almost $3,000 for the starting medium, plus nearly $5,000 for the pots to grow them in. Are we having fun yet?! Much happens ‘behind the scenes’ and it all costs!

The point is, this crop can easily run into $100,000 and suddenly that $1.35 head of lettuce is losing money. Cost of production might be $3.25 per head, just to break even. True, with that system there’s potential for 1,350 pounds of fish per year.

Hydroponics can require chemicals to insure plant fertility where there is no soil to offer it. Now if you have customers who are adverse to chemicals of any kind, where did your market go?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABe it traditional, heirloom, organic, conventional – there are choices that are vast. Most are blissfully unaware of the differences.

Stretching those ends – what people want, what the costs are vs what has to be charged may not be a rosy world view that many see. Can it be done? Sure it can! Can it be done at a price people want to pay? Well, that can be dicey!

An important consideration is that which allows a profit. What did it cost to produce your dinner?

Perspective can make a difference!

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