The Bottom Line

Taken from the south tip of Salt Spring Island on Reginald Hill, looking south overtop Russell and Portland Islands to others in the Salish Sea east of the Saanich Peninsula.

After last year’s half-season was over and we decided to expand our operation in 2011, I vowed that I would be disappointed if we did not at least triple our sales.  I did not, however, say I would be satisfied.  And so it is that I am left with mixed emotions at the final result.

For reference, in 2010 we grossed something like $8500.  Save your sympathy though.  We were having fun.  Well, until we realized without a doubt that we would have to seriously pick up our game this year.  Hence the construction of high tunnels and the promise of being able to grow profitable plant starts and heat loving crops.

This year we grossed somewhere around $26k, barely achieving the tripling goal.  But, whereas our 2010 after expenses effective hourly wage was undoubtedly negative, this year’s was undoubtedly positive.  We figure Pauline spent ~600 on farm related work while I guess I may have worked ~2000.  We have no time cards and definitely no pay stubs to check but I just think that, despite thinking farm related thoughts nearly every day and actually working  most days for at least a few minutes (daily chicken duty, for example), I can’t say that the work seemed more onerous than having a 9-5 job, even in the summer.  So, after expenses, we worked for roughly $6/hr.  Now it’s time for some sympathy.

But perhaps more context is needed else we may as well hang up our hoes now.  This is a small business start up, one in which we have a limited, but ever growing, amount of experience.  Many new businesses of all types fail soon after launch, others take a few years to really get going.  And of course there are Facebooks from time to time.  All in all, I think we’re doing ok.  Neither Pets.com nor Amazon.

Absent any expansion in 2012, I could see our revenue increasing to $30k just by not repeating the high tunnel crop failures and by growing more of the plant starts that sold really well and abandoning those that didn’t.  Ignoring the original garden plot that is so dry and shady would decrease our revenue somewhat but we would gain way more time thus being positive to a $/hr calculation.

Last year’s expenses still had a lot of one-time purchases like high tunnel parts and plant start supplies, both of which have long lives.  We won’t have those expenses in 2012 (unless something unexpected comes up).  We can reduce our outlay on certain purchases like potting soil by buying in bulk now that we know how much we will use.  So instead of $10k+ of expenses, we could probably get by on, say, $4k.

And having learned a thing or two about efficiency from last year, I can see Pauline only needing 450 hours for plant starts and me getting by with perhaps 1200 hours.  Suddenly we’re north of $15/hr which is about the going rate for farm labour around here.

This result would prompt most to get a real job.  Alas, the promise of better rewards with the addition of still more high tunnel real estate at Dan’s and a more profitable crop mix means that I will keep going for at least another year.  Pauline, meanwhile, is hedging the family bet by pursuing new employment opportunities which is why you may have noticed more I’s and me’s in my writing and fewer we’s and us’s.  Still, I hope she will be able to help the plant starts business since, so far, that has been the most lucrative agricultural product so far.

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3 responses to “The Bottom Line

  1. Absolutely fascinating, Rod. Thanks. All told, I’ve earned about $5 an hour most my life, (combining professional wages with all the time spent working at what does not pay). We’ve lived small–and have enormous freedom and gratification. Will pass your post onto my wife.

  2. So far, we’re still depleting savings from past careers but already it’s at a slower rate than before which means that we’ve adjusted our lifestyle as well. Having said that, we would really like to visit Hawaii some day and we can’t really bring ourselves to do that just yet. I guess we could probably still go back to our old lives, make lots of money and spend it more indiscriminately. But why? I mean, there were lots of reasons not to continue with air traffic control. This wasn’t the only one.

  3. Pingback: CFF Agronomics: Continuing This Fall!! | chorus frog farm

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