Master’s Thesis Defense - Devin Foote - June 15

Date: June 15, 2016
Time: 10 a.m.
Location: Natural Resources RM 130

Assessing Small Farm Viability Strategies Through Calculations of Hourly Income

Master’s Thesis Defense


Devin Foote

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Time: 10 a.m.

Room 130, Natural Resources Building


Small farms are prominently featured in increasingly popular food marketing channels, such as farmers markets and food hubs. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, however, suggest that most are not financially viable without additional off-farm income. Few studies have examined finances at time periods finer than an annual scale for these types of farms. To gain a more detailed understanding of financial viability, this study analyzed net farm income and estimated hourly earnings of eleven small farms across Michigan. In addition to collecting self-reported financial and work hour data, this study employed open-ended qualitative interviews, conducted at the end of the growing season, to gather information on farmer demographics and business strategies. 

Estimated hourly incomes of farmers in the study ranged from negative $1.67 to $54.11. Those with more experience, and who were better at tracking their labor and finances, were more likely to achieve higher hourly earnings. Analysis of the strategies reported by more successful farmers suggests that the use of high value crops, direct marketing channels, and a focus on reducing input costs may be effective ways to improve small farm viability. Efforts to increase the financial viability of small farms, as one component of strengthening regional food systems, may benefit from implementing policies that reduce barriers to these strategies.

Committee Members: