Effects of Farm and Household Decisions on Labor Allocation and Profitability of Beginning Vegetable Farms in Virginia: a Linear Programming Model
Mark, Allyssa Renee
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The United States is facing a rising average age of principal farm operators and a decline in number of beginning farmers. With numerous barriers and challenges resulting in many farm failures, a majority of beginning farmers are relying on off-farm income to support their households. Decision-making and farm business planning are difficult skills to develop and improve, and the ability to develop a plan to balance on- and off-farm labor could allow farmers to make more profitable decisions. In this study, a General Algebraic Modeling System (GAMS) is used to develop a labor management planning framework for use by Virginia's beginning vegetable farmers or service providers, such as extension agents, with the goal of improving total (on- and off-farm) profitability and farm viability. Study findings suggest that a willingness to work of 12 hours per day, 365 days per year and hired labor costs of $9.30 per hour, which is the national average for agricultural workers encourage a farmer to maintain an off-farm job, while a relatively lower off-farm wage or salary may encourage a farmer to work on the farm only. Lastly, higher hired labor costs may encourage a farmer to pursue his or her most profitable work opportunity, be it on- or off-farm, without hiring labor to maintain the farm. The model developed in this study may be used to plan multiple years of farm management to include anticipated changes in off-farm employment opportunities, land availability, product mix, and access to farm labor. The author suggests that beginning farmers who use this planning tool are able to make more informed decisions related to allocation of labor time and resources, resulting in lower failure rates for beginning farmers in Virginia. A user-friendly interface may be developed based on the study framework, to strengthen the results and increase the practicality of the tool.
- Masters Theses