Building Soils for Better Crops, Third Edition

Farm Labor and Economics

SARE Outreach
Fred Magdoff and Harold van Es | 2010 | 294 pages
PDF (6.8 MB)

This title is temporarily out of print. We expect to publish an updated edition in the spring/summer of 2021.

Before discussing appropriate rotations, let’s consider some of the possible effects on farm labor and finances. If you grow only one or two row crops, you must work incredibly long hours during planting and harvesting seasons, and not as much at other times. Including forage hay crops and early harvested crops along with those that are traditionally harvested in the fall would allow you to spread your labor over the growing season, making the farm more easy to manage by family labor alone. In addition, when you grow a more diversified group of crops, you are less affected by price fluctuations of one or two crops. This may provide more year-round income and year-to-year financial stability.

Although there are many possible benefits of rotations, there are also some costs or complicating factors. It is critically important to carefully consider the farm’s labor and management capacity when exploring diversification opportunities. You may need more equipment to grow a number of different crops. There may be conflicts between labor needs for different crops; cultivation and side-dressing nitrogen fertilizer for corn might occur at the same time as harvesting hay in some locations. In addition, some tasks, such as harvesting dry hay (mowing, tedding when needed, baling, and storing) can require quite a bit of labor that may not always be available. Finally, the more diversified the farm, the less chance for time to relax.