Today, Iím trying out a new idea – Crop Planning Profiles.
Essentially – how do you get a crop to fit into your planning spreadsheets?
I thought I would start with a crop that folks keep asking about – asparagus.
I would love to hear what you think of this new feature.
- Is this crop profile helpful?
- Do the numbers and thinking match how you would plan for asparagus?
- What crop should I profile next?
Disclaimer time: The numbers in the profile are not recommendations for your farm. They are based on my experience and what I have found in my research. Iím sharing them so youíve got a starting point for your own reflections. But you should definitely do your own due diligence to see if they fit your climate and growing context.
Main Crop Plan Consideration
Asparagus is a perennial. You plant it and it takes a good 5 years to get up to reliable production. You should avoid harvesting much in the first years to let the plant get well established.
Because of this perennials nature, you can consider Asparagu as 3 different crops in your spreadsheets:
1. Asparagus – year 1
2. Asparagus Ė year 2-4
3. Asparagus – year 5 and up
Asparagus – year 1
This is when you plan your asparagus. For crop planning purposes you need to have this information
Rows Per Bed: Probably 1
Inrow Spacing Generally 1
This will let you calculate the total the number of plants to plant.
If you start asparagus from seeds, you will also need your Seeds Per Ounce to turn your nursery plan into a seed count and a seed weight.
If youíre starting from crowns: your plant number is your crown number. Itís probably a good idea to get 10-20% more crowns than needed to offset any damaged crowns you receive or crowns you donít like.
Asparagus Ė year 2-4
Depending on your growing regime and climate, it will take you about 5 years to get good asparagus yields.
During this establishment phase, you only add asparagus to your crop plan as a placeholder. This reminds you that it is in your field. It will also keep your organic certifier happy,
During this time, donít count on asparagus for your sales plan.†
Consider your harvest yields to be 0 lbs per bedft.
Youíll probably be able to harvest a bit of asparagus during that time. Consider it a pleasant surprise that is not in your crop plan.
Asparagus – year 5+
This is what youíve been waiting for.
Here is how to consider Asparagus in your crop plan at this phase.
Planting week: Even though it is already planted, write down that youíre planting asparagus on week 1 of the year (the week that contains January 1.)
Days To Maturity (DTM): Calculate your DTM subtracting you January 1 from your expected first harvest date date.
If you can generally starting harvesting asparagus on May 15 that would look like this: May 15 – Jan 1 = 134 days
Your DTM would be 134 days.
Harvest Weeks: In my Northern climate, you can harvest asparagus for 6 or 7 weeks.
Total Harvest Yield: conservative yield: 0.5lb per bedft;† decent yield: 1lb per bedft
Weekly Harvest Yield: conservative yield: 0.08lb per bedft per week;† decent yield:† 0.16lb per bedft per week
Crop Plan Safety Factor: 1.3 is good for a Northern Climate. Frost is one of the biggest challenges.
Is asparagus a profitable crop?
For year 1-4, while youíre getting asparagus established, asparagus is not a profitable crop.
Once asparagus does start producing, profitability really depends on the price you can charge.
Below are two charts showing how much you can gross on asparagus at different $ per lb for two different yields.
Now on the expense side, all your establishment costs are up front. So once those have been sunk, you donít have to worry about them.
After that your main annual costs will be weeding. You might want to explore some deep mulch techniques to reduce the amount of weeding you do.
If you can hit yields of 1lb per bedft, asparagus probably makes a lot of sense on most small farms.
If you have a very small acreage and are used to flipping your beds multiple times through the season, asparagus probably wonít compare with what you can make from other crops.
If you have a medium sized farm and usually only crop each bed once per year – then asparagus will likely be profitable if you can get at least $7.50 lb.