Farm Cooperation Planning Tool

Tool Concept


The “Farm Cooperation Planning Tool” is designed to quickly and easily identify ways that farmers can increase their cooperation with one another and thereby enhance their profitability, sustainability, and enjoyment. While there is already a lot of cooperation among farmers, the “Farm Cooperation Planning Tool” can make resource and information sharing more systematic and efficient. Every farm is unique, so the spreadsheet tool seeks to highlight information that is applicable to any farm. The “Individual Farm Survey” asks questions about a single farm operation, while the “Farm Cooperation Planning Tool” compiles the survey results from multiple farms. Enjoy!
Documentation Wiki: 

Purpose of the Individual Farm Survey and Farm Cooperation Planning Tool

The “Farm Cooperation Planning Tool” compiles and organizes the results of simple yet powerful "Individual Farm Surveys." The tool/survey is open source and has two purposes:

1) Combine individual farm survey results to provide a realistic glimpse of how a collaborative relationship between individual farmers might look

2) Highlight concrete ways in which farmers can cooperate and estimate realistic values for that cooperation (e.g. equipment sharing, improved sustainability, increased labor efficiency) The surveys ask for some figures (e.g. profitability) that some farmers may consider “sensitive”. All survey answers are of course optional, but the more information a farmer provides, the more useful the tool becomes. There is much more opportunity for cooperation than that brought to light by the survey/tool, but the idea is to identify opportunities with the greatest benefits for the least additional effort.

Individual Farm Survey

The Individual Farm Survey is the basis of the Farm Cooperation Planning Tool. The "survey" is designed to be filled out by a single farm. Survey responses from individual farms go in the orange spreadsheet cells/boxes. To better explain the purpose of the survey questions, there are notes (green spreadsheet cells) just to the right of each survey section. Some of the uses of the survey questions may be obvious, while others may not be. In addition, there are undoubtedly many uses for the responses that I have not thought of yet. To read the notes more easily, simply double-click on the green cell/box. There will be many ways in which a farmer can answer each survey question, but anyone viewing the survey results should be able to interpret the answers without much difficulty.

Ideally, a website/organization will take charge of distributing and collecting the surveys from individual farms. The survey is designed to be filled out as a spreadsheet, but if necessary, it can also be easily printed into 3 pages and filled out by hand. Once collected, the data from each survey column can be copied and pasted into the Farm Cooperation Planning Tool. To transfer the data from the survey to the tool, simply: select the yellow name/location cell, drag mouse to highlight down to the last cell of the column, select "copy", then "paste" into the yellow cell in the "tool". The Individual Farm Survey has three pages (numbered 1-3), each of which corresponds to a numbered worksheet/tab (“Farm Survey Integration ##”) within the Farm Cooperation Planning Tool. The compilation of surveys within the "tool" will result in a centralized database where opportunities for inter-farm cooperation can be quickly and easily identified. If you are a farmer who is interested in completing the survey (below), select the "View full-size workbook" button at the bottom right of the spreadsheet and then select "download" from the screen that pops up. Most farmers who fill out the Individual Farm Survey will not actually compile the surveys in the Farm Cooperation Planning Tool (below) but will instead only view the tool's resulting database. Again, the compilation of farm surveys into the tool/database will ideally be done only by a single website/organization.

Farm Cooperation Planning Tool

The Farm Cooperation Planning Tool compiles the Individual Farm Surveys from individual farms. Once survey responses from various farms are collected, the tool will provide an intuitively-designed database of inter-farm opportunities for division of labor, cost-sharing, barter, economies of scale, cooperative marketing, vertical integration, increased sustainability, and others. Once the columns from the Individual Farm Survey have been pasted into the appropriate columns of the "tool", further analysis can be performed within the tool at the discretion of whoever is viewing the database. For example, some figures (e.g. acres) can be summed or averaged while other figures (e.g. farm infrastructure) can be compared side-by-side within the "Farm Survey Integration" tabs. In the “Farm Cooperation Planning Tool” I’ve included some fake “Sample Farm” data, which is not realistic (unless I lucked out), but it should help to show how the tool works. For example, one farmer might need a certain type of greenhouse and realize that other farmers also need the same type. If the farms are nearby or want to co-lease land, a larger co-owned greenhouse could be purchased and the cost would be shared by the farmers who use it.

Suggestions for Further Tool Evolution

Any modifications to the "tool" begin with modifications to the "survey". In its present form, the survey will uncover valuable information for farmers looking to collaborate with other farmers. That said, there are undoubtedly survey questions that could be added, deleted, or modified based on user experience. The survey is designed to provide a general overview of cooperation opportunities rather than the nitty gritty of farm management. Anyone feeling inspired to produce a more in-depth survey should feel free to use this survey/tool as a starting point, but I'd encourage them to consider forming a new Tool Wiki for any highly-modified survey/tool. The spreadsheets included in this Wiki are unlocked so that users can make adjustments to them. A word of caution... The survey and tool work together, so a change made to one must also be made to the other. The survey and tool have already been carefully formatted, so I'd suggest that you not alter things like column or row height and width. Given the finicky nature of the spreadsheets, I'd highly recommend 1) saving copies of the Individual Farm Survey and Farm Cooperation Planning Tool to your computer and 2) testing out any changes before re-posting the tool or survey on this Wiki. You might also want to save the most recent functional version of the survey and tool on your computer, just in case a non-functional version has accidentally been posted to the Wiki. One of the challenges with a continually evolving survey would be that survey results across different versions may not match up nicely with one another. At some point before wide-scale survey distribution, it would be best to consider the survey and tool to be in their finalized form.

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