Make the First Cut
How long is your brainstormed list? If you have more than 5 distinct enterprises on it, it’s time to narrow them down. You may eventually produce all of these things, but it’s best not to start with more than 1 or 2. (NOTE: if you already know you want to grow mixed vegetables, you can also use this process to narrow down market channels. For instance, will you have a CSA? Sell at farmers’ market? To restaurants? You may eventually do all of the above, but it’s good to pick just one to start).
There are a variety of ways to refine the list of farm enterprises you brainstormed. One place to start is to prioritize the list of enterprises that you think might be good to try. One way to make this prioritized list is to use a decision making grid. Click here to download a blank grid (PDF).
To begin using the supplied grid, write down one enterprise idea for your business in each of the column headings. Think about and select the criteria you want to use to evaluate each idea. One suggestion is to use the criteria mentioned earlier in this tutorial:
- Market demand – do people want this product, and will they pay a profitable price?
- Land compatibility – is your land well-suited to produce it?
- Your passion – do you love it enough to weather the ups and downs?
- Your skill – can you produce a high-quality product?
Add others if you’d like. Try to select criteria that represent a wide variety of interests and resources. For example, make sure the criteria are not only based on land and building resources. Make sure to include criteria from time resources, personal skills, personal goals and marketing goals.
Select a range of numbers (for example 1 to 5) to quantify how close that idea meets the criteria. We suggest you use the low number (1) for ideas that don’t come close to meeting the criteria and use the high number (5) that meet the criteria very well.
Total the scores for each enterprise and look at the results. The scores only suggest an order in which you might try an enterprise. Further investigation of your choices need to be done to make sure that enterprise will be a good fit for your business. For example, one enterprise that ranked relatively lower may become a better choice after further research.
This bulletin from the National Center for Appropriate Technology (PDF) offers another way to evaluate new enterprise ideas.