Many ripe apples on the tree
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Fruit & Nut Compass

The Fruit & Nut Compass is a farm business planning tool to help both new and experienced producers project the financial costs and returns from an enterprise focused on perennial crops. It is available as a free, downloadable Excel file.  The Fruit & Nut Compass is very different than a standard crop enterprise budget because it enables a person to examine the complete costs and expected returns of up to 12 crops, simultaneously, as part of an integrated farm plan over a 15 year time period. The tool is designed as an “open workbench” where the user enters information based on their specific plans to assess whether their enterprise will be profitable. It does NOT include any assumptions about crops, yields, costs or selling prices…those are all data entry tasks for the user. The main questions this tool helps the user answer are: how deep of a financial hole will I be digging and when might my perennial crop farm become profitable? 

Want to get serious about building a viable farm business? Download the Fruit & Nut Compass below and roll up your sleeves!

Download the Fruit & Nut Compass

The Fruit & Nut Compass is an Excel spreadsheet. It has been created, formatted, and protected so that it does not require advanced computer skills to use. If you are new to or unfamiliar with Excel spreadsheets, we recommend learning the very basics of Excel prior to using this tool. You will need to know how to navigate within an Excel spreadsheet workbook and how to enter data.

Follow the link below to download the tool. It is free to access and use. We do require that you answer 3 questions to help us understand who is using the tool and to provide an email address so that when we update or improve the tool we can notify users.

This tool was conceived and designed by John Hendrickson, Matt Raboin, Jim Munsch, and Leah Potter-Weight in collaboration with the Savanna Institute for the University of Wisconsin. Questions or comments can be addressed to John Hendrickson at

Download the Fruit & Nut Compass Aronia berries on the vine, one of many uncommon fruits
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Why this planning tool?

Most of the Compass decision-support tools that CIAS has created are backward-looking in that they ask a producer to enter information on the previous year in order to parse out what crops or enterprises were more profitable than others. When CIAS and collaborators began the project that resulted in the Fruit & Nut Compass, it was decided that a tool was needed to help those interested in perennial crops better understand the significant up-front costs of establishment and the lag time between planting and actually having a crop to take to market.

Many perennial fruit and nut crops take 3 to 7 years to mature and yield at maximum potential. Consequently, anyone planning a farm that will feature fruit and nut crops needs to do careful planning to make sure they will eventually be profitable and recoup the cost of planting and establishment. The Fruit & Nut Compass provides the framework for a  complete and careful examination before you start spending considerable time and money purchasing plants and necessary infrastructure. By using the Fruit & Nut Compass, a new or beginning grower can rigorously test and tweak their plan to help ensure financial success.

Key features of the Fruit & Nut Compass:

  • Examine up to 12 crops, simultaneously, as part of an integrated farm plan over a 15-year timeline.
  • Step-by-step approach walks user through all potential expenses
  • Offers the option of listing expenses and revenue from temporary, secondary enterprises that might take place on the land where perennial crops are grown (such as alley cropping, grazing animals, etc.) in order to generate income while perennial shrubs or trees are developing and not yet providing income.
  • Year-by-year yield projections that the user enters allows you to reflect reality in your enterprise plan as many crops will gradually ramp up in terms of yield over time. This also allows the user to build in and see the impact of a year with reduced yield or a crop failure.
  • All expense information is entered in “per acre” units making it possible to alter the plan later in terms of planting size without adjusting every expense or revenue estimate.
  • Although the tool utilizes acres as the primary unit of land measure, less than acre plantings are accommodated and perfectly acceptable.
  • Final page presents user with a “dashboard” where they can tweak yield and selling prices to see how those changes affect the bottom line over the 15-year planning period.
  • Tool is “agnostic” in terms of crops which allows you to create a plan based on your own research, reflecting the realities of your location, your growing techniques/systems, local markets, and your own marketing plan.


Apples on a tree




  • Savanna Institute
  • Jim Munsch, Deer Run Farm

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