The Fruit and Nut Compass

Created with SARE support
John Hendrickson, Matt Raboin, Jim Munsch, and Leah Potter-Weight | 2023

The Fruit and 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. By using the Fruit & Nut Compass, a new or beginning grower can rigorously test and tweak their plan to help ensure financial success.

Perennial Projections

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?


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.

The tool was conceived and designed by John Hendrickson, Matt Raboin, Jim Munsch, and Leah Potter-Weight in collaboration with the Savanna Institute for the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) at the University of Wisconsin.

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This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.