In my first year of business school, we were presented with the following problem (slightly modified):
A farmer in Iowa owns 45 acres of land. She is going to plant each acre with corn or potato. Each acre planted with potato will yield $200 profit; each with corn yields $300 profit. Each acre of potato requires 3 workers and 2 tons of fertilizer. Each acre of corn requires 2 works and 4 tons of fertilizer. One hundred works are available and 120 tons of fertilizer are available. What is the optimal mix of potato and corn that the farmer should plant to maximize profits?
I plugged all the numbers into an excel spreadsheet, opened the solver box, and clicked “solve”. The computer spit out the answer, 20 acres of each.
The computer modeling fascinated me. The following week, during spring break, I headed down to Even’ Star Farm. I wanted to utilize this new tool to see if I could help Brett maximize his profits. During the week, we calculated all the costs to get crops into the ground, out of the ground and to market. We then calculated the annual yields (based on previous years) and the profit. I wrote up the “case study” and submitted it to my professors.
They liked it! So much so, that they paid me retro-actively for my work; got the paper presented at the “American Accounting Association-Management Accounting Section International Case and Research Conference”; and now use the case-study in the MBA curriculum.
It was through this case-study project, that I was offered the opportunity to teach accounting at Babson, and begin the transition from chef to accountant/consultant.
A few weeks ago, I was in a Chinatown market, stocking up on pantry supplies. Looking for corn starch, I grabbed a bag and threw it in my shopping cart. I wonder if this came from that fabled farmer in Iowa??