At bottom this is a game about farming. So long as you can plant seeds, and keep them watered, you will make a profit. The question is just how to make a good, sustainable profit.
The official Wiki Crops page has a table of the different crops and their effective profit per day. The reason the profit per day is useful is that you can usually only get so much watering done before you’re out of energy; so it’s better if you can to grow crops that return 5-10 gp per watering than crops that return 2-4.
Often the seeds cost around a third what the produce will sell for.
Some plants can be harvested again and again until the season ends. We’ll call these recurring harvests. Clearly it’s useful to plant these early in the season - day 1 for preference.
On your first planting, Parsnips have both a good return and a short turnaround time.
More to go here ... First spring, beans, parsnips and cauliflower. Other springs, add Strawberry, Coffee, Ancient Fruit. Summer, Blueberries and Melons. (And ongoing coffee.) Autumn, Cranberries and Pumpkins.
No profession choices are bad but some of them yield better benefits. At level 5 you get to choose between being a Rancher (animal goods sell for more) or a Tiller (plants sell for more.) Neither of these options are particularly good or bad. Rancher applies to animal produces directly, and some but not all goods processed from animal produce - it does apply to Cloth and Mayonnaise, but not to Cheese. Animal produce is valuable. But - Artisan goods are more so. If you want to position yourself to take the L10 profession Artisan (goods fetch 40% more), you need to take Tiller at L5. The other L10 profession for a Tiller is Agriculturalist (crops grow 10% faster) which isn’t a big effect when the length of the season imposes limits on what is worth planting anyway. (It is usually easy to grow more produce than you can process - but as a Tiller/Artisan you’re all good anyway.) A Rancher can choose between becoming a CoopMaster or Shepherd at L10. The Coopmaster befriends their Coop animals faster, which is nice, and has half the incubation time, which is also nice - this is useful if you are feeding duck eggs to the incubator and selling your happiest ducks for a profit. The Shepherd befriends Barn animals faster, of course, and their sheep produce wool faster, which makes shearing a particularly nice option. Pigs are easier money though!
Care of crops
In your first month, watering is done mostly with your watering can. This takes lots of time and energy (less and less as you level up in Farming). So as you get more money, move from Parsnips to more expensive crops. A respected strategy is to plant mostly Kale after harvesting your first 13 to 15 Parsnips, then to plant Strawberries after you harvest your Kale. Mid month, 40 to 80 crops is a lot to water. Toward the end of the month or at the beginning of your first Summer you may be able to have more than 80—especially if you are beginning to build Sprinklers. But be cautious so you don't regret what you planted.
Later in the game you may still occasionally need to use your watering can.
Early watering can upgrades don't work well with Sprinklers. But maybe when you are rich you will upgrade your can just to save time.
In your first year, watering is mostly done with Quality Sprinklers you will learn to craft with ore you get from The Mines.
You can make basic Sprinklers earlier than Quality Sprinklers, and they have half the coverage. Their main disadvantage is their limited value once you are crafting Quality Sprinklers. One way to preserve their value for a while is to use them as field extenders until your field is as large as you want.
Quality Sprinklers and basic Sprinklers are both best used at the center of a 3x3 square of tiles. A basic Sprinkler will only water half of those tiles, so you may want to plant only that half until Quality Sprinklers arrive.
If you have more than 15 crops growing, crows can eat some of them. So in your first week, you may choose to keep your field to 15 crops, especially if you can get income and food from Fishing. Once you harvest 13 Parsnips, you level up and can build Scarecrows.
Two possible Scarecrow arrangements are shown. A variation on the 3 square x 5 square layout is one that is 5 squares wide instead of 5 squares high, with the scarecrows still on the sides.
Care of animals
This is a subset of farming, but it’s important enough to get a page of its own.
To get animals on your farm, you need to visit Robin at the Carpenter’s shop and pay her gold, wood and stone to build you a Coop or a Barn. Then you need to visit Marnie at her Ranch to buy baby animals, which will need several days to mature before you can start collecting eggs or milk. Animals are expensive, at least in comparison to your income when you first have the option of obtaining them, but they deliver ongoing returns, usually even through winter. Pigs in particular can yield a lot of money for very little in-game effort.
Besides, you need them for several Community Centre bundles.
To collect milk, you will need to buy a pail from Marnie; to collect wool from sheep, you will need to buy shears. To get truffles from pigs you just need to let them outside.
Your animals need grass or hay to eat. If they go hungry they won’t produce. For preference, let your animals eat grass; save hay for winter. Your coop and your barn have roller-doors. You can click on the roller door to open or close it. Leave it open. Your animals will emerge and wander around the farm - and eat one unit of grass per animal per day, if they wander across it. You can fence them in, but you probably don’t need to - they won’t eat your crops and they will make their own way home each night. (If they *can’t* get home there will be a chance of a wild animal attack, but for that you have to close doors or gates to shut them out.) One tip repeated in a few places is that you should have a silo before you buy a coop. This is definitely a good idea, and a silo is very cheap at 100gp - but you have to mine nearly 50 copper ore in order to build a furnace and smelt the 5 copper bars you need for the silo. (Sometimes Clay is an obstacle too.) If this is what’s holding you back, build the coop anyway, near a good patch of grass. Just buy 4 or 8 hay from Marnie and put it in a chest; on rainy days the chickens will eat what’s in your hay rack and you’ll need to replace it. Build a silo when you do have the resources. You don’t *need* a silo until late autumn - but if you leave it that late you will really need to concentrate on cutting hay with the scythe, and you risk not getting enough hay for winter. Hay from Marnie costs a lot less than processed animal produce sells for - but you’d surely rather not have to spend the money.
Rabbits cannot be bred. Barn animals breed as a (rare) random event if there is a space available in their barn. However, Chickens and Ducks (and Dinosaurs, if you find an egg) can be bred deliberately by putting their eggs in an Incubator if you have a Big or Deluxe Coop. You can incubate when your coop is full, but the egg won’t hatch until there is a space available. Normally the Incubator will take about 7 days to hatch an egg, and the hatchling will take (7) days to reach maturity and start laying eggs of its own. If you have the Coopmaster Profession the incubation time is reduced. For a chicken, this is interesting rather than exciting. But a duck costs 4000 gp from Marnie, and when you first get a Big Coop, that’s a lot of money. So it makes a lot of sense to buy one duckling, wait for it to grow up, and then put its first egg in the incubator; you delay the arrival of this second duckling by 2 weeks, but you save 4000 gp. (The Opportunity Cost is 375gp for the mayonnaise you might have made from that egg, plus the 3.5 eggs it might have laid, for a total of 1687.5.) If you plan to breed from 1 to 4 ducks this way, the incubator is a bottleneck; the third egg you hatch might have laid 10.5 eggs if you’d bought it at the start, and the opportunity cost is 4312.5gp. So financially you come out best if you can buy two ducklings after your first Coop upgrade. But - if you can only afford one duckling, the eggs a second might have laid are irrelevant. Incubate your first egg, take the second to the Community Centre, and breed away!
Similar maths applies when you consider breeding ducks for sale. If you incubate with a full coop, then sell one duck after the incubation period is up, the egg will hatch immediately, and you forego 3.5 eggs during the 7 days it takes to mature, for an opportunity cost that appears to be 1687.5 again. Precisely how far ahead you come out depends upon what you’ve sold the duck for, and how quickly the new duck will make friends with you - a duck at 5 hearts may drop feathers instead of eggs, and will sell for more than 5000 gp. (The higher Egg quality you get from a loving duck is irrelevant to mayonnaise.)
Void Chickens and Dinosaurs can only be obtained using the Incubator. You can ‘invite’ a void egg to appear in a rare random event by leaving a slot open in your coop, or you can buy a void egg from Krobus in the Sewers once you have made lots of donations to the museum. Void chickens lay daily like regular chickens, but their mayonnaise sells for noticeably more. Finding a Dinosaur Egg is simply a matter of luck as you dig up artifacts. (If you do find one, don’t give it straight to the museum … incubate it, then give the museum an egg from its laying!) Their eggs sell for much more than regular eggs (you’ll lose money by putting them in a Mayo Maker), but they only lay about once a week, and the eggs take twice as long to incubate as other eggs. The critter itself is also not particularly valuable (which is counter-intuitive); Dinosaurs are not on the MoneyMaking path. They’re just cool for their own sake.
Animals don’t go through fences (neither do you, except where you’ve installed a gate). Weeds and grass also don’t go through fences. So you can use Fences to confine your animals - or you can not worry about it and let your animals roam free, since they don’t eat your crops. The advantage of fencing your Barn animals in is that they’re in a limited space - so you don’t have to hunt all over the map with your milk pail. Since Coop animals leave their eggs in the coop, this is less a concern - it may be harder to pet all the chickens every day, but once they’ve reached a basic level of friendship this is not important anyway. The Disadvantage of fencing your animals in is that they may run out of grass to eat inside the fence. Unfortunately, planting a grass starter inside their fence is not going to help - it will be eaten immediately. If you want to grow a new patch of grass you may need to fence the animals *away* from the Grass Starter.
Fencing doesn’t last. Wooden fencing falls down (gradually) after one season. Stone fencing lasts about two seasons. Iron and Hardwood fencing surely suits only the wealthiest of characters. If you decide fences are worth your effort, use whatever is most plentiful for you … the supply of stone is infinite, thanks to the Mines, but trees take a season to regrow.
Other ways to confine your barn animals include opening the shutter door only after milking in the morning (and closing it every night) or milking your animals after they’ve returned to the barn at night (which is around 6pm.) You can’t usually pet a sleeping animal but you can still milk or shear it.
Plan your hay needs for winter
28 days x how many animals? Plus a little for early spring while the new grass patches get growing, which basically means one full silo supports 8 animals. That will keep most of your animals producing at a time when you probably aren’t growing crops. Bug alert - building a second or third silo may re-set your hay count to zero. Do this in Spring rather than Fall. Or empty the silo beforehand...
Empty your silo so you can cut more hay
You can retrieve hay through the hopper of a coop or barn, when the feed rack is not full (which it usually won’t be after a rainy day.) Normally clicking on the hopper will get you just enough hay to feed your animals. If you are holding this hay in hand, then clicking on the hopper will put it back. But if you are holding something else, if the hay is in your backpack, you can keep clicking to withdraw more and more hay from the silo, until it is empty. Chuck this hay in a chest - you can put it back in a silo during Winter. Once there is space in your silo you can go haying again.
Mostly when you are cutting hay, you don’t want to cut all of it. If you have a significant tract of grass that you walk through sometimes, you can cut a little hay every time. When you swish your scythe once through an area, some grass will be left behind, which will then re-seed the vacated squares in a day or two. (If you do want to cut everything, swish your scythe twice over each area.) So you take a few steps, cut, take a few more steps, cut again … It is quite possible to accumulate 1000 hay in your first year by emptying a single silo periodically, whereas in later years you’re more likely to turn the grassland to crops. Having a big stash of hay in your chests will save a bit of hassle.
Move your buildings
In Spring, grass grows in totally different places to wherever you had it in fall. And it takes a bit of time to spread - if you plonk a Grass Starter down in front of your coop at the beginning of Spring, your chickens will simply eat it before it has time to go anywhere. But you can visit Robin to move your farm buildings, which means that you can clear a space near where there *is* lots of grass, and then get the building moved to that spot. You can also fix placements you’ve found reason to regret. (If you’re planning to do this, it means it’s OK to let all your fences fall down during Winter.)
Process animal products
Eggs normally sell for 50g but Mayonnaise normally sells for 190g. So it’s worth crafting Mayonnaise Machines as soon as your first Chickens begin to lay; you might line these up just outside your Coop, or inside your Coop to save space, together with a chest to store unprocessed produce. If you are often near your Coop you can get away with one Machine per two hens, but if you only visit once a day then you’d better have one Machine per hen. Ducks only lay every other day, so you only need one Machine per two ducks. Rabbit wool is sometimes improved with a loom …
Not all processing of animal products is worthwhile. Gold-star wool is worth more than the cloth that a Loom would make of it. Iridium quality truffles are worth more than Truffle Oil, although basic truffles nearly double in value when you put them through the oil maker. Iridium quality milk (Milk, Large Milk, Goat’s Milk and Large Goats Milk) is worth more than cheese - gold quality milk is only worth a little less than the cheese it could be made into. If you have the Artisan Profession, however, the cheese is always profitable.
In general you want one Cheese Press per cow and one Cheese Press per two goats. However, after you have a Deluxe barn you may sell all your cows to make room for Pigs, which are less work to look after and yield more profitable produce … except in Winter.