The most apparent skill you’ll need to learn in your time with Stardew Valley is Farming. The centerpiece of the game and the reason you’re probably playing it, there are two big sides to farming: Crops and Animals. These two sides can comprise most of your wealth, but you likely prefer one.
The choice between Rancher or Tiller, Animals or Crops, isn’t obvious. But after testing for a while and doing the math, I can say that Tiller is the better option for almost every scenario.
Animals and You
Barns and Coops in Stardew contain all the animals you’ll ever need, with the most profitable being pigs. The issue with animals is that they’re incredibly high maintenance, especially pigs, which require a large open area to go outside and forage for truffles.
This high maintenance issue wouldn’t be much of a problem if the animals themselves contributed a large stack of cash to your wallet, so with an average of 5 regular quality truffles a day, and truffles selling for 625G (oh hey, 6/25 is my birthday), that means each pig produces roughly 3125G every single day.
You can store 12 pigs in a single barn, and each barn takes up 28 tiles of farmland, plus the extra 7 tiles you need to have in front of it, for a total of 35 tiles. This, divided by the 37500G from having 12 pigs, means each barn tile earns you roughly 1071G daily.
I must keep saying “roughly” because everything to do with pigs and truffle farming is random. They have about a 100% chance to dig up at least one truffle daily and will dig up way more if they’re happier. So if a happy pig gives 20 truffles, this means 12500G per day and 150,000G for all the pigs, with 4285G per barn tile.
This sounds like a sweet deal, but it’s also purely theoretical and estimated based on what I’ve seen pigs produce. In reality, pigs could make far more or less, based on how they’re feeling that day. Unfortunately, they’re also a pain to manage, occasionally deciding to dig up truffles outside a fence or not go outside all day.
You also need to pet and feed the pigs daily, on top of foraging all of their truffles and keeping a wide open area open for them at all times. They also refuse to get truffles during rain or the entirety of Winter. Despite their profitability, this makes it so much more inconvenient to farm pigs than anything else.
You also can’t sleep through the days and have truffles there. So this alone makes everything quite a pain, and even if pigs are better for money, I can’t recommend them.
Frugally Farming Fruits and Flourishing
Farming for Fruits, Vegetables, and whatever else is the certifiable main attraction of Stardew Valley. While other crops might be better in terms of pure monetary value, the Ancient Fruit is up in at least the top 3, grows in any season, and will endlessly produce Fruit until Winter.
You can also control so much about this kind of farming, from fertilizers to sprinklers, and having Junimos harvest your crops for you. You can automate everything and just about guarantee you maximize profit from it. It also takes up very little space, considering most crops can be walked through.
Each standard quality Ancient Fruit sells for 550G each and takes seven days to regrow, meaning you have a daily yield of 78G per tile. That sounds way worse than the barn, doesn’t it?
The thing to consider with this is that the barn statistics are, for one, wholly estimated and aren’t consistent and that pigs need a ton of space to thrive. So you can have ancient Fruit take up just as much space as pigs do when they forage, and it wouldn’t even be close.
Another thing to factor in is that Ancient Fruit takes only a month to grow and can produce endlessly in the Greenhouse. Whereas Pigs take almost an entire year to get to maximum happiness, fully grown, and only produce on sunny, non-winter days.
So how about another test, where I put these two to the test and see which makes more money when optimized to the fullest?
Testing Crops vs. Animals
For this test, I had two deluxe barns filled to the brim with entirely maxed-out pigs who had daily outside access. And a farm with ancient Fruit that had the best fertilizer was ripe on the first day of the test. I also included the space in front of the barns as part of the farm since you need at least one tile of room to enter them.
The farm was entirely saved from the elements, and the pigs were fed and petted daily. This test was done in Summer to give the barns the best chance at having the pigs go outside as much as possible. This test was done at level 10 farming, only calculating Rancher or Tiller. I didn’t use any other level-up benefits for the entirety of the test.
If I were to re-do this, I’d include the space the pigs had to forage as part of the Crops; it’s misleading only to do the area the barns take up. I’ll factor that in using math, but I should have done it practically.
On the first of fall, I had 884 truffles, most of which were of standard quality. They sold for a total of 790109G with the Rancher profession and a total headache; I hated managing pigs and just sitting on my farm all day.
On the other hand, I had gotten 375 Ancient Fruit, most of which were of Gold Quality. These Fruit sold for 381770G, less than half of what the truffles sold for. However, if I incorporate the extra space the pigs had to roam around, this jumps to 2672390G, almost triple what the truffles sold for.
For this reason, and because farming crops is just way easier, I have to suggest going for Ancient Fruit farming instead of pigs and going for Tiller over Rancher. Of course, you should still have animals just to get every animal product readily, but farming crops is almost always better.
Think about the Future!
While you may have a choice in mind for your Level 5 profession, both lead to two different professions worth discussing and considering. Even if you like one of these buffs now, in the future, you might regret not going for the set of level 10 professions the other provides.
If you choose Rancher at level 5, your options for level 10 will be between Coopmaster and Shepherd. Coopmaster makes the incubator go faster and helps you increase your friendship with the farm animals more quickly, while Shepherd makes you befriend barn animals quicker and has sheep make wool faster. Both of these also improve the quality of the products from their respective buildings.
If you choose Tiller at level 5, then at level 10, you’ll be presented with the choice of Artisan or Agriculturist. Artisan increases the sell prices of Artisan goods, namely wines and oils, by 40%. Agriculturist makes all crops grow faster, meaning the Ancient Fruit grows two days quicker.
Something significant to note is that Artisan boosts crops and animal products since you could make Ancient Fruit wine or Truffle oil. This means you turn the 550G from one Ancient Fruit into 2,310G or the 625G from a single Truffle into 1491G. It requires some extra time to turn them into wine/oil, but it is incredibly profitable if you can get enough Kegs or Oil Makers.
You can also go to the statue in the sewers to change your professions at any time, so if you regret the option, you can always go back.
Question: Should I go for Rancher or Tiller in Stardew Valley?
Answer: Tiller is almost always the better choice. Crop farms take up less space and are far easier to manage than animal farms.
Question: What’s the best animal for money in Stardew Valley?
Answer: Pigs with their truffles make the most money but are incredibly difficult to manage, requiring constant attention.
Question: What is the best crop for money in Stardew Valley?
Answer: Ancient Fruit should be what you want if you’re just after money. It grows through the first three seasons and constantly reproduces very high-profit Fruit.
Rancher vs Tiller Stardew Valley: Conclusion
I am never farming pigs again; that test sucked. However, I think that even if technically the barns produce more money per tile they take up, the space you need for pigs to roam around and the absolute pain in the butt they are to take care of makes crop farming the defacto best option.
Don’t let this discourage you from going for animal farming. If that’s what you enjoy, then by all means, go for it. You do make quite a lot of money from pigs; I just know that if you had all the space they took up dedicated to Ancient Fruit, it would make more money.