Whenever you perform any skill in Stardew Valley you will get experience and slowly level up in that skill. After reaching level 5 and level 10, you will be given the choice to specialize in one particular sub-activity.
Since farming is probably going to be the activity you do the most, the decision on whether to become a Rancher or Tiller is going to be the first one. It is one of the toughest decisions too, as it can have a lot of impact on your income and potentially shape the future of your farm. Ideally, you would want to know what kind of farm you want to have in the future and what kind of playstyle you will want to focus on. But it is not always that easy. What if you can’t decide?
This guide will help you get a quick answer as well as a more in-depth analysis of what you should pick, particularly if you are into optimal play.
The quick answer: Rancher or Tiller?
The quick answer is to become Tiller regardless of what you want to focus on. That’s right.
The reason for this is that the sub-choices that you will get when you reach farming level 10 depend on what you’ve picked before. With Tiller, the follow-up choice on level 10 will be choosing between Artisan and Agriculturist. Artisan, in particular, makes Artisan Goods (like wine, cheese, oil, etc.) worth 40% more!
This means that even if you want to focus on having lots of farm animals, going for Artisan at level 10 will give you the highest benefit, as many animals produce goods that can be turned into Artisan Goods fairly easily (eggs into mayo, milk into cheese, etc.).
If you decide on wanting lots of crops, then Agriculturist is still an excellent choice as the 10% buff in grow speed is very significant. However, picking Artisan to profit from processing your crop (into wine, pickled vegetables, jam, etc.) is still a very solid choice.
Now, let’s look at each sub-choice and individually and its pros and cons. Rancher gives you a 20% increase in animal product prices, which is fairly solid. We have seen that the 40% artisan boost is already better, but the 20% that Rancher gives is not to scoff at. That alone cannot be enough, but the follow-up choices that you get at level 10 might make this choice worth it nonetheless.
Coopmaster or Shepherd?
As you can see, the Rancher choices that you get at level 10 revolve around the type of farm animal you will want to have. As such, the choice heavily depends on what kind of animals you prefer. I have already said that neither are more profitable than picking Tiller and then Artisan, but if profit is not your main issue, then these choices may be viable.
The choice is fairly simple. If you have lots of coop animals like chicken, ducks, etc. then picking Coopmaster is the way to go. Incubation time cut in half simply means that your eggs hatch faster. Befriending coop animals quicker means you get more hearts with each petting.
Hatching and selling ducks makes a decent chunk of change (a newborn duck sells for 1200 and hatches in roughly days with coopmaster). Every time you pet it the value goes up (which means you get double the sell-value boost by petting with coopmaster). Get a coop and 1 duck. As soon as you start getting eggs, incubate them to hatch more ducks. Pet all your ducks every day. Once your coop is full, sell your happiest duck (who should be pretty high on hearts by the time your coop gets full) to make an opening for another hatchling. Rinse and repeat. Once your cycle is up and running you should be selling a high happiness duck for a few thousand gold every 3 days or so. Plus you can turn the excess eggs into duck mayo, and gather duck feathers as excellent gifts.
Naturally, Shepherd is the choice if you want to focus on having lots of barn animals.
While it might only increase the production rate of wool, you still gain happiness faster with all barn animals, meaning you can raise an animal’s happiness, sell it for profit, and raise a newborn to replace it quite a bit faster. Getting a newborn barn animal (without just buying it from Marnie) is a bit more hit-or-miss than hatching eggs, but can still be done.
So in conclusion, both Shepherd and Coopmaster are more relevant if you plan on raising your animals to sell them, as the befriend-bonus will mainly benefit you in that regard.
In-depth comparison of Artisan and all the other options
The best way to show which choice is the most efficient is to do a quick calculation as an example.
If you pet your animals every day, you will reach 1080/1000 friendship during the 36 days required to fill the coop, so unless you miss some pettings, don’t feed your animals or trap them outside, 5 stars is possible.
Now that is 1733$ every day by selling ducks.
A duck needs 3 days to reach maturity.
We now have 10 ducks producing eggs and feathers.
That is 4500$ every 2 days of mayo, 2250$ daily, for a total of 4000$ profit daily.
Considering a coop occupies 18 tiles ( ignoring whatever space is required for mayo machines) that is an efficiency of 221.3$/tile every day, which translates to 24.785$ yearly (plus feathers, ignoring hay and space lost to grass).
If we include hay usage every day, the profit lowers to 191.6$ daily/tile or 21.466$ efficiency per tile over a year.
Let’s compare to 12 void chickens with artisan?
Each chicken will produce daily void mayo, with artisan it is worth between 385$ and 576$.
Including hay consumption that’s a daily profit of 4020$ – 6312$ daily, with a yearly efficiency/tile of ~25000$ – 39274.6$.
- No need to incubate eggs
- No need to keep track of all the pettings
- No need to keep track on which animal has to be sold next
- More income.
Plus (this is the biggest deal) artisan affects all other artisan goods as well.
So even if you try to maximize the gain of the other sub-choices, Artisan still is king.
The Agriculturist stands a little bit out, as it is the only one left and is so heavily outshone by Artisan. The 10% boost in crop growth is definitely not bad, and it could prove to be quite significant whenever you heavily focus on planting crops. However, as was already mentioned above, the most efficient use of crops to process them further into Artisan goods which will let the Artisan pick outshine Agriculturist, as 10% growth speed is simply too little.
Additionally, faster growth of crops also means spending more time harvesting and planting, which is less time spent on other productive matters and means an effective reduction of efficiency. You might get 10% more crops (because they grow 10%) faster, but you will also spend 10% more time harvesting them and planting more seeds.
With Artisan, on the other hand, you will spend the time to produce the goods as it is (which already is not much) and then simply gain the 40% increase in profit, as only the price and nothing else changes.
This makes Agriculturist overall a bad pick and one you should probably avoid if you don’t know what you’re doing.
In the end, the matter is simple. You can pick whatever skill you like, and if you feel like you want to pet your animals, befriend them quickly and have a loving relationship with them, then by all means go ahead and pick Rancher and Coopmaster or Shepherd.
If however, you want to get the most efficient setup and get the most gold out of your farm, then going for Tiller and Artisan is the only way. Even if you don’t heavily focus on farming, the 40% boost in Artisan goods will absolutely benefit you in many aspects of your farm management. Additionally, the creation of most Artisan goods usually is low maintenance and requires you to occasionally check the production machines (such as mayo machines, barrels, etc.) which makes this choice all the more efficient.