Double joy, not only were the server back up last night, it also turned out that the Euro servers didn't get the US farming nerf patch yet. No idea when the Euro servers will be patched, but normal patch day is apparently Tuesday, and if Turbine doesn't decide than an emergency hotfix nerf is necessary, I'd still have the whole weekend to farm under profitable conditions. I might even manage to advance my farming skill further!
But before I can think of advancement, I'll make the money to support it. As processing plants takes long periods without interactivity (bad idea that), I turned to my laptop and started making an Excel file to calculate what the profits of the pre-nerf farming system are. That is I did what I would do to make money, planting 20 fields of Sweet Galenas with the mastery option on, and wrote down exactly my costs, from repair costs to the cost of ingredients, and my income for selling the pipe-weed. Planting and harvesting 20 fields and then processing the about 100 fair and about 40 poor plants takes about 1 hour. And the profit from that, after deduction of all costs, is between 60 and 120 silver, usually about 90 silver per hour. For comparison, a horse at level 35 apparently costs 4220 silver. So you would need to farm 47 hours straight to buy the lowest level horse. I don't find that to be an excessive profit. I sure hope that grinding mobs at level 35 to finance your horse takes less than 47 hours, thus at mid-levels farming mobs is probably already more profitable than farming pipe-weed. What Turbine might want to do is half the profit on the Sweet Galenas at expert level (or make it take twice as long), and then introducing another recipe at artisan level that makes 90 silver per hour of profit.
I don't see anything wrong or unbalancing to have a crafting activity in the game that earns you a mid-level horse in 50 hours. You just need to make it so that the activity can't be automated or botted, but requires player input regularly. If you can gather wood and ore for 90 silver per hour at that level, or farm monsters for more than 90 silver per hour, I don't see why it should be unbalancing to have farming pay the same.
Being on a role-playing server, and in a role-playing guild, doesn't mean you can't play in an intelligent fashion. With my guild being aware of the upcoming nerf, everybody who was already farmer of course farmed like crazy last night to get reap the benefits before the nerf hits us. But we spun a story around it, about a gypsy foretelling bad harvests and severe seed rot in the future, explaining why we had to get our harvests in now in a hurry.
Between farming pipe-weed for money and helping some guild mates with the Gift of the North instance encounter, I looked ahead on how I could advance my farming skill further. The problem here is that I only have one artisan level recipe, strawberries, and that one you can only make at huge losses. It costs about 12 silver in advanced ingredients to grow one field, but each strawberry sells for only 12 copper pieces, and of course you don't grow hundreds of them in a field even at the best of luck. I'll put the data on my spreadsheet tonight and see how much it will cost me to advance, but I'm sure it's hundreds of silver pieces of cost to get to the next level.
As far as I've heard I will then have to start cross-breeding pipe-weed seeds to advance. That requires Sweet Lobelia seeds to start with. I managed to buy a 12th seed last night, at the extortionate price of 20 silver for 1 seed, thus having enough for 2 fields. And this time I was luckier growing these fields, and my seeds started to multiply. This again being a money-losing activity (unless I resell the seeds, but I need those myself), I didn't do it all that long. But I ended up with over 50 seeds, which should be enough to get me past streaks of bad seed growing luck in the future. Of course I'll have to grow further seeds again before the patch, unless Turbine introduces another way to grow seeds I don't see how farming skill could be advanced. So I got my work mapped out for me before the nerf patch hits me. Leveling my character meanwhile is on hold.