Benefits of Recordkeeping

  Hort Snacks - February 2017
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 It seems like most horticulture producers that I speak with never have enough time, except maybe in that brief time in the early part of winter, when everything is put to bed and conference season hasn’t started yet. During the growing season, between prepping and planting fields/orchards, watching for and managing pests, harvesting, managing employees and everything else that needs to be done, there is never enough time. Especially for paperwork. But it is very important for you to make time to keep records of the things that happen on your farm. Not just the big things (such as the planting of fields and the yields of the crop), but also the small stuff that doesn’t seem all that important but just happens. It can be a long list.

You might ask, “Why bother?” The simple answer is because you can’t remember everything that happens year to year (or lots of times, day to day) and there might come a time when you need to know exactly what you did on your farm. There are lots of possible situations when this might be necessary. It might be because you are trying to adjust your management practices, or you might be trying to repeat something that worked a year or so ago. You might be trying to diagnose a problem and you need to know what happened in that area. A buyer might want to know whether you used a certain product or practice, as this might affect their buying decision. Some buyers won’t just take your word for what you said you did. If you have a record of what has been done, you can show to anyone what happens on your farm.

This may seem like a daunting task. The best place to start is to figure out what common practices happen every year and might be worth keeping track of. This might include planting dates, varieties, field plans/maps, plant survival numbers, fertilizer applications (rates, methods, types of fertilizers used), pest control product use (chemicals used, rates, weather conditions during application, efficacy, etc.), harvest dates and yields, equipment maintenance, employee training, etc. You might create forms for you or your employees to fill out when carrying out routine tasks. Standardized forms can be a useful part of your management process and will fit well in some areas of the operation. Then focus on noting the commonplace or unusual observations. It is a simple habit to get into.

10-20 years ago (and maybe you still do) folks would carry a notepad around with them to quickly write down observations and the little things that get done on the farm. Employees were encouraged to do the same. Then, at the end of the day, you’d transfer that information to a daily log. Nowadays, technology has evolved to the point where keeping notes and records (even between multiple people) can be extremely simple. Now, everyone has a smartphone and/or tablet on them most of the time (well, almost everyone) and most people are reasonably familiar with most of the apps on them. Take a few minutes and find an app that can help get you started. You can start with something as simple as an e-notebook, or something along those lines. Then go from there. Really, all you really need is a process to encourage you to make note of specific events. And, if you don’t want to write something down, just take a picture.

You might already be keeping records of many of these things. Whether you are or whether you aren’t, it never hurts to do a quick assessment. By keeping records, you have something concrete that you can pull out when you need it.

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Robert Spencer.
This information published to the web on January 31, 2017.