Invest in your farm's success: Write stuff down!

Author: 
Neith Little
Tomatoes at farmers market, pricing vegetables

A wise person once told me that writing stuff down is the difference between doing science and just messing around. I would argue that it can also make the difference between a successful and a floundering farm business.

I know farmers in particular never have enough hours in the day, and the crisis of the minute can make stepping back and taking notes seem like an unaffordable luxury. But I’d like to suggest that you don’t think of record-keeping as an impossible luxury, or an onerous chore. Think of it as a daily investment you can make in your farm’s long-term success.

Every day we have to prioritize what we spend our time on, to achieve short-term deadlines and make progress on long-term goals. Record-keeping, like education, is one of those long-term investments that will show fruit for years to come.

Clear, well-kept records benefit many areas of your farm business. Clear communication between employees and team-members is improved when everyone has access to important information. If someone falls ill, written records make filling in for that person much smoother. Complying with regulations requires keeping clear records about things like safety precautions, nutrient management, and pesticide use.

And most importantly, having written records of farming practices, yields, and sales gives you power to improve your farm business. Think of what you could do with that information. If you knew from sales records that you consistently sell more at market at the beginning of the month, you could adjust your harvest amounts accordingly and reduce waste. If you noticed your yields gradually declining from year to year, you could start tracking down the cause of the problem early on. If you knew your costs of production and average yields, you could calculate an enterprise budget that would enable you to accurately price each product and cover your costs.

University of Maryland Extension has many resources to help make record-keeping as simple as possible. Click the following links for record-keeping resources related to nutrient management, farm business planning, and field operations.

I recognize that many of these resources are designed for different farming practices than are used by urban farmers, so if you are an urban farmer, I would be very interested in working with you to develop record-keeping systems that make sense for your production practices. Please drop me a line at nglittle@umd.edu or 410-856-1850 x123

Neith Little

Urban Agriculture Extension Educator, University of Maryland Extension

Photo credit: © University of Maryland Extension—AGNR Image Library

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