4 Tips For Keeping A Farm Journal

Keep simple records of your farm activities will help grow your operation and your business.

by Jesse Frost
PHOTO: Wisconsin Department of Agriculture/Flickr

Not to add another chore to what is already a chore-filled lifestyle, but there’s one task that every farmer could use to help generate more efficiency and productivity in their operation: keeping a daily journal of your farm activities.

Spending one to five minutes a day writing out what you did, what you learned and what you need to get done can be a great tool for farmers. It has to be easy and consistent, but this collection of information can really come in handy when working to improve upon your farming operations. Here are a few tips for how we implemented a farm journal on our farm,.

Keep It Simple

When I suggest you keep a farm journal, I’m not suggesting a complex, well-written log of the how your day went. I’m suggesting you sit down every day in front of your computer or with your phone —not handwritten, for reasons of efficiency and search-ability—before or after your other chores and catalogue your work. You should write down:

  • the date (and perhaps day of the week)
  • the tasks our performed that day or the day before
  • anything significant about your work

Maybe you fed the pigs and noticed their waterer was leaking. Or maybe you planted Cylindra beets in rows 1 foot apart. Write it down so that if you liked how it went, then you can easily find it next year. If you didn’t like it, you can adjust for next time.

Use Keywords

To make your farm tasks searchable within your document, use keywords. In the case of needing to fix the pig waterer, I might write the keyword “projects,” so that if I’m making a list for what needs to be done around the farm, I can search my document for the word “projects” and find that I need to fix the pig waterer. Once you finish that project, you can also go back and cross out the key word or change it to “finished” with the date to avoid it coming up in every search.

For the beets example, you can search the word “beets” to read everything about how you planted them, how they grew and any other notes you had regarding them. Think you may want to add a little space between rows or thin them earlier? Just make that note and date it.

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Other details you may way to note for searchability include:

  • what the weather was like
  • the soil conditions
  • any farm expenses you had that day
  • anything else relevant to your business

Also, start a new journal every year to minimize the results in the keyword searches. I would even suggest emailing the document to yourself regularly and printing it at the end of every year so you have a backup.

Make It Easy

It might be worth your while to create a small template for each journal entry that you can simply copy, paste and fill out with all the relevant information. Do not think of this journal as a burden; instead, think of it as a way to catalogue your hard work and make it as simple as possible so that it doesn’t take away from other farm or family duties. You should always be looking for ways to make it simple, streamline it, and even make this journal be something anyone—a farm apprentice or your spouse, perhaps—can fill out. In fact, add anything in that regard to your template as you go:

  • Farmer Name
  • Date
  • Day of Week
  • Projects
  • Plantings
  • Sales
  • Expenses

You get the idea.

Be Harsh

This should not be a precious document. It should be a tool for you to use for your farm operations or business. Going back in time to add or cross out things should be part of the routine. You should never hesitate to add to or remove from your daily template—the goal is to always improve it. If you are diligent, this document could really help you put together daily work lists and provide insight into your accomplishments and failures. In a few years, you can look over all of your lessons in any given category in a matter of minutes. Memory is a tricky thing. Farm journals are there to help.

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