Record keeping isn’t everyone’s favorite activity. It is, however, an important practice to maintain. Documenting a history of your activities helps you remember (or not have to remember) all sorts of information you will want to recall in the future. Keeping this history of information provides a foundation from which to make informed decisions as you move forward.
There are numerous versions of record sheets a person can keep. What’s important is that your records work for you, that you are able to interpret them and convey the information to someone else. That person might just be the future version of yourself.
Some of the basic records you’ll want to keep for your farm or garden include soil test results, a map of your garden space, seeding and transplanting dates, application of fertilizer and sprays, other activities such as cultivation, harvesting, observations, etc., and income and expenses. It’s helpful to set up a notebook or use some software to help track this information.
Start with a new notebook for each year to help track similar activities from year to year. Prepare the notebook with your record sheets or an outline of what records will be kept on a regular basis. Keeping these records on a regular basis, if not daily, is important. Perhaps your record book is a simple as a composition book. Perhaps it is an intricate set of charts. However, they work so you understand them is what is important.
If you are a market grower that maintains any kind of certification, these records are crucial in your ability to explain your processes to the inspector and show an auditable trail of production. Where an inspector is concerned, “it didn’t happen if it’s not written down”. Certifying agencies typically provide a list of the information and template record sheets they require you to maintain.
If you are a conventional grower applying restricted chemicals, you are required to maintain a record of: the applicators name and certification number, the date, the EPA registration number, brand name and product number, restricted entry interval (when people can return to the sprayed area), location of spray, rate of application, size of treated area, total amount of material applied, and any notes including target pest, calibration information, weather, and amount of time the activity took. Companies that sell restricted chemicals and Extension offices usually give away spiral bound notebooks where you can keep your spray records. This is a great book for every grower to have and use regardless of your mode of production.
Whatever type of grower you are, record keeping is vital to being able to make informed decisions about what is working well and what might need to be changed. There are some basic records that build the foundation of garden record keeping. Some records are required by law. What’s important is that your records provide you with information in a way that you understand them and convey their meaning to someone else.