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Power Your Flowers: Record Keeping Systems
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Power Your Flowers: Record Keeping Systems


Hello out there! Coming to you with the second installment of the series, and this time we’ll dive into record keeping essentials. First of all, I’m just going to take a wild guess here. The chances are that if you were called to flowers and farming, you don’t thrill at hearing the words record keeping. Or data. Or spreadsheets. Certainly not pivot tables. But I sure do. Let me tell you why.

My farming life got easier, more profitable, and way more fun once I learned to measure what I was doing so that I could improve what I was doing. The secret sauce to all of this is to learn where to focus your precious time and energy to make the most impact with your business.

Since we only get one shot at spring sales every year, one shot at summer sales and one at fall, we’ve got to make sure we’re maxing out our opportunities. This starts with keeping track of what we’re able to sell, how much (or rather, how little) we need to plant to make those sales, and the most optimized schedule for doing so. This helps us relate what we’re doing on the farm to the strictest definition of good business: providing the right product, to the right customer, at the right time.

I want to both stress the importance of good record keeping while also stripping it down and making it simpler. That starts with a plea to track only the kind of data that’s going to help you strengthen your business going forward. You don’t need to take notes on things you never refer back to. If you’re trying to learn your crop cost of production (welcome to the fam!), you don’t need to time yourself harvesting dahlias every time - maybe just a few times a season to make sure you’re on track. Take a look at what kinds of records you’ve been keeping, and eliminate the ones that don’t serve you.

Key Records To Keep

These are non-negotiable on my farm and my students’ farms. Without this information, crop planning is just a guessing game. You can start tracking these things right now, and your future self will thank you.

  • Plant Yield. We need to know how many sellable stems our plants are producing, on average. Otherwise, how do we really know how much to plant?
  • Sales Data. What sold, when, to who? This is easy if you’re selling all of your flowers with an online platform, but tricky if you sell through a farmstand or market and don’t keep good track. Get on it.
  • Blooming Dates. We likely keep track of when we sow our flowers, but when about the dates they start and finish blooming?
  • Waste. How much of each crop was left unharvested in the field each season? Start to keep track of this and you’ll be blown away. You could be planting less, or using that space for crops that have higher sales potential for you.

Developing Your Systems

We all manage our farm planning and record keeping in slightly different ways. Some use clipboards, others notebooks or binders. Others yet maintain complicated spreadsheets, Google Forms, or apps like Evernote on their phones. If your farm is fairly evolved, you likely use a combination of methods. For example, I make paper to-do lists on clipboards but maintain spreadsheets for tracking our harvests. I’ve tried everything over the years and have settled on what makes the most sense for our farm as it is now. And that’s the trick: to find the system that fits in best with your workflow and that one you’re most likely to use. What’s the good of a beautiful spreadsheet if you never make it onto your computer to input data?

We can learn a lot from all the fuss on habit formation in recent years (I know I can’t be the only one who picks up the latest book on habits every time I’m at an airport). We’re taught that to form habits, we need to tie them to cues. A cue can be anything. It could be closing the greenhouse - something you do every evening - which you can use to remind you to make sure the daily harvest was recorded. It could be putting seeds back in storage after a round of sowing
- which you can use to remind you to record the varieties and quantities sown that day in your notebook.

The idea is to connect the activity that you want to start doing (i.e. keeping records), to something that you’re already doing (closing the greenhouse or putting your seeds away). This is how it becomes part of the process, so that you don’t overthink it or let anything get in its way.

As you find your own systems for keeping records, keep it simple. Reduce friction by making sure there’s no excuse not to do the record keeping. If there’s never a pen in the place you need it, tie one to a string or a serving spoon a la a gas station bathroom (hey, I’ve done it!). And finally, take the thinking out of it so it becomes routine. Couldn’t we all do with less thinking?

Read More from Lennie Larkin: 

Power Your Flowers: Building Thriving Customer Relationships

Power Your Flowers: Crop Planning 

How To: Set Business Goals for a More Focused and Satisfying Season Ahead

Flower Farming for Profit: A Complete Guide to Growing a Successful Cut Flower Business (Chelsea Green)


2 comments on Power Your Flowers: Record Keeping Systems

  • Alyssa
    AlyssaMarch 25, 2024

    Just started flower farming and just found this blog. Excellent resource! A million thanks.
    Farmer Bailey Inc. replied:
    Thanks so much for reading, and for your kind words, Alyssa! Welcome to the wonderful world of flowers. ~felicia

  • Thomas
    ThomasMarch 06, 2024

    These posts are such great resources- thank you Lennie!
    Farmer Bailey Inc. replied:
    Thanks so much for your comment, Thomas! We are so proud to feature Lennie’s work here on the Blog.

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