Organic Farmer 4.0

Instructions for use.

New for version 4.0. More extensive use of linking fields between tables reduces the need to enter the same information in several tables. A formula field is now used to automatically calculate lot numbers for each item harvested, according to the date of harvest and the field location harvested, in the format MMDDYY-[location code number]. Seed expiration date is now calculated.

General Considerations. The Airtable platform is free to use so long as the number of database records is modest, and this may be sufficient for your operation. To avoid bumping up against limits of the free subscription, I personally pay $140/year for more commodious database limits. Airtable does not limit the number of databases you can create within your account, so create a new database for each farming year.

Reference Tables. The database tables can loosely be divided into working tables and reference tables. Reference tables generally populate drop-down lists that you will use to fill in the working tables. I suggest you begin customizing the database by working on the reference tables.

  • Locations. Begin by completing the Locations table. On my farm, every field and high tunnel is designated by a number, and every bed in the field or high tunnel is designated by a letter. For example, bed H in field 1 is named 1H. Orchard areas also have numbers. The database produces a ‘Location Code” number that is used in other tables. Don’t worry about the “Field Log” field. That will get filled in automatically when you reference the location from the Field Log table. A location code is automatically generated, which will be incorporated into lot number designations when plants are harvested.
  • Categories. The database comes pre-populated with a variety of categories of vegetable, fruit and herb products. Delete categories or add new ones as you see fit.
  • Receipts. Assemble all the receipts you have on hand for seed and fertilizer purchases. In the Receipts table scroll to the bottom and click the “+” icon to add a new line to the table. In the “Name” field, type a brief description of what the receipt is for. If you are accessing the database from a web browser, use your smartphone to snap a photo of your paper receipt and save it to a location that you can access from the web browser. For example, save copies of the photo to Google Drive or Onedrive. Click in the “Photo” field of the new Receipts record and upload one of your receipt images. The procedure is even simpler if you are accessing the database from the Airtable smartphone app. Click the “Photo” field, then click the camera icon. This will access your smartphone’s camera. Snap a picture of the receipt, which will then be saved directly into the Airtable record. For e-mailed receipts, use the print-to-pdf function of your smartphone or computer, and then upload the pdf into the “Photo” field of the Receipts table. Don’t worry about the other fields. “Seeds” and “Inputs” fields will get filled in automatically when you later reference the receipt images from Seeds and Inputs tables.
  • Supplier. In the Supplier table, fill in the name and relevant contact information for the companies from which you purchase seeds, fertilizers, etc.
  • Product. In the Product table, add a record for each plant product you plan to sell.
  • Category. The Category table comes prepopulated with many categories of vegetables, herbs and fruits. Add more or delete some as suits your circumstance.
  • Inputs. In the Inputs table, record purchase details for fertilizers and other field amendments. Indicate the supplier using the drop-down list, which is populated from the Supplier table. If you type in a couple letters of the suppliers name, the drop-down list will include only those suppliers that contain those letters. Fill in the purchase date and the amount of the input purchased in the appropriate fields. If the input is OMRI-listed, check the box in the “OMRI” field. Fill in the “Receipts” field of the table from the drop-down list of receipt images you saved previously. You may also wish to include a photo of the fertilizer label, or whatever in the “Photo” field. Do this essentially as described above for receipt images. Don’t worry about the “Field Log” field. This will get filled in automatically when the input is referenced from the Field Log table.
  • Seeds. Fill this in essentially as described above for Inputs. The “Photo” field is for recording an image of the seed packet, which you can do essentially as described above for receipt images. If your farm is certified organic, be sure to click the box in the “Organic?” field to indicate whether the seeds are certified organic, and if they are not, record in the “Notes” field the manner in which you searched to determine that an organic version of the seed variety is not available. Indicate on the dropdown list which sales product the seed is intended for. If you indicate how many years particular seeds remain viable, an expiration date will automatically be calculated from the sales date.
  • In the ‘GH log’ table record details of each instance when plants are sown for later transplant to the field. A category for each type of plant product can be entered from the dropdown list that is populated from the ‘Category” table.
  • Customers. In the Customers table fill in the names of the customers that buy your products. Don’t worry if you forget a few. You can always add new customers from within the Sales table. Don’t worry about the “Sales” field of the Customers table. This field gets filled in automatically from the Sales table when you make a sale.

Working tables.

  • GH Log table. If you use a greenhouse to produce vegetable starts for transplant, this information is recorded in the GH Log table. Whenever you seed a flat in the greenhouse, record the event in this table. Give every flat in your greenhouse a numeric ID. For example, name the 4th flat you seed in the year 2020 as “20-5”. in the “ID” field, indicate this serial number, along with a brief description of what was seeded. Record the seeding date in the “Date” field. Fill in the “Seeds” field from the drop-down list, which gets populated from the Seeds table. Typing a few letters of the seed name in this field will display in the drop-down list only seeds containing those letters. Fill in the “Flat size” field appropriately, for example, with “120 cell”. Don’t worry about the “TP Date, Bed” field. This gets filled in automatically when you record the transplant event in the Field Log table.
  • Field Log. This is the most important table in the database. Whenever you fertilize a bed, seed a bed, or transplant into a bed, the information gets recorded here. Keep your smartphone with you in the field so you can record this information on the spot, using the Airtable smartphone app. Details for seeds sown, inputs added, transplants used can all be populated from dropdown lists linked to the ‘Seed’, ‘GH log’ and ‘Inputs” tables. In the “Name” field, type a brief description of the event being recorded, as well as the location code. In the “Date” field record the date of the event. In the “Location” field, add the location of the bed from the drop-down list, which is populated from the Location table. In the “Notes” field, record what was done. For example, “fertilized with 3 lbs of bone meal and seeded with salad mix”. If an input was added to the bed (for example, bone meal) record the nature of the input in the “Input” field, from the drop-down list which is populated from the Inputs table. If you have planted seeds, or transplanted starts from the greenhouse, record this information in the “Seeds” field or the “GH Log” field, from the drop-down lists.
  • Harvest table. Whenever you harvest anything, record the event here. Fill in the ‘Products’ field from the dropdown list. Use the ‘Field Log’ dropdown list to indicate the sowing or transplanting event that produced the plants being harvested. For each record in the Harvest table, an identifying log # is calculated from data and field location information, in the format ‘MMDDYY-Location code’. The “Sales” field will become populated automatically when you sell the item in question.
  • Sales table. In the “Harvest ref” field, choose the item sold from the drop-down list of items harvested, then record the date of the sale and the quantity sold in the corresponding fields. The Sales table automatically records the amount harvested so you can ensure that the amount sold is not greater than the amount harvested. Choose the customer who bought the item from the drop-down list in the “Customer” field. If the customer is a new one, click the “+” icon in the “Customer” field, then click “new record”, opening up a window to enter the customer, along with customer contact info, in the Customer table.
  • The Sanitization table provides a convenient place to document the details of routine sanitization of harvest knifes, bins, etc.

That’s it! Every single farm operation is now seamlessly linked. For example, choosing “Leeks” in the “Harvest ref” field of the Sales table opens up a window that indicates the lot # of the item sold and the contains links to records indicating the field location and date of harvest and if relevant, the greenhouse flat from which the item was transplanted, the amount harvested and the customer or customers that purchased the item harvested. Further, links within this new window will take you to records indicating the seed purchase corresponding to the item sold and the fertilizers applied to the bed from which the item sold was harvested. Choosing a particular customer in the Customer table will open a window revealing a list of every item that customer purchased. Choosing a record in the Seeds table will display every instance where those seeds were planted in the greenhouse or in the field.

Duplicating a database to create a new database each year.

Duplicate the database structure and contents from the previous year. In the copy, delete all the records in the Field Log, Greenhouse, Harvest and Sales tables. If desired, also delete records in the other tables that will not be necessary for the new year. For example, if a particular seed packet has been used up, delete the receipt for that packet from the Receipts table, and delete reference to that seed packet purchase from the Seeds table.