Montney: Electronic records provide not only activities of who, what, and when, but also can allow farmers to see what caretaking and harvesting jobs are planned or completed on a map of your farm or block. An integrated computer program can reap dividends for the entire farming operation. The key is to capture and enter the information once, at the point of activity, and have it immediately accessible to the people who need it.
2. What are some common missteps made in farm recordkeeping?
Montney: Many good people in this industry believe the old ways of doing things are sufficient. This is changing. Manual processes of recording farming activities and putting them in a shoe box need to become a practice of the past. The recording of farm activities on manual sheets creates mistakes due to legibility, recording the wrong block, etc. Governmental agencies, environmental groups, and labor advocacy groups continually focus on farm activity as a way to justify their existence. Legislative laws are not the only reasons to keep good records electronically. Protecting your family business and making better decisions based on information in your recordkeeping are more than enough reason to make a commitment to better recordkeeping.
3. With the Food Safety Modernization Act now law, how much more important will recordkeeping become?
Montney: Food safety and traceability for today’s farmer are now more critical than ever. We all know what happens when U.S. commodities are initially blamed for foodborne disease outbreaks. Retailers are focused on food safety, and compliance is required to do business in today’s environment. Food safety starts with having a central repository of information about your land, crops, practices, programs, and detailed records on who did what and when. Documenting and following good agricultural practices will help not just your individual farm, but the whole industry avoid this kind of public relations nightmare.
4. What’s the latest “gee-whiz” technology available to growers in this area?
Montney: Today, computers and software are becoming more simple. Internet applications allow users to get the information anytime anywhere. Touch-screen tablet computers, PDAs, iPhones, etc. are now affordable for farmers. Web applications are now being integrated with map technology such as Microsoft Bing Maps and Google Earth. For a simple example, input a search for a hotel and it displays on the map for you to make a choice. Applying the same technology to the agriculture industry allows farmers to look at their farm from a bird’s eye view. Imagine looking at the map of a harvesting schedule, yield maps, chemical applications, a log book, etc., with drill down capabilities. It’s simple, but powerful. The time has arrived for today’s farmer.