Prep Week: Are you from around here?

Documentation isn’t glamorous. I get that. But, it is important. So, here we are on post #3 about documentation.

Many farms depend on non-family employees to run their operations. Our farm uses International Rural Exchange Canada to help us find trainees who live with us, work with us and become part of our family farming operation each year. (Want to know what this looks like? ) For us, having an orientation binder has been a helpful tool in preparing trainees for their work on our farm and role in our farm family.

Of course, there are training documents beyond an orientation binder; things like equipment manuals and emergency procedures protocols. However, the orientation package is a first point of reference for questions about “how we do things” on our farm. There are a number of great, and very extensive safety planning tools and human resource manuals available… this is not that. Our orientation binder is a sprinkling of information to get our trainees started on the right foot. Coming to a new farm, in a new country, and living with a new family is overwhelming. Our hope is that the orientation binder provides some information, some reassurances and a promise of more information to come.

If you are an International Rural Exchange host family, a host of trainees through any organization OR just interested in seeing what our orientation binder includes, drop us an email at teresa@farmfemmes.com, comment or direct message us and we will be happy to share our template.

Prep Week: Keeping track of what's where

Yesterday we talked about keeping a written/physical record of your fields. Capturing what is in your head into a cohesive record allows everyone in the operation to easily access the size, shape and location of your fields. However, it doesn’t stop there. Another key component of planning is what to plant on each field.

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The first round of planning 2019 crop rotations happened months ago. This round of planning involves making adjustments based on:

  1. Marketing predictions

  2. Winter weather to date (considering things like moisture levels, snow cover and conditions for fall-seeded crops)

  3. Availability of seed (based on changes from suppliers or changes in your requirements due to #1 and 2)

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"Rotation Planning is fluid right up until the seed is in the ground.

Our crop rotation plan is fluid and flexible right up until the seed is in the ground, and even then sometimes we are forced to re-seed a field. In this case we may choose to re-seed with the same crop or an entirely different crop, based on the timing, weather forecast and seed availability. Our planning tool is just a guide to help us communicate. February is a great time to revisit it and update it with any changes that you might already have in mind.

We keep a multi-year planning record as well as a quick “cheat sheet” with just this year’s planned rotation. Let us know if you have any planning tools that you use to record and communicate your cropping plans. Drop us a comment or message us directly! Think spring! #Plant19 is just a few months away.

Prep Week: Digging into the office side of farm work

February is a month of anticipation, preparation and planning. This week we will drive into the thinking, and documentation, that we use to help us collect, capture and communication our thoughts. It is important to be able to capture what is in your head for a few reasons:

  • no one else can read your mind

  • you can be more objective if information is collected into one spot

  • sharing information with your trusted circle helps plan and guide future action

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This year we are using a different company to help us capture data, map and plan for our precision applications and analyze the impact on productivity. Our first task in this process was to update our land list. Our land list includes:

  • legal land description (section - township - range)

  • the common name (the farmer who owned it 3 generations ago or the name of the one-room school that was located there)

  • the number of acres

  • the crop to be planted there (more about crop rotations later this week)

This may seem like a “no-brainer” for some farms with a very stable land base. However, for us this process is complicated by things like:

  • changes in rented land base

  • land exchanges (for physical location convenience or crop rotational purposes)

  • the sale of a decommissioned rail line that runs through our property

  • land improvement projects that changed the boundaries and acres of existing fields

  • irregular natural boundaries

  • fields that do not align with legal descriptions: fields divided and farmed along natural boundaries (ravines, elevation changes) rather than by legal descriptions

Why Does it Matter? Updating your land list can seem like a make-work project. But it is important for at least three main reasons:

  1. To accurately capture data from application of inputs through analysis of harvest, so that the analysis and calculations that result from this data are as accurate, and therefore useful, as possible.

  2. To be able to accurately communicate about field locations, shapes and sizes with employees, product vendors and custom applicators.

  3. To develop complete and current emergency and safety procedures plans.

If you have any questions about our land list process, just drop us a comment or direct message! Or email teresa@farmfemmes.com

Check back for prep work conversations about crop rotations, orientation manuals and safety plans later this week.

Tech Tips: Calendar Synch

The cold weather seems like the perfect time to get out calendars and find time for a vacation. Maybe Commodity Classic (Florida…February… yes, please!).

In November, we had the chance to speak at a fabulous conference where we talked about calendar apps we use to help stay organized and in synch. Several audience attendees shared their favorite apps for keeping their family organized and we wanted to share them with you!

  1. Cozi

  2. Wunderlist

  3. Google Calendar

For those of you who are also volunteering or managing a sports team in addition, the below two apps are great at keeping the entire team in synch and up to date. We know they aren’t farm related, but we love them so we’re sharing them anyway!

Sports Schedules

  1. Sports Engine

  2. Team Snap

Stay warm, and hopefully synch up your calendars so you can find time for a little break from this cold snap!

Tech Tips: Password Managers

One of the greatest sources of annoyance for me is passwords. I literally forgot mine EVER SINGLE TIME, and so I got in the habit of doing a ‘forgot my password’ EVER SINGLE TIME until 12 months ago, and it was a game changer. So now, everyone I know who runs or owns a small business the #1 tip I say that saved time and frustration is, use a password vault.

Key reasons:

  1. Scary news headlines about data breaches

  2. It’s super annoying and time consuming to reset your password

  3. Thinking of a new password that is unique is important (we know that), but realistically who can remember them???

Obviously there are much more technical answers to that and if you want to read more, there are plenty of great articles specific to password vault’s that are linked at the bottom of this post. I am only going to speak from my experience, because I really think every farm operation (or really any person who uses a computer or the internet) should use a password vault.

I have used a couple of different different password vault’s but I recommend only 2 in the interest of saving you time….

  1. iCloud Keychain - Free for Apple devices

    Pros: Perfect on my Mac and Apple devices, so I use on anything I know I don’t want to use cross device

    Cons: I have more than 1 Apple account so not smooth sailing and I have an Android phone

  2. Dashlane - Free tier OR Paid tier options

    Pros:

    1. Synchs Apple, Windows and Android devices

    2. Supports 2 Factor Authentication (2FA), so you can have the site text you or call you with a unique code to validate it really is you trying to access the site

    3. Can have multiple identities (great if your kids use the same computer for homework, can store their passwords in their own identify so your 4th grader isn’t doing your 2nd grader’s homework)

    4. Most importantly has a Digital Legacy (in case something God forbid, happens to you, you can state who can access your accounts if you pass away or become incapacitated) which is important if it is your business financial accounts or operations information, probably less critical for your social media accounts!

      Cons: It’s more expensive, it’s preventative - so you are spending to help prevent password theft or to save you time

All password managers either take time initially to set up, or can learn over time as you log into a site each time. Once you have a password manager the best thing to do is to go ahead and re-set passwords to be distinct across each site - because if you are at all like me - you probably have reused a password or two in the interest of remembering them.

If you would like to investigate more password management options here are a few articles from reputable publications with additional options and reviews.

PC Mag - Best Password Managers for 2019

Consumer Reports - Tips for Better Passwords

Consumer Reports - Everything you need to know about password managers

Hopefully these cold days of January give you a chance to check out a password manager and see if it might help you and your farming operation to save a little bit of frustration during the busy months in filling out your passwords and keeping your digital life secure!

Tech Tips: Storage for your Digital (Farm) Life

This week on Farm Femmes we are going to talk about tech tips for the farm. When it’s -30 outside, who wants to be going outside? It’s time for a little inside office work…

So…

Tech Tip #1: Storing your Digital (Farm) Life

It never hurts to have a backup plan - EVER - in all aspects of your farming operation, so let’s take care of that for your digital footprint too.

Reasons you should do this:

  1. Financial records are important, especially if your farm gets audited

  2. Agronomic data you are gathering & collecting can be big and slow down your computer’s operation

  3. Access of your records from multiple devices so as an individual your computer, tablet, and phone stay in synch for the same file, or so you, your partners in the business operations and even support organizations can stay in synch

3 easy platforms to get started today…

Apple only operations

If you have an iPad, iPhone, Mac etc, or are otherwise Apple fans take advantage of iCloud to synch all of your devices and share easily with other Apple friends and family members. I personally use the 2TB tier which is $9.99/month, but the first level tier of 5GB is free. Just note that 5GB is not much if you are putting all of your imagery data to the cloud. It’s simple to get started as you already have to have a Apple account for each of your Apple devices, just signing in with the same Apple account across devices enables you to synch content.

If you are not a Apple only operation, then consider of the next 2 options.

If you have multiple device types, say a Windows computer, an Android phone and an iPad you will want to use an agnostic platform, the 2 we like are Drive and Box. Drive is a Google product, so if you use gmail already the interfaces are very similar. Use of Drive is free for your first 15GB, but it is $9.99/month for 1TB and $19.99/month for 2TB, so longer runway on the free level, but more expensive if you get up into the Terabyte storage range.

Box is a great product if you have a beef with Google for one reason or another, or you would rather keep your farm data out of Google’s cloud. Box is super easy to use, works on any device just like Drive, and is quick to set up to synch between all of your devices. It is priced at $5/month for 100GB and $15/month for unlimited storage.

All 3 options are great options, most importantly they give you peace of mind that your data will always be available and able to restore if your business computer or device ever fails or goes down. You will not lose any data or information and you can quickly get back up and running on a new device. The added benefit of being able to collaborate easily and edit or update files in the field or on the go will be something you’ll thank yourself for in the spring, summer and fall when things get hectic and you don’t have time to update files in front of your main computer.

Like this tech tip, or have one you’d like us to share our thoughts on? Message us on facebook or instagram, send us a tweet, or just comment below!

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You reap what you sow


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Each year we go to AgDays with an agenda of things to see and sessions to attend, and lots of time for socializing.  This year one of our “look for” items is going to be blockage monitors for our seeder. Currently, we manually check and visually inspect for blocked seed runs.  However, this means that we run the risk of having an undetected blocked seed run which results in a missing row of seeds and a higher seed rate in adjacent runs. Last year was our first year running our current seeder, so we learned through the process and this year we will be looking to add blockage monitors to improve our seeding efficiency.

Of course, increased monitors mean increased cost and complexity.  However, we hope that reduced down- time for manual inspections and increased seeding precision will improve our crop health and thus improve our yields.

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If you know of an AgDays booth we should stop by to help us with our monitors, please send us a direct message or drop us a comment.  

Or, if you just have a cool booth that you want us to check out, let us know that too! Just tag @FarmFemmes on your social media post… See you soon.



2018 was all about making a dream reality! THANK YOU!!!!

This week we have recapped just what a great community Farm Femmes has built in 2018! We had the opportunity to speak to broad, geographically diverse audiences in person, and reached so many more with our blog.

BUT the best part is that YOU KEEP COMING BACK FOR MORE!!!

Almost 40% of our blog readers come directly to our site - that’s amazing!

Thanks for voting with your clicks - continuing to spend your time with us - and making us part of your day. You are all part of making our dreams for Farm Femmes a reality.

Our 2018 recap felt like a hug, a fist bump or a high five from each and every one of you. We wish we could meet you all, but more importantly we just want to say thanks for being part of a great world wide community of Farm Femmes readers!