An Organic Vegetable Operation Record Keeping System

By Amber Holmes,2014-07-01 16:04
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An Organic Vegetable Operation Record Keeping System

    Carolina Farm Stewardship Association


    *Forms developed by James A. Riddle and Joyce E. Ford for the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. All forms designed to comply with the requirements of the USDA’s National Organic Program.

    The National Organic Program's (NOP) Organic Rule ?205.103 states that "a certified operation must maintain records for production, harvesting and handling of organic agricultural products…". These records must "be adapted to the particular business that the certified operation is conducting; fully disclose all activities and transactions of the certified operation in sufficient detail as to be readily understood and audited; be maintained for not less than 5 years; and be sufficient to demonstrate compliance" with the Final Organic Rule itself. These records must be "available for inspection and copying during normal business hours" by the organic inspector or other authorized representatives.

    Because vegetable operations vary widely in the types of crops grown, amount of acreage, number and size of fields in production, and marketing through farmers markets, on-farm stands, CSA and/or wholesale, it is difficult to create a template or system that fits all types of certified organic vegetable operations. The record keeping system presented below attempts to walk organic vegetable growers through recordkeeping options to develop systems of records pertinent to their specific operations. The requirements for each type of record are given and an example of that type of record is shown.

    Vegetable farm records that meet NOP requirements can be grouped into the following categories:

    1. Farm and field maps

    2. Field history sheets

    3. Seed purchase records

    4. Input records (soil amendments, foliar sprays, pest control products, compost production record)

    5. Activity logs

    6. Harvest records

    7. Storage records

    8. Lot numbering system for wholesale sales

    9. Sales records

    10. Other records

The operation’s record keeping system must be sufficient to be "readily understood and audited". In other

    words, the ability must exist to trace each crop from field to harvest, storage and sales, including the application of soil amendments, pest or disease control products, and other inputs. You need to be able to track crops to your farm or fields and show how they were grown. The records specifically relating to “audit trail” for your operation are field history sheets, harvest, storage and sales records, (including a lot number for operations that sell wholesale, if applicable). Other records listed above verify compliance of specific standards in the rule, such as the use of organic seeds.

    Not every operation needs all of the records listed above. As a certified organic producer, you need to determine which types of records you need, so that your records are “adapted to your operation” and

    "disclose your activities and transactions".

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General Tips:

    1. Develop generic record templates, typing or writing as much information as possible, so that you

    need only check a column, write in a date, or record an amount.

    2. Keep the records relevant and simple. They should be useful to you in making management decisions as well as showing compliance to the Organic Rule.

    3. Keep the record in a location that is accessible to use. For example, keep the cooler log outside

    the cooler door. When you put vegetables into the cooler or take them out, it is easy to quickly check the amounts and date.

    4. Keep records up to date. It is much harder to go back and reconstruct records after the fact. 5. At the end of the year or season, gather all records from clipboards and file them in a ring binder. 6. Review last year’s records when making plans for the coming season.

    7. Modify or improve your records over time. Discard useless records and incorporate new ones.

STEP 1: Develop or draw a farm map. Start with an FSA, NRCS, plat map, surveyors map, or hand or

    computer drawn map of your farm or fields. Mark all fields, roads, and adjoining land uses such as

    conventional fields, pastures or neighboring residences. Indicate locations of wild areas such as

    woodlands, beneficial habitat areas, and other landmarks. Mark on the map areas where you maintain

    permanent waterways, windbreaks, retention ponds, buffer zones, or other landmarks. Each field or plot

    should be numbered. Show relevant farm buildings. Indicate which direction is "North". The size or

    acreage can be added if there is room. Boundaries should be clearly delineated. See Sample # 1.


    1. Do not use color markers, as these maps are copied and the colors do not show when copied.

    2. Do not show individual annual crops on this general farm map. Annual crops change from

    year to year.

    3. Minimize changing field acreages and field numbers from year to year. Sample 1: Wiscoy Organic Produce Farm Map

     Neighbor's conventional fields

     30' treeline buffer

     Field #1 1 acre Field #2 1 acre Equip Greenhouse N storage #1

     Greenhouse #2



    storage Packing shed /


    Garage House Organic Vegetable Records.03 Apple/Pear Orchard - 50 trees Page 2


    County road not sprayed Neighbor's Woodland

STEP 2: Develop field history sheets. You may be required to use the field history sheets provided by

    the certifying agent as part of the Organic Farm Plan questionnaire. The certifier’s forms may prove

    difficult to use as they are often designed for fields where single crops are grown. Because they are filled

    out prior to planting, the Field History Sheet attached to your Organic Farm Plan application may not be

    totally accurate. The certifying agent's field history sheet can be filled out with general categories of

    vegetable crops, such as brassicas, sweet corn, greens, or alliums, listing all soil amendment and/or pest or

    disease control inputs used on that field. This record is used by the inspector to verify that the crops you

    actually plant correspond to the crops you stated in the Organic Farm Plan. It is also used to determine the

    actual crops and fields you are requesting for certification, the year of organic eligibility for new fields,

    and to assess your crop rotation and soil fertility program.

Sample 2a: Field History Sheet in your Organic Farm Plan Questionnaire

Year: 2003

     O-Organic Inputs

    Field # T-Transitional Acreage Crops Expected

    C-Input Date of Use Rate of Use Yield


     Mixed Cow manure 50 lb/600 sq. ft.

     #1 O 1.0 vegetables Lime 11/03 25 lb/600 sq.ft. Variable

     .75 Sweet corn Cow manure

     #2 O .25 Squash Lime 11/03 1 ton/acre Variable

     25 Pear and 250 Orchard O 50 trees 25 Apple Cow manure 11/03 200 lb/acre bushels

If you grow multiple types of crops in a single field, a good way to track crops grown is to draw an

    individual field map for each field, delineating plots, rows or beds. Number each plot, row or bed. An

    example of a numbering system is Field #1-1, #1-2, #1-3, Field #2-1, #2-2, #2-3, etc, where a 1-acre field

    is divided into plots and then into beds. All plots or beds growing the same crops and receiving the same

    inputs can be tracked together, rather than tracking every plot or bed separately.

Once you have designed the blank template map, make copies. This detailed field record, showing plots,

    rows or beds, is your key to a simple record keeping system. The template can be used as an activity log

    showing dates of plantings; as an input use record showing applications of foliar sprays, pest or disease

    control products, and soil amendments, as a harvest record. Record the activity or product and date in the

    appropriate bed or row. If you have employees, interns or volunteers, it can be used to provide work

    instructions. You can use the template to plan your crop rotation and subsequent fertilizations, and know

    from year to year exactly where everything will be grown. Use the same basic template every year.

If you double crop or plant cover crops, record these crops in the field history sheet.

If you know each plot or bed size, or row length, you can determine approximate yield of various

    vegetables to help in your market planning

    1 For instance, in Sample #2b, each bed measures 150 ft. by 4

    ft, or 600 sq. ft. This square footage yields approximately 320 pounds of tomatoes.

1 See Knott's Handbook for Vegetable Growers, authored by Oscar A. Lorenz and Donald N. Maynard, New York: Wiley-

    Interscience Publication/John Wiley & Sons, Third Edition, 1988, pg. 333-334.

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Sample 2b: Field HistoryTemplate Map Field # 1 Year 2003

    Each bed is 150 feet long by 4 feet wide (600 sq. ft.), with 2 feet between each bed for a pathway. Type in what is planted each year.

Plot #1 8 beds Bed #1-1 Lettuce Plot #4 12 beds Bed #1-25 Tomatoes

     Bed #1-2 Assorted spring greens mix BBd #1-26 Tomatoes Bed #1-3 Snow peas Bed #1-27 Green bush beans

    Bed #1-4 Snap peas Bed #1-28 Yellow bush beans Bed #1-5 Spinach Bed #1-29 Tomatoes

    Bed #1-6 Lettuces Bed #1-30 Tomatoes Bed #1-7 Green peas Bed #1-31 Pole green beans

    Bed #1-8 Green peas Bed #1-32 Bush green beans Plot #2 8 beds Bed #1-9 Broccoli Bed #1-33 Broccoli

    Bed #1-10 Cabbage Bed #1-34 Cabbage Bed #1-11 Red Norland potatoes Bed #1-35 Yellow onions

    Bed #1-12 Red Norland potatoes Bed #1-36 Yellow onions

    Bed #1-13 Kale Bed #1-37 Late potatoes Bed #1-14 Cauliflower Bed #1-38 Late potatoes

    Bed #1-15 Red Norland potatoes Bed #1-39 Red salad onions Bed #1-16 Red Norland potatoes Bed #1-40 Red salad onions

    Plot #3 - 8 beds Bed #1-17 Sweet basil Bed #1-41 Late potatoes Bed #1-18 Parsley Bed #1-42 Late potatoes

    Bed #1-19 Early tomatoes Bed #1-43 Carrots

    Bed #1-20 Early tomatoes Bed #1-44 Carrots Bed #1-21 Assorted greens Bed #1-45 Carrots

    Bed #1-22 Lettuces Bed #1-46 Carrots Bed #1-23 Early tomatoes Bed #1-47 Assorted perennial herbs

Bed #1-24 Cherry tomatoes Bed #1-47 Assorted perennial herbs

Organic Vegetable Records.03 Page 4

STEP 3: Develop seed purchase records. Because vegetable operations often purchase many varieties of

    seeds from different seed suppliers, maintaining seed records can be quite a challenge. For those of you

    who are computer enthusiasts and purchase the same seeds from year to year, a computer spreadsheet,

    such as Excel, can greatly reduce the time you spend on this record by entering in as much standard

    information as possible. Expect to put in a fair amount of time developing your spreadsheet, however.

Seed purchase records include copies of your seed orders, actual labels, seed tags or seed packets, and a

    record of your attempts to purchase organic seeds and reasons for purchasing non-organic untreated seed.

    Do not purchase treated seeds seeds treated with synthetic product such as Captan are prohibited.

You should also keep receipts of your organic seedlings and perennials purchased and verification that the

    annual seedlings were certified organic. If you grow your own seedlings, greenhouse records or an

    activity log, showing how many flats were planted, planting dates, information regarding the inputs used

    in your soil mix, and products used for foliar sprays or pest control or disease control need to be kept. Use

    a clipboard to record the information in the greenhouse.

All seed purchase records should contain the following information: crop, variety, supplier, whether the

    seed is certified organic (0), untreated non-organic (U), or treated non-organic (T), type and brand of

    treatment (if known), and whether the seed is non-GMO. If the seed is organic, the seed will also be non-

    GMO. Planting GMO seed is prohibited and will result in de-certification for the portion of the field for 3

    years. Be sure to use non-GMO rhizobial inoculants. Your seed orders should show crop, variety, and

    supplier. Some suppliers use the "OG" designation in the product code to identify the seed as organic.

    Indicate on your copy of the seed order which seed is certified organic.

Remember that organic seeds and organic seedlings are required for organic certification. Exceptions may

    be granted by the certification agent if organic seeds are not commercially available. The Organic Rule's

    definition of commercial availability states, "the ability to obtain a production input in an appropriate

    form, quality, or quantity to fulfill an essential function in a system of organic production or handling, as

    determined by the certifying agent in the course of reviewing the organic plan." With regard to seeds, the

    NOP has expanded commercial availability to include “equivalent varieties”.

Thus, if you purchase non-organic seed, you must document your attempts to purchase organic seed and

    have appropriate reasons for needing to use that specific variety. Specific reasons might be that a variety

    of lettuce is heat resistant; the 500 pounds of seed potatoes you need to purchase are not available from an

    organic supplier; a variety of peppers that turns red in your Northern climate is not available in organic

    form; or that you need pelleted carrot seed and can’t find it organically.


     1. Do not plant treated or genetically engineered seed, as this will disqualify that portion of the

     field from certification for 3 years.

     2. Make copies of your actual seed orders for your records. Mark all organic seeds with "OG" if

     not already in the product code.

     3. Keep seed packages, labels or seed tags to show the inspector. Keep labels of all inoculants


    If you choose to record all seed purchases, here is an example of a format to use:

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Sample 3a: Seed Purchase Record

Year: 2003

    Supplier Key: 1 - Fedco 2 - Johnny's Selected Seeds 3 - Garden City Seeds

     4 - Ronniger's Potato Farm 5 Seeds of Change 4 Harris Seed

     Organic (O)

     Seed Supplier Untreated non-Type and Check (Commercial Attempts to

     organic (U), Treated brand of non-GMO availability purchase

     Crop Variety non-organic (T) treatment seed reason # organic seed Lettuce ? Summer Anuenue 2 U - Heat resistant - 1 Looked at Fedco, Crisp Harris, Garden City and Seeds of Change

If you record only the non-organic seeds purchased, here is an example of a format to use:

Sample 3b: Non-Organic Seed Purchase Record

Year: 2003

    Supplier: Johnny's Selected Seeds Year: 2003

     Seed Check (Commercial Attempts to purchase organic

     Type and brand of non-GMO availability seed

     Crop Variety treatment seed reason #

    Lettuce ? Summer Anuenue Untreated Heat resistant - 1 Looked at Fedco, Harris, Garden City and Crisp Seeds of Change

STEP 4: Develop input records. Input records must show what product(s) are used, the location (field

    or bed #), date of use, and application rate. Inputs include soil amendments, foliar sprays, pest and disease

    control products, and products applied with irrigation. Depending on how many products you use, you

    may need more than one type of input record. Your individual field template showing individual beds

    works well to record specific soil amendments applied, and the date and rate of application.


     1. Keep the input record clipboard where you store your application equipment or products used.

     2. If you use a standard application rate or combine soil amendments or pest control products in

     your own formula, write this information once at the top of the record and use a key number or

     other identifier to enter the information in the appropriate column.

     3. Use a different sheet/map template for soil amendments (minerals, compost and manure),

     foliar sprays, pest or disease control products.

     3. If micronutrients are applied, keep copies of soil or tissue tests to justify agronomic need.

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Sample 4a: Soil Amendment Use Record

Year: 2003 Key: A Cow manure, composted, 50 lb. per 600 sq. ft. bed

     B Calcitic limestone, 25 lb. per 600 sq. ft. bed

     C Micronutrient recipe according to soil tests for 600 sq. ft.

     beds (rock phosphate-10 lb., boron-3 oz., Sul-Po-Mag-5 lb.)

    Field #-Bed # Soil Amendments Date Applied Rate of Application Field #1-19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, A, B Nov.15, 2002 As recipe above Field #2- Plots #1, 2 Per plot: 200 lb. lime and 3 A, B Nov. 17, 2002 400 lb manure Field #2 Plots #4 and 5 B Nov. 20, 2002 300 lb. lime

Sample 4b: Pest Control Product Use

Year: 2003

    Field #-Bed # Pest Problem Pest Control Date Applied Rate of Application


    Field #1 and #2-all around; in grass Japanese Beetle Milky Spore 4/14/03 1 tsp/3 ft. Field #1-11, 12, 15, Colorado Potato 16, 37, 38, 41, 42 Beetle Novador Bt 6/30/03 1.5 oz./gal

STEP 5: Develop an Activity Log. This record might be an individual activity log per field kept on a

    clipboard, calendar, journal, pocket notebook, personal data assistant (PDA), or ring binder. The field

    activity log is the easiest way for many operators to record activities. Examples of information you might

    record include: planting dates with bed # and crop; observations of plant health or disease problems;

    specific weed populations or problem locations; planting rates; harvest activities; equipment settings;

    weather conditions, i.e., heavy rains, soil erosion noted; or pest monitoring activities. Inspectors review

    these records to verify compliance and assess your monitoring program.

Sample 5: Journal

Journal entries:

3/9/03 Planted Red Norland potatoes, beds #1-11 and #1-12

     Disced field #2 noticed a patch of thistle emerging in plot #5

3/10/03 Heavy rains today; 2.5 inches in rain gauge; no erosion noted

STEP 6: Harvest Records. Whether the vegetable grower is selling at a farmers market, on-farm stand,

    CSA, or wholesale orders to grocery stores, cooperatives, or restaurants, harvest records of some type

    must be kept to audit production. Required information is the crop harvested, date of harvest, amount

    harvested and location where harvested (field, plot, bed or row #). This information is invaluable to the

    grower in planning for the future, especially when determining what crops were most profitable, when to

    plant specific crops for a continuous supply, or how much to grow in the future. Inspectors, on behalf of

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certifying agents, review these records to determine that you actually grew and harvested what you say

    you sold.

Simple harvest records can consist of a single sheet of paper for each type of crop (Sample 6a - advantage

    is that you can easily add up your total harvest.) You can also use map template to write in the amount

    harvested from each bed, whichever is easiest for you. Keep these records where vegetables are packed so

    that they can be kept at the time you are packing each vegetable.

Sample 6a: Harvest Record Per Vegetable

     Field #: _______1_____ Crop Harvested: Lettuce, Red

    Bed # Amount Harvested Date of Harvest

    1 24 head (1 box) 6/4/03

    1 30 head 6/6/03

    1 24 head ( 1 box) 6/11/03

    1 48 head 6/13/03

    1 48 head 6/20/03

    134 head Total Harvested

Sample 6b: Harvest Record Per Date

    Date June 25, 2003


    Crop Harvested Bed # Harvested Lettuce, red 1 30 head Asst. spring gr mix 2 45 bunches Spinach 5 50 bu Lettuce, gr 6 35 head

For larger growers, a useful harvest record is a template of all products sold. Sample 6c lists all crops,

    with columns that show the beds and amount harvested. Use a single sheet for each harvest day.

    Alphabetize the list. List each type of vegetable, including different varieties, if needed. Lot codes may be

    used if the operation is selling wholesale. This record may be used to take wholesale orders over the

    phone. The original serves as a “pick order”, with items checked as the order is filled. Putting the basic ID

    for each vegetable or fruit's lot code on this column helps the person remember the correct lot code. See

    also the section below on developing lot codes. The lot code column is not needed for a small operator

    who sells direct. If the vegetable or fruit is only harvested from one field, plot, or bed, write in the

    location # on your template for the season. With this record, not all vegetables are harvested every week.

    See Sample 6c below.

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Sample 6c: Larger Operation Harvest Record (a single sheet is used for each harvest day)


    Crop Harvested Lot Code Expected Field, Amount Walk-in

    Initials Harvest Date Plot or Harvested Cooler (?)

    Bed #

    Apples, Red Delicious ARD Sept-Oct. Orchard Apples, Yellow Delicious AYD Sept.-Oct. Orchard Basil, Sweet BS June-Oct. #17 Beans, Green BG July-Oct. Beans, Yellow BY July-Oct. Carrots C July-Oct.


     1. Larger vegetable operations with employees may keep more complicated records that have

     columns for packing goals and amounts actually packed.

     2. Use standardized box sizes, such as 24 head of lettuce per box. Then you can just enter how

     many boxes you packed.

     3. Attach a lot number sticker or date stamp when packing wholesale boxes.

STEP 7: Develop storage records. If you harvest the day of market and do not use a walk-in cooler,

    you do not need to keep storage records. But if you are a fairly large vegetable operation, with deliveries

    several days a week, inventory records are essential. Likewise, storage records are important for crops

    such as potatoes, carrots, and apples. Inventory records for a walk-in cooler help the grower know what

    he/she has available that needs sold and how much to harvest for projected sales. Dates are important

    because produce needs to be as fresh as possible.

    Required information is crop being stored, amount stored, date stored. Adding a column to the Seasonal

    Harvest Record template for storage information makes it also useful as a storage record. In Sample 6c

    above, the person need only check that the produce went into the cooler. This will work if all stored

    produce is likely to be sold the following day and you don't need inventory records.

Sample 7: Walk In Cooler Inventory Record (Organic only, 10'x12')

    Cooler #: _______#1________

    Crop Lot # Amount Storage Date and Date and None Left in

    Stored Stored Date Amount Amount Inventory (?)

    Sold Returned

    Lettuce, red LR155 1 box 6/4/03 6/5/03 all

     Lettuce, gr LG155 1 box 6/4/03 6/5/03 all

     Spinach SP155 2 box " 6/5/03 1.5 ? box 6/5/03 6/6/03

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     1. If a walk-in cooler is also used for non-organic products, store organic and non-organic

     products in separate areas.

     2. If you cannot separate, store organic produce on higher shelves so non-organic produce does

     not drip onto organic produce. Label organic and non-organic storage areas for easy


STEP 8: Lot Numbering System. If you are selling wholesale, you need to be able to track each specific

    box of produce to the date of harvest. A simple lot number is the date of harvest, such as 6/9/03, or 6903.

    You may want to identify the product with a product code, such as LR for Lettuce, Red. The lot number

    for red lettuce harvested on June 9 would be LR6903. Only you and your employees need to be able to

    decipher the lot number. Some growers use the Julian Date Calendar, a 3-digit number designated for

    each day of the year, starting with 001 for January 1. Since produce does not have a long shelf life, the

    year may be eliminated from the lot number to keep it short.

If you are selling wholesale and harvest the day of delivery, the invoice number can serve as your lot

    number. Be sure to write the lot number or invoice number on each box.

The lot number should be written next to the product on the invoice and also should be stamped or have a

    label affixed to the carton being delivered. There may be different lot numbers for various products on the

    same invoice. If a buyer has a question about a particular lot, you will be able to identify when it was

    harvested, from what bed, and when it was stored and shipped. By using lot number in storage, you can

    easily identify which products were harvested first, in order to sell them first.

If you use a product code for each crop, your sales order template should include a column for the code.

STEP 9: Develop sales records. Sales records may simply be a list of the vegetables you took to the

    farmers market and total sales for the market day. These do not have to be broken down by each type of

    vegetable sold. A daily sales total is sufficient. If you are going to multiple farmers markets, a table with a

    column for each market is a simple way to keep track of your total sales. At the end of the season, just

    total the columns. To save time, you can type in the names and dates of your markets ahead of time.

Sample 8a: Farmers Market Total Sales Record

    Date of Market Winona Farmers Winona Farmers Rochester Farmers

    Market (Saturday) Market (Wednesday) Market (Saturday) 6/7/03 245.00 368.00 6/11/03 219.00 6/21/03 304.00 397.00

    Total Sales 549.00 219.00 765.00

For a CSA, the total sales are known at the beginning of the season, since subscriptions are sold in

    advance. But you should keep a record of the vegetables and amounts delivered to each CSA member in

    their weekly boxes. The Larger Operation Harvest Record (sample 6c) could be modified to record CSA

    deliveries. Just check the vegetables and fruits put into each box with the amounts. It is a good idea to

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