Farm records Part 1.

Brighton Gweshe

Today we continue with our overall theme: to help farmers on the land to become better, profitable and sustainable food producers.

To begin with, the term “farm record keeping” refers to the orderly and disciplined practice of storing farm business records or it is information created, received and maintained (kept) as evidence of the farmer’s activities during the production and marketing processes. It is required that farm records:

  • correctly reflect what was communicated or decided or what action was taken;
  • support the needs of the organization and support accountability.

Record keeping ranges from simple manila folder filing systems to complex on-line electronic systems. Whether simple or complex, a record keeping system must be easy to use and provide adequate storage and retrieval of records.

What are the characteristics of a good record?

Records should have content, context, meaning, authenticity, reliability, integrity and usability. Each will be briefly discussed.

In terms of content, a record should reflect what was communicated or decided or what action was taken and should provide enough information so that it is understood.

Context should reflect how it was used or why it was created (purpose); the date, the time and the participants while meaning should be linked to other documents or information to which it relates.

In as much as authenticity is concerned, a record is one that can be proven to be what it purports to be; to have been created or sent by the person purported to have created or sent it and to have been created or sent at the time purported. Records must be reliable and trusted to be a full and accurate representation of the transactions, activities or facts and can be relied upon in subsequent activities.

To ensure reliability, records should be created at the time of the transaction or incident or soon afterwards and by individuals with direct knowledge of the facts.

A record must be complete and unaltered and must be protected from unauthorized changes, and hence fulfilling the integrity characteristic. Lastly, usability implies that records must be retrievable, presented and interpreted while the links between other records should be maintained.

Why is record keeping important?

Good farm records are not solely kept for fulfilling regulations or legal requirements. Record keeping is also about understanding your business, now and in the future. Reasons why you should keep good records include: detail tracking, planning, legal compliance, tax preparation. Let’s go through each of these reasons in further detail. 

Detail tracking:- owning a small farm business will require you to track a significant amount of information, such as customers, sales, and inventory. Without a proper record keeping system, you may lose sight of important business details, leading to problems with serving your customers. If you do not know details about your customers, such as who your customers are and what your customers like, your farm business may not be able to meet customer demands. You risk disappointing a customer, maybe losing that customer forever. Staying informed about customers, their orders, and the inventory to provide for their purchases is challenging. Without a proper record keeping system, tracking important details of your farm business may be impossible. 

Planning:- proper record keeping helps to plan your farm business’ future. How does a farm business owner who fails to track his customers determine inventory needs for the next quarter, year, or longer? For example, what if you own a beef herd, you need to plan for calving, vaccinations, supplementation etc. You must anticipate the need for inventory throughout the year, according to seasonal cycles.

Legal compliance:- as an owner, you will likely execute contracts and be required to hold various licenses and permits. As an employer, you will be required to maintain and report employee payroll for tax purposes. Tax preparation using a well maintained record keeping system ensures that you are able to keep up with tax reporting requirements.

Thank you for reading. Your feedback is appreciated as usual. Feel free to suggest topics for discussions. Happy farming!

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