North Central SARE From the Field Profile
Tactic for a More Consistent Product
Developing Harvest Task Checklists to Assist Farmers in Managing Harvest Crews
Troy Community Farms is a five-acre urban farm that produces certified organic vegetablessold through a CSA, farm stand, and grocery store accounts. Given the farm’s location on the north side of Madison, people of all ages and abilities have easy access and are attracted to the farm as a place to learn about food and food production. One of Claire Strader’s challenges as farm director was training and managing a large and diverse workforce of interns, worker shares, and volunteers.
Strader found that even with training and clear instruction, it was difficult to ensure harvest tasks were completed efficiently and produced a consistent product. To address this, she identified 10 priority crops that crews would likely harvest multiple times throughout the season and developed task sheets for each crop.
Task sheets included tools needed, field harvest procedures, wash shed cleaning, and packing procedures. Strader piloted and revised the sheets for each crop based on farmer and harvest crew feedback. The final version was printed and laminated for use in the field.
To measure effectiveness, Strader distributed questionnaires to harvest crews, collecting data on the amount of time taken to complete a task and crew member confidence about the task. Farmers were surveyed to gauge satisfaction of harvested products. Results were inconclusive.
To measure impact on time used per task, Strader planned to give task sheets to crews working Wednesday harvests but not to those working Friday harvests. Due to a marketing change that significantly reduced Friday harvests, she wasn’t able to make comparisons. She also found that crew composition fluctuated as workers moved from crop to crop to complete tasks as needed, thus affecting the number of tasks a person completed for each crop.
Workers reported feeling slightly more confident when using the task sheets, and in general their confidence on performing harvest tasks was high. Strader found farmer satisfaction increased somewhat when the task lists were used.
Strader believes the farm will benefit from the task sheets. She continued to refine them, believing a streamlined list would be more effective in the field. The Troy Community Farm’s harvest task checklists are available on the MySARE reporting website. Go to www.sare.org and click on Project Reports. Search the database for project number FNC08-712.
Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) FNC08-712, Developing Harvest Task Checklists to Assist Farmers in Managing Harvest Crews.
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These products were developed with support from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA). Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed within these products do not necessarily reflect the view of the SARE program or the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.