The importance of planning

Planning goes hand in hand with record-keeping. You need to have the figures from past production in order to plan ahead effectively.

With knowledge of yields at different planting times, it becomes easy to calculate what yield can be obtained from every planting.
Photo: Corey Ryan Hanson

When I started growing vegetables for a large estate, we would plant a certain quantity of each vegetable on a weekly basis and naively expected to harvest a uniform amount.

This did not work. There would be periods of virtually nothing to sell, and other times there was so much we could hardly cope. This was due to climatic conditions changing the period between planting and harvest.

I then started recording the planting dates and harvest dates throughout the season.

As an example, at the beginning of the season, when temperatures were warm, the cabbages could be cut at between 80 and 85 days from transplant. Those planted later spent most of their growing period in winter and would take about 130 days.

Knowing the yields at different planting times, it became easy to calculate what yield would be obtained, and when, from every planting.

I was thus able to calculate how much to plant, and at what time, in order to obtain a steady production over the whole period.

I remember the anxiety from my boss when he realised I had not planted cabbages for three weeks. He was sceptical until I showed him the calculations from past productions.

Instead of having occasions when we would have to harvest 13 000 bags per week, which would lower the market price, I was able to go through the entire season cutting 7 000 bags a week.

Generally, there is a glut of produce on the market in early summer, especially after a cold winter when many plantings all mature over a much shorter period. Every time this happens, the prices drop, often below cost, and producers have to scramble to cope with excess produce, placing stress on labour and transport.

Chart it
With proper planning and record-keeping, you can also calculate labour and tractor usage.
It’s a good idea to make a chart and attach it to the office wall with the planting dates of all crops, as well as their harvesting dates.

With the 52 weeks across, you can easily calculate the amount of labour required for each crop at each week. With the list of crops listed one below the other, you can add up the labour usage for each week, which is placed at the bottom.