Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan

Technology in Flower Farming—How It Can Work For You

In my area August is GO time. It’s the busiest, the most flowers, the most events, and when I am the most tired. For some of you August might not be that month but think of the month your fields are exploding and your smile is as wide as your armful of beautiful blooms.

How do you make it through that time? You will make it through and you will not pull your hair out if you plan ahead and use technology. I remember a saying “If you fail to plan you will plan to fail.”

You need to set up plans, charts, and documents in the slower times. Thank goodness for the Canadian winters. In the winter I plan out how I see things happening during the times that I can’t think.

I make lists and pre-written responses. Each of our weddings has a file that I put all the information in. I have Excel sheets with our weddings and events in order of their date. We had a fillable pdf made for our wedding inquiries. When a future client contacts us we send them the file and they return it. I am not hounding them for information. If they don’t send it back it is on them. I try to get as much information as I can: their venue, photographer, their colours and feel of the wedding, even their height—all the information I need so that I have it at my fingertips.

My quotation sheet is also a fillable pdf. After I have met with a couple I fill in the boxes with the information that relates to them. The second page of the document has formulas to do the math for me. I enter how many and the price and it calculates it all. This definitely is something that can be done with paper and a little brain power, but when I am super busy I don’t always think straight. The last thing I do when a wedding is finished is to move the file to the “finished weddings” file. A great sense of accomplishment when I see the “finished” side getting bigger than the “to-do” side!

Technology is a great thing. We have come so far, embrace the technology. It is meant to make things easier for you and it TOTALLY can!

Google calendar is a great app you can access from your phone, computer, or tablet. Put everything in that calendar. Then you won’t forget it. On Sunday nights I go to plan out my week and immediately turn on the Google calendar app and see what is on for the week.

I use the ‘CREW’ app for my helpers. They all have the app downloaded. I enter the schedule so they can see their hours (it also alerts them of upcoming shifts 3 hours ahead!). If there is a market I don’t have anyone to work at I can enter the time and “request people to work”. They get a notification and if they want the shift then they can claim it. Even my virtual assistant (a real person) is on the app. He can go on and see the hours worked and generate the pay stubs. We can chat through the app as well. Messages can be sent to certain helpers or to all.

The Square apps (Square POS, Square Invoices, and Dashboard) are AMAZING! My parents grew and sold vegetables at the farmers’ market and Mom is so jealous that we have this app now! She used to have to keep a paper record of how much and what she sold. The app works like a cash register. It will text or email a receipt to the customer if they want one. You can also send an invoice to a customer for them to pay. You enter in the products you are selling and make a picture icon you just touch when it is purchased. The data and information about what and when you sold things are so valuable.

You can create reports with totals for week, month, or year, or from custom dates. We can tell when our busiest times of day at the markets are by the graph the app makes. The app also will collect payment via credit card and tap debit too. Every night I get a report of the total sales for the day and how many of each thing I sold. In the winter you can analyze the data to know what are your best/worst crops.

It’s surprising how things shake out. You may find that you LOVE to grow those expensive flowers but they just don’t translate into the sales that more profitable flowers do. You don’t need expensive equipment. The apps do work on a cell phone. I personally don’t like the look of using a cellphone at the market so we have an older generation IPad hooked up to wifi. The IPad is used only for the Square app.

We built a cooler on our farm last year. Before this we had been using my parents’ vegetable cooler at their farm. There was too much time driving buckets back and forth from one farm to the other. It is only a five-minute drive but it was not efficient. We purchased a used cooler unit and I was amazed at how quietly the motor ran. Dad’s is MUCH louder and you know if it is running or not by the airplane motor sound starting up.

Right away I started thinking of worst-case scenarios and I got worried. How will I know if the cooler is running or not if I can’t hear the compressor start? If the power goes out how will I know that? After a quick Amazon search for a “cooler alarm” I found Ubibot. It is a device that is mounted outside of our cooler and has a probe that goes through the wall and records the temperature. A wifi connection is needed for the device to send data to the app. I am able to set alarm parameters on the app to tell me when the cooler temperature is above or below a certain temperature or if the device is not sending data because the hydro is out. I can open the app on my phone from ANYWHERE and know exactly what the cooler temp is. It also generates a graph to see how the temperature has fluctuated in a specific time period. This device and app have given me peace of mind and the ability to make sure the cooler is working properly. On a hot summer day the cooler could be filled with a couple weddings, wholesale orders, and market bouquets, and if the cooler isn’t working I need to know immediately! That did happen this summer, and is what flower farmer nightmares are made of! Ubibot told me, though, so we could act fast!

The only place where I am a pen, paper, and clipboard believer is on my weekly worksheets. On Sunday night I get brightly-coloured paper and each wedding gets a different colour paper. Design notes and the quantities are written down and delivery locations are recorded. The first page of my clipboard has a breakdown of each day. Orders are recorded on the day before they are due so we know what we must have ready, and we are always a day ahead. I mark down who is working each day and any other notes I need to remember. The clipboard hangs beside the cooler. It stays there all the time. Everyone knows where it is and refers to it often. If something gets added I put Post-its on the page. The main reason I still have a paper list and clipboard is that I LOVE and get great satisfaction from X-ing something off the list when it is done! You don’t get the same feeling when you click a check box.

Janis Harris

Harris Flower Farm

Janis Harris Harris Flower Farm [email protected]