Database for a local community farm project

Hi folks,

I have just started volunteering at Oxford City Farm and one of my jobs is to set up a database to catalogue all their produce, how much is sold or distributed (to volunteers etc), and how much income the farm gets for each crop. Being able to geenrate useful reports based on the data is a key feature as well as being able to input the data easily (for non tech users).

They have Google Apps (free for charity, I think) so I was initially thinking of setting up spreadsheets etc in Drive to manage this but am wondering if there is any free / open source software projects out there that do this kind of thing.

@chris put me on to Open Food Network which looks pretty good but seems more geared towards selling via an online shop (we don’t need this functionality as it will all be wholesale or direct cash sales, no online selling).

@nick maybe you have some ideas?

Any advice / suggestions would be appreciated!

3 Likes

I would caution against relying on offline distribution. We had a long running community enterprise in Kingston upon Thames called ‘From the Group Up’, and despite 5-years of effort they could neither distribute wholesale nor through volunteer run distribution centres because 1) volumes were too small and unreliable, 2) customers were inconvenienced by having to drive to pick up their food boxes, and as a result 3) demand was too low to make it worthwhile.

People got used to online shopping so I doubt that they will revert willingly to ‘direct cash sales’ as you put it.

Hi @Aaron - I would encourage you to make contact with Pete Russell at Ooooby and have a discussion about what you need. I wqoulkd guess that all systems like this will be focussed to some extent on online sales, and it seems daft to not enable this, as @DavidRandall says, but of course I don’t know the particulars of Oxford City Farm. Pete has been involved with software in the food space probably for ten years now, and knows pretty much everything about what’s out there, what’s useful. Ooooby itself is a pretty neat stack and may well be worth considering. You can hit him via @ohmpo on Twitter, or PM me and I can share an email address.

2 Likes

Hi Aaron,

This is a great question. Over at Cofarm Cambridge https://www.cofarm.co/ we’re just starting out and I’m thinking about the digital systems we’ll need to track growing/distribution as well as biodiversity data. It would be great if community farm ventures could use/develop/maintain/benefit from shared digital infrastructure cooperatively, and I’d be keen to find others working on / thinking about this.

Best,

Laura

2 Likes

Another group worth talking with is https://www.organiclea.org.uk/ :smiley:

They’ve been trading successfully for nearly 20 years, so have tried a wide range of methods of doing things. :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Hey @aaron :slight_smile: nothing specific comes to mind, and I haven’t been involved in a food project setup in that way, more on the free-for-all style :slight_smile:

but I stumbled across foodsoft a while back and a discussion on mastodon led to a few other projects, might find something useful in there, for convenience here are the links from the thread:

3 Likes

On the last item on your list @nick - Buckybox - I would probably steer clear. From what I’ve heard this system is old and not at all maintained. I know of many food orgs keen to migrate away from using it.

2 Likes

See also http://www.openfoodsource.org/

There is also an open source platform developed in Spain but I’m on my phone so can’t find it right now…

Somewhat related and mostly a “FYI” but there was a nice talk on peer-to-peer systems being developed for the farming sector: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uog2ByDcJ2c&list=PL7sG5SCUNyeYx8wnfMOUpsh7rM_g0w_cu&index=16&t=0s.

2 Likes

Always been a big fan of https://farmos.org

2 Likes

Hi. I just started volunteering for Open Food Network and I can put you in touch with people in UK who run it? I believe that it can be used exactly for the purposes that you stated? If you’d like to be put in touch - let me know? It’s always nice to avoid duplication of effort if it can be avoided. Take care.

2 Likes

Wow!

Thanks to everyone for contributing so much to this thread, it has been super helpful to dive into all the links and check things out.

In the end, we agreed to try Open Food Network and I spoke to Nick (I think) a while back who helped to clarify a few things about the system but it definitely does what we need and also puts us “on the map” which is a bonus.

In the short term, we have created a simple database in google sheets (the farm has a charity account, don’t shoot me), which suits the level we are at. We want to try OFN as it may be a way to act more as a shop and partner up with local hubs more easily but doing orders and payments through the system.

Next step will be to develop a (digital?) harvest plan that can give the lead grower a simple overview of things, but I suspect that is a little way off.

1 Like

In case anyone is interested, the farm is https://www.oxfordcityfarm.org.uk/

It is a community run charity with a social enterprise attached, hence we aren’t 100% needing to make the sales side work. One of the main aims is to provide good local organic food available to people most in need, which right now is growing by the day. We have also trialled a stall in a local cafe and sell to a local cooperative veg box scheme.
There is a need to make money from sales of produce, but it isn’t super pressing and we don’t have a huge amount of capacity, so finding the balance is key at the moment.

2 Likes