I’m excited to try a lot of varieties of plants at the farm. Farm trees, vegetables on a homestead scale for our family, perennials to sell or for personal use, pollination plants for bees, the list could go on for a while. From my experience working with my father at the former ‘Akin Back Farm’ in LaGrange, KY I learned the importance of labelling plants. Joe Kunkel had thousands of varieties of perennials and had a daylily hybridization operation. We labelled these perennials with their botanical names on tags.

I plan to take a different approach at 1880 Farm using an Alpha 3 code for all plant material. Alpha 3 is a term for using a 3 lettered code, typically starting with AAA, AAB, AAC… and ending with ZZZ. There are 15,600 unique codes in the sequence, which should be more than sufficient for our needs. I’ve started an Excel spreadsheet that lists what plant is given what code, in our use we will enter them as we either acquire them or as they are ID’d in our woods. To start, I entered the very first plant we have added, Bocking 14 Comfrey from Marsh Creek Farmstead as PID: (Plant Identification Code) AAA. PID: AAA is used not only in the master Excel sheet, but also in any reference to the plant in my computer, such as this log in OneNote:

And PID: AAA is noted on this scan of the information sheet Marsh Creek Farmstead included in the shipment:

The Alpha 3 system would not have worked back in the day at Akin’ Back Farm without carrying a binder around the farm with us. As I always have my cellphone I can look up the plant by the Alpha 3 code quickly and update notes in it, such as “doing well in partial shade” or “tomatoes ready to pick by July 17th” or “while it grew really well, we weren’t fans of this variety of kohlrabi” all of which will be valuable information for future planning. Suppliers and even the purchase receipts will all be accessible by searching the computer for the code. We can add the Alpha 3 code to invoices of plants and food we sell to track from seed to sale. Appropriate tags for plants we sell retail/wholesale can be attached just before sale or delivery, this will ensure that they are not weathered or hard to read. The 3 digit code makes for easy notation on maps of plants on a property, it will take up much less space than any other naming system. I do a simple journal entry in outlook calendar daily, Alpha 3 will be efficient for entering plant info there as well. Alpha 3 consistently added across different types of media and locations will allow me to find everything with a search of my system.

Consistent use of the code for each unique variety will eliminate the issues that stem from using the botanical name, or part of the botanical name in some notes and common name or regional common name in other notes.

We are not a market garden, but I feel this could be invaluable to a market gardener. Each started seed packet could be tracked from seed to transplant to market by a unique code. The planting dates, watering history, yield, and feedback from customers could all be efficiently accessed and used to further the efforts.

The labelling in the field using the Alpha 3 system will be simple compared to other systems I’ve used. We can use permanent marker to add our code to the back of nursery supplied labels, or on popsicle sticks for annual gardening. For trees and perennials I’ve chosen to make longer lasting tags. I started with copper washers, but as they cost $0.16 each last time I bought a pack at Amazon, I started looking for a cheaper method. I’ve found some really old pennies outside that survived the test of time, so I decided to try some of those as well. Cost of long lasting label down to 1 cent! I do need to drill a hole to secure them with copper wire.

My legal savvy friend told me that as long as I didn’t try to circulate the pennies or change the face value (don’t stamp numbers on them he said) then it would be fine to use them as tags. When I was not 100% convinced he explained that he just got pennies for his kids at a machine that squashed them and squeezed them out with a new image at Disney, and they wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t allowed. *this is not legal advice, just a recount of a conversation

I stamped the pennies and washers with Tekton 5/32 punch set from Amazon. It took a really light tap to stamp the soft metal of the copper washer and the pennies.

I’m interested in hearing from anyone who has experience with long lasting inexpensive plant tags!



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