Aaker Salant

Software Engineer
San Francisco

Me, elsewhere:

Introducing Eggs

April 27, 2010

I’m a member of a C.S.A. (Community Supported Agriculture) program, where every month we get chickens and eggs from a small amazing farm in Napa called Soul Food Farm. The chickens are pastured, which means they run around all day, eating bugs and other good stuff, living the good life. These eggs are like no eggs you’ve experienced before – so tasty!

The intrepid manager of this C.S.A., Bonnie Powell, was organizing the members, orders, deliveries, and payments through an incredibly complex (but highly functional) set of spreadsheets hosted on Google Docs. Members placed their orders through a gDoc-spreadsheet-backed form, which was eventually turned into a farm packing sheet, bag labels, pickup host list, and a place for members to check their balance after the chickens were weighed and priced.

It was clear, though, that it wasn’t a sustainable system. The C.S.A. had to grow in order to help sustain the farm, but it was going to be tough for Bonnie to keep up with the workload involved, especially since she was actually managing two farms. Oh, and she was 8 months pregnant.

I had come out of Sarah Allen and Sarah Mei‘s amazing Women on Rails Workshop, and then taken a week-long Ruby/Rails course with Sarah Allen at a great training center called Marakana, and was itching to do something fun that was also actually useful to somebody.

So, eggs! (see on GitHub) An open-source web application for (meat) farms to manage their C.S.A. programs.

After about 6 weeks of evenings and weekends spent nerding away on it (I took full advantage of my fiancee being out of town on a surf trip to go into full anti-social nerdville), we rolled it out to both farms. There were some issues, but thankfully the C.S.A. members are used to a bit of chaos.

It’s not very pretty at the moment, but a good amount of the manager side is functional, and saving Bonnie (I hope!) more than a few hours a week. Labels used to be particularly time consuming, involving a mail merge and a significant amount of manual tweaking. Now, the “export labels” link produces a PDF (using the Prawn gem) on an Avery template with all the relevant content, in about two seconds.

I’m extremely grateful to the Sarahs for the Women on Rails workshop – it was a fantastic opportunity to get my feet wet, learn a bunch of good tools, and be seriously inspired.