Farmos as a Permaculture design tool

I’m using farm OS as a management and planning tool on a fairly large scale permaculture project.

I’m interested in being able to overlay the digital designs I am creating with Google Earth, and inkscape an open source vector drawing program similar to adobe illustrator, on to the maps in farm os to allow for tracking the somewhat more complex and biomorphic areas we work with in food forest systems. (KMZ files can be created in Google earth, this works well enough, although there is more flexibility and creativity with a vector program) (if you bring the areas in one at a time you can color code with area types so just having more types would help)

I am working with a wild harvesting and garden coop that I would like to set it up so that they can upload observations and activities on the fly with their phones, and allow access to some or all of the group.
Most of what we do in permaculture is observation, being able to painlessly document some of the 2000 things we are likely to notice in a day would be helpful. being able to go home and pull up a map with the the location picture data etc. would be incredible.

It would be useful to be able to control what people can see based on their areas of interest, or responsibility.
Multiple community gardens/ food hubs, in a region, all under one central db to allow for real time tracking of the overall asset/need picture, while filtering it down to be one garden, or one item resource etc, from all the gardens.

The more I worked with Farmos, while working with community organisations, food hubs, restaurants and farmers/gardeners in the farm to table and food pantry systems, the more ways I found I could use this platform to manage the communication between those systems.
I built a virtual food hub that was a pretty simple app while I was beginning with farmos and kept thinking this program could do everything I was trying to do, better, if it just had a slicker interface.

Being able to run a community of gardens with the ease of social media apps and the depth of management program like farm os would be useful. The hardest part is getting people to use the program.

With the introduction of the new phone app a lot of this functionality is already there.

So what would I like to be able to do?

Easily create new categories, types of areas, types of logs, types of activities etc.

The ability to buy and sell items on the fly with minimal effort and enough data to follow up on later.

Overlay .png, .jpg, .dwg, and other graphic image formats on the existing location map set up.
Allow for placing an icon of standardized plant symbols to areas for identification of existing plants and new plantings within the area drawing section (can this be done with cluster maps can the point be the symbol?). Access to a library of those symbols with an easy way to create and upload a new one.
That’s plenty for now. Some of these things are probably already possible, any suggestions on how to do them with the current program would be appreciated.

Thanks for your time,looking forward to feed back


This is something @mstenta and I have been talking about as a potential benefit of “field modules” for the Field Kit app. From farmOS/farmOS/#217 (comment):

The ultimate level (until we devise even greater ideas) would be to control which field modules are available in the client on a user-by-user basis. This actually wouldn’t be too difficult, and all the logic for it could live in the farmOS server - so the client can remain simple. For example, imagine an admin UI in farmOS that lets you enable field modules on a user-by-user basis (or by role, we can decide). Then, that would affect what field modules appear in /farm.json , so the client would only pull in the ones it sees.

As for the mapping layers, those sound like great ideas. I’m just starting to dip my toes into the water of how maps work in farmOS, so we can incorporate them into Field Kit. Perhaps as I get further along I’ll have more concrete thoughts on how some of these ideas could be implemented.

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@barton Great! You can definitely represent some of these things in farmOS already - and we are aiming for a lot of the ideas you describe! Well on our way… :slight_smile:

I recently started work on a “version 2” of the farmOS maps, which I’m excited about. We have some fun ideas, and one of the goals is to make it easier for others to experiment with as well (Starting work on farmOS-map library).

For now, we have a few good options, albeit in more than one place:

  • Areas of different type (color coded) can be added to denote permanent fields, beds, buildings, etc. And new types can be added via a custom module.
  • Assets can be located with their own geometry, tracked by movement logs so we maintain a history of where they’ve been. The current asset geometries can be viewed in the “Asset cluster map” (
  • Logs can reference specific geometries (points/lines/polygons) in their own maps, so you can build a database of geo-located events (observations, activities, harvests, etc etc).

Most of what we do in permaculture is observation, being able to painlessly document some of the 2000 things we are likely to notice in a day would be helpful. being able to go home and pull up a map with the the location picture data etc. would be incredible.

Yes! That is what farmOS is designed for. We have the data architecture to store all that information going back in time (and forward) - and we’re mainly just refining how we display it now. You can already record observations in the field using either farmOS or the Field Kit app, and add geolocation to them, with photos. It’s possible - we’re working on making it easier now. :slight_smile:

Part of the plan with the farmOS map library is to combine all the different “types” of maps in farmOS together into a single map - with more controls for deciding which layers you want to see. So you might be interested in following that progress:

The maps in farmOS are built on OpenLayers, which provides a lot of options out-of-the-box for adding layers from different sources. Vectors can be added from various formats like KML/KMZ (and farmOS supports importing KML/KMZ).

As for Inkscape - you can generally save those files as SVG, and Openlayers can display SVGs as an image layer (although I’ve never tried this myself):

Easily create new categories, types of areas, types of logs, types of activities etc.

Some of these customization require programming, but it isn’t too complicated, and there are working examples to look to for guidance. But it might be better to talk them through first, so I can better understand your thoughts and maybe provide suggestions.

In short - great thoughts! Thanks for starting the discussion!

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can you turn on the, chicken, forest, planning and compost modules for silver city market gardens? after doing more reading I see that a lot of what I want is there. I figured out how to import from google earth, and skip the inkscape step, that takes care of some of it also. Looking forward to working with some of the modules in this process.

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Sure thing @barton! I turned on Eggs and Compost. Forest is in development, and not ready to use yet. Awesome to hear you got the Google Earth import working! Please share your thoughts and lessons for others as you explore! :slight_smile:

Continuing to work out how to use FarmOS as permaculture design and teaching tool. I really like being able to group all the information related to a specific project in one place.
I am now sharing data with NRCS as we start the process of designing and implementing multiple conservation, soil enhancement, and food production projects.
Also starting to use the people module to manage volunteers and work shares.
We will be designing and installing food forest wind breaks, as well as erosion control, pollinator habitat and irrigation projects.

Would it be possible to expand on the water category to include a distinction between irrigation, water harvesting earth works , and water storage?
How’s the Forest management module coming along?

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Would it be possible to expand on the water category to include a distinction between irrigation, water harvesting earth works , and water storage?

Actually you can add categories yourself! The “Water” category is just auto-generated by the Water module. This isn’t very obvious, but go to /admin/structure/taxonomy/farm_log_categories to see the editable category list.

How’s the Forest management module coming along?

Good! The initial project wrapped up and we have an initial beta module available. More details here:

can you please add food forest module to my site. I will be sharing this with NRCS and others as we develop the plan here.

Done! You should see a new “Plans > Forest Plans” menu item.

this is excellent this will help so much in organizing this planning process and separating it from ongoing operations. glad to see you can have multiple categories

Thank you I’ll check it out

Oh this forest module is sweet. Thank you so much

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So in the future I could have an overall permaculture plan, erosion control plan, rainwater harvesting plan, etc?

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Perhaps! The “Plan” types in farmOS are a bit more complicated… the basic idea is: allow you to organize assets, logs, areas, and people around a specific purpose (eg: a “Forest Plan”, a “Grazing Plan”, a “Crop Plan” (not yet), etc). But the “plan” code itself is still developing… and creating new plan types involves a fair bit of code at the moment. I hope that will become easier in the future.

One thought I had is to create some kind of “General Plan” type, which can just be used to reference other records, but doesn’t provide any other specific features other than that. That would go a long way towards creating that next level of organization more generally… before we build more specific plan types.

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@mstenta, could you give me a hint on how to add more Area types? I would like to be able to denote my hay (irrigated and dryland) and CRP fields from my farm fields and pastures (paddocks) (native and improved). So, right now, I would like to differentiate about 6 different Area types. Thank you

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Hi @ctomayer - adding area types can only be done by creating a custom module right now.

For an example, see the “Farm Livestock Area Types” module that is included with farmOS:

The other caution I would add: we are thinking about changing the way Area Types are defined in farmOS 2.x. So if you create a custom module now, you may need to refactor it when it comes time to upgrade to farmOS 2.0.