Foothill Farming
University of California
Foothill Farming

Standard Operating Procedures

No matter what kind of operation you run, writing Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the farm chores you do can help you avoid and manage risk and improve the efficiency of your operation.

The purpose of SOPs is to make sure everyone has access to the knowledge they'll need to manage the operation if the person who normally does the work is absent or incapacitated. 


Some other good reasons for writing SOPs include: 

  • Making everyone's work more consistent.
  • Letting workers in on the tips and tricks you use to make things work.
  • Helping you comply with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) programs.


SOP Writing Basics (What to include. What to consider.):

  • Title, person who wrote the SOP, and date written or revised.
  • List of tools, supplies, or equipment needed.
  • Safety precautions for hazardous procedures.
  • Write each step briefly, simply, and clearly. Leave as little room for interpretation as possible.
  • Have the people who will use the SOPs help write them, so the SOPs are clear to everyone.
  • Write first: SOPs for procedures that have safety concerns.
  • Write next: major procedures that will have a positive impact on your operation if they are clarified.
!! Make sure to keep your SOPs out where workers can read them!
!! Keep them where the processes they describe happen!
!! Update them when needed!

- Penn State University Cooperative Extension and Penn State Dairy Alliance. "Dairy Farm Business Standard Operating Procedures: A Writing Guide." 2001
Western Region Alliance on Beef Quality Assurance. "A Guide to Writing Standard Operating Procedures." 2008
- Wythe Morris, Virginia Cooperative Extension. "GAP Training Session: Writing an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure)." No date listed.

SOP Formats:

  • SOP Template - Ohio State University Extension
  • “Simple Steps” - Ten steps or less. Example: Simple Steps for Hand Washing (from Ohio State University Extension)
  • Hierarchical Steps or Graphic - Breaks long processes into subprocesses with fewer steps. Easy to use steps for experienced users and more detailed substeps for beginners. Example: Hierarchical and Graphic SOPs (from Penn State SOP Writing Guide)
  • Flow Chart - Similar look as Graphic. Useful for long procedures that require many decisions to be made. Example: Flow Chart SOP (from Penn State SOP Writing Guide)

Here's a handy chart to help you figure out which SOP format is most appropriate for a given process: Choosing a SOP Format

Links to other useful resources and examples.



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