How the farm pays

Alright folks… lets get clear about something.

There are only two activities that generate value on the farm.. planting vegetables, and harvesting. These are the only two activities that your clients are actually paying you to do.

All the rest… I mean ALL the rest… is simply setting the stage for planting, or setting the stage for harvesting.


Setting the Stage for


Setting the Stage for


Planning Tillage



Green Manures

Stale seed-bed prep


Post Harvest tillage

Record keeping



Pest control





Record keeping

The things is, many of us are farming nerds… we love the intricacies of each of these stage setting activities. In the process we sometimes lose sight of the fact that all these activities are just here to support planting and harvesting.

What is one way you could streamline the stage-setting process?

Are all activities on the farm centered around supporting the planting and harvesting processes?

What would it look like on your farm in planting and harvesting were the primary activities?


PS: The title to this blog post is actually a (not so) secret shout out to one of my favorite farming books ‘How the farm pays’ from 1884.

How to unblock yourself when feeling stuck or overwhelmed.

Do you ever feel frozen or overwhealmed by all there is to do? I do! The result is that I resort to turning in circles, procrastinate, and engage in compulsive behaviours (yeahy compulsive BBC news consumption!)

What’s more, in those moments, my monkey mind perks up and loves nothing more than to rehash those negative self-dialogues about how I am not up to the task.

But seriously… What is more interesting: my shortcomings or my dreams and goals?

It seems like an obvious answer… so why do i spend so much time focusing on my shortcomings.

Perhaps it is because I would love to be even better… that I am perfectionist? That’s bullshit… as if I had to choose between peace of mind and self improvement or achievement. The truth is that this is one more beautiful paradox to embrace. The paradox of accepting that all is well, exactly as it is… while simultaneously journeying towards some future vision of ourselves and of what we would love to achieve.

The key here is to see that these moments are normal… all that is going on here is that we temporality entertain a conversation with our monkey mind. Monkey mind is a Buddhist term referring to that chattering internal voice that goes from worry to fear and back to worry etc. It is actually a very useful part of our ‘caveman brain’ that is here to keep us alive. The problem is that our brain has not yet adapted to modern life. It’s like we’re running modern software on a 100 000 year old computer.

So in those moments, there is no point in arguing or reasoning with monkey mind… it always wins (and sometimes resorts to the good old monkey tactic of feces flinging).

Rather, the way forward is to simply tell monkey mind ‘thank you for sharing’ (give it a hug)…. and gently shift our attention to something more interesting… to thoughts actually worth thinking. Without judgment or worry, we simply shift our attention (similarly to how during meditation we simply bring our attention back to our breath whenever our mind wanders).



What would you love to focus on this week?


What would you love to focus on as you move towards your dreams and goals?!


I suggest you write this down Monday morning on your plan for the week and refer back to it whenever you smell the bananas (key sign that monkey mind is present).

The sabbath (day of rest): one of the most important tools in the farmer’s toolbox!

It’s easy to work 7 days a week… we love farming and there is sooo much to do. In fact, the work can seem to be endless.


What if the way to get more done was actually to take a day of rest (or two)?

There have been times in the early years of my farm where I worked 7 days per week and 80+ hours per week. What I noticed was that the 30 extra hours between 50 and 80 hours per week are way less productive. Not only that, but the fact that I was working so much dulled my mind and body and decreased my productivity during those first 50 hours of work per week.

I have also noticed that the top farms in our networks are usually the ones taking 1 or 2 days off per week. Is it that they are able to take time off because they are awesome farmers… or are they on top of their shit because they take time to recharge their batteries each week?

While working 7 days per week and 80+ hours may appear to be the only way to get it ‘all done’, this may actually not be the best way to optimize your performance.

And this is not just my experience. The scientific literature abounds with studies showing that working more is not the best strategy. (for example, this study suggesting a sharp drop in productivity past 50-60 hours per week.

OK… enough boring stuff 🙂


Would it be OK with you if life got easier?


Would it be OK with you if you were allowed to take a day off to rest, to recharge, to cultivate another of your interest? (or even a weekend)

Which day of the week will be your day of rest this summer?

What systems or support do you need to make this happen? What is the bare minimum that needs to happen on that day (watering the seedling, irrigation…. )

Try it out, make the decision, share it with your team and loved ones, and stick to it!



PS: Harvest the zucchinis extra small and skip a day or 2.

PPS: Did you know that at certain periods of history, working 7 days per week was punishable by death (aka Moses in the Old Testament)… whoa.. I am not suggesting we go that far, but it does make you think.


Planning for Profits… Monitoring for Results. (Aka how much money do you want to make?)

Profits are often thought of as being what is left over once the expenses have been deducted from the sales.

But, what if there were another way?

What if you could decide how much you wanted to get paid this year?

Well… you can.

In fact, the act of deciding how much profit you would LOVE to make this year is the critical first step in running a profitable farm business.

The more our intentions are clear and well defined with ourselves and the ‘universe’, the more we are able to manifest our goals and vision with ease.

What we’re doing here is rearranging the way we think of the profit formula:

From Income-Expenses= Profits… to Income-Profits=Expenses.

So, what’s it for you? How much money would you love to make this year?

Now, I’m not talking about some pie in the sky/ pipe dream number.

Pick a number that is attainable AND is somewhat of a stretch….something slightly outside your comfort zone… A number that, if you reached it, would cause to to celebrate and bust out the champagne (actual or metaphorical). I suggest somewhere between 10-25K $ per full time farmer (or even up to the 50K $ range if you are further along on the profitability journey.)

Great ! Now look at what gross income you can realistically expect to sell this year… somewhere between 10-25% more than last year.

Now, let’s take a look back at our rearranged version of the profit formula:


We anticipate what we can sell. We decide how much profit we want. We then have a clear picture of what our spending budget is for the year and we go about deciding how that budget will be spent.

Make no mistake… our expenses are way more flexible than we generally realise. Being passionate about farming, it is all too easy to spend way more than needed. Especially given that all too often we have no idea how much we have spent so far this year versus what we were planning on,

So plan it out! Both by expense type and by month. (Breath) I find it to be very useful to add a safety margin to this cash-flow projection equivalent to 5-10% of planned expenses.

Super! So you have a plan… now what?

Monitoring cumulative income and expenses EVERY MONTH is the key to results!

We can’t manage what we don’t measure.

Yes.. This means keeping your books up to date.

But the more important step is to compare where you are at currently with where you had planned to be…. and take actions to correct any deviations. This often means being creative or frugal with what we purchase when we see that a certain expense category is getting ahead of itself. Yes, it’s cheaper per screw to buy the box of 1000 screws… but if your hardware budget is running low, you’re better off with the box of 100 screws if that’ll get you through the year.

Alternately, this can mean exploring new marketing avenues or putting more energy into existing ones… though the control of expenses is what is more often overlooked in my experience.

So there you have it. This process does take some effort up from to get it all set up and running, but I promise you the results will surprise you. Personally, this method not only boosted my net income up past 70K$ per year (as sole manger of the farm, working 40-55 hours per week, with 5-6 employee) but it also greatly reduced my anxiety around money and took the guesswork out of operating the business.

Go make a ruckus!

Setting the stage for growing great crops

The second system I would like to dive into as part of the 3S triangle is pre-plant system.

By this I mean all the elements that go into creating a hospitable environment to receive the transplants or the seeds that will grow to be your crop. The pre-planting system sets the stage for the effective cultivation of vegetable crops.

The components of the Pre-planting Prep System are:

  • Farm layout and design
  • Drainage
  • Irrigation
  • Crop rotation
  • Fertilisation
  • Tillage

Here are some useful questions to consider when taking a closer look a the pre-plant system.

Farm layout and design

  • How are the various physical elements of the farm located with relation to one another?
  • Spaghetti diagram of the flow of people and materials (ie the flow of energy around the farm)
  • Are fields areas split into equal sized blocks?
  • Are field borders and pathways mowed regularly?



  • Does the water table sit low enough under field areas so as to allow proper aeration of the root zone?
  • Does surface water flow away from cropping areas in a controlled manner?
  • Does rain fall percolate rapidly into the soil?
  • Can the fields be worked within 2-4 days of an average rainfall event?
  • Does surface water flow away from farm roads and infrastructure in a controlled manner?



  • Does the farm possess sufficient water reserves to provide 1-2 inches of water to vegetable crop areas per week for a 6-8 week period?
  • Is surface water channeled and captured in retention ponds?
  • Can the entire crop area be irrigated within 4 days with ease?
  • Can irrigation be automated to provide multiple short interval irrigations to key crops?
  • Are crop appropriate irrigation méthodes used? (Drip tape, sprinklers, timing, amount?
  • Is rainfall and soil moisture monitored on a regular basis?
  • How are irrigation decisions made?


Crop Rotation:

  • Is there a systematic crop rotation?
  • What area of each crop family is cultivated?
  • At what frequency do the crop families return to a given block?
  • Are green manures integrated in a systematic manner?
  • Does the rotation decrease the presence of weeds?
  • Are targeted bare fallow or occultation periods used to reduce weed pressure?
  • Does the rotation build or deplete soil health and fertility?
  • Does the rotation include any deep rooted fibrous root systems?
  • Do you have enough crop land to implement the necessary rotation system?
  • Is the soil protected from erosion for the winter?


Tillage and fertilisation:

  • What is the bed prep sequence from start to finish?
  • Are soil profiles used to make decisions regarding the need for deep tillage?
  • Do tillage practices reduce or increase weed pressure?
  • Are stale seedbed techniques used?
  • Is deep tillage followed by deep rooted green manures to stabilize the work?
  • Is the source of fertility (compost, manure) introducing weed seeds?
  • Is the fertilisation regime increasing or decreasing nutrient levels?
  • Is the fertilisation regime balancing or unbalancing nutrient levels? (Especially K vs. Mg)


Quite a bit of food for thought… Bon Appétit !