Pillar 3: Prioritizing the use of time and energy on your farm

Let’s face it. We all have a finite amount of time and energy here in the physical reality and not all actions we do are created equal in terms of the wellness they produce in us.

This is where pillar 3 comes in!

When planning out how to use your time and energy (including the energy of money), start by dedicating the necessary time and energy to that which is most meaningful or important to you.

We often have the tendency to leave the most important for last. I’m as guilty as the next person in this.

  • ‘I’ll do yoga/play music/read/etc at the end of the workday if I have time.’
  • ‘I’ll spend time with my kids on the weekend.’
  • ‘I’ll pay myself with whatever money is left once the expenses are paid.’
  • ‘I’ll learn to do that when I retire.’
  • ‘I’ll fill out the field records later’.

I would like to share two simple concepts that have shifted the way I see things.

The Pareto Principle (also called the 80/20 principle):

80% of our outcomes result from just 20% of our actions.

As in:

  • 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your crops;
  • 20% of your customers cause 80% of your pain in the ass;
  • 20% of your actions result in 80% of your experience of joy and happiness.

Now, I don’t necessarily think of this in terms of precise numerical values. The point is that by focusing on a limited number of high-yield actions can we can maximize desired outcomes.

Parkinson’s Law

Tasks expand or contract depending on the time and resources we attribute to them.

  • To visualize this, imagine a university student who is able to write a term paper in 24 hours despite having 6 weeks to total to do so.
  • Market harvest can take all day but it can also be done by 3pm or by noon.
  • You can take hours to answer emails, or you can bang it out in an hour.
  • A financial plan can be adjusted to accommodate the profit you would love to earn if you start your budgeting process by declaring the profit you want.

Of course, there are limits within physical reality about how far we can push this. I invite you to try it out and test those limits. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

When we apply the Pareto Principle and Parkinson’s Law to how we choose to spend our time in a typical day at work, we see that:

  • Certain actions contribute much more to our desired lifestyle than others;
  • We can dedicate resources to these important actions;
  • Human ingenuity and the elasticity of tasks make it that we still are able to complete the rest of the necessary by less joy generating tasks.

Two books that have greatly shaped the way I think about these principles are ‘The Personal MBA‘ and .’The 4-Hour Work Week‘. Definitely good additions to your winter reading list!


Alright!  Your turn now:

  • What 20% of tasks on the farm contribute to the majority of the benefits in terms of your experience of joy, profitability, and happiness?
  • What 20% tasks contribute to 80% of your headaches and heartaches?
  • Given what you have just seen, what aspects of your farm are you willing to delegate, outsource, or simply stop completely?
  • What are the 3 actions that you are willing to build into your plan as un-negotiable demonstrations of your intention to live a lifestyle you love on the farm?


**Please note that all amazon links here are ‘affiliate links’ meaning that I get between 4 and 10% of the sales depending on the type of product. Of course, this does not affect which products I list…. it’s just that if I’m going to put links anyways, I might as well generate some income while I’m at it!




Pillar 2: Bridging the gap from visionary reality to physical reality on your organic farm.

Great! Thanks to pillar 1, you have now clearly and vibrantly described the outcomes you want to produce on your farm and the lifestyle you want to live…. So f*%king what?!

Without action, vision is useless… just as without vision, actions are futile. Both are crucially important if we are to live a full, satisfying, and meaningful life.

As laid out by Maria Nemeth in ‘The Energy of Money’, Every action and accomplishment in physical reality must first exist in visionary reality (sometimes called Metaphysical Reality).

In visionary reality, everything is possible, the energy is light and free-flowing, everything is possible. Just think of how easy it is to imagine what you would love; to build your ideal farm in your imagination.

In contrast, everything in physical reality requires energy (time, money, etc), the only certainty is uncertainty, and everything is in a state of constant change.

As we seek to bring our vision from visionary reality to physical reality, we hit trouble at the border….. Much like a space shuttle heats up as it enters the atmosphere as it returns from outer space. Without the proper protection, that space shuttle will simply burn up, just as our visions require the proper support as we bring them across the border from visionary reality to physical reality.

This is where the art of crafting SMART goals (INERT LINK SMART GOAL) and the systematic use of planning comes in. Plans are the bridge to get us from visionary reality to physical reality. In the context of a farm there are three plans that are essential:

  1. Cash Flow financial plan
  2. Crop plan
  3. Personal project plan

As Boy Scout Master taught me: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Key Elements of a Good Plan

We’ll get more into detail in later blogs about each of the type of plans that essential to every farm but first,  there are certain elements of every good plan:

Linked to a specific S.M.A.R.T. goal

The whole point of a plan is to serve as a roadmap to reaching a certain outcome. In order to know with clarity where you want to go, each plan is linked to a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

Specific: Identify your desired outcome as precisely and as detailed as possible.

Measurable: How will you know whether or not the goal was achieved?

Attainable: We want our goals to be a stretch… but not so much as to be demoralizing. The idea here is to set goals that bring us out of our comfort zones and invite us to master new skills.

Relevant: Which of your Life’s Intentions is this goal related to?

Time-based: By what date do you declare that this goal will be achieved?

Also, powerful goals are writ

For example, here is an example of a SMART goal I personally have.

By November 15th 2018, I enroll 3 participants in my Farmer to Farmer Group Coaching Program. Life’s intention: To be an effective agent of change.

Includes the appropriate safety margins

Remember when I said that in physical reality, the only certainty was uncertainty… I wasn’t kidding.

Every good plan includes appropriate safety margins. This allows you to set realistic (and even slightly ambitious) targets and still have some wiggle room to account for the joys of living in physical reality.

Reverse engineered back from the envisioned outcome.

Equipped with a written vision statement from Pillar 1 you now know where you want to be in the medium time range (2-3 years out).

Given the lifestyle you see you want to be living 2-3 years out, what are the steps to getting there? Work backward from your vision to see what you need to achieve in the coming year.

For example, if you see that you would love to be earning an annual net income of 30 000$ and you are currently making 15 000$… what net income are you aiming for in 2019? 20 000$, 22 000$, 25 000 ? What would be attainable but would require you to stretch beyond your current level and skill set.


Your turn now!

Which 3 elements of your vision are you willing to move towards in this coming year?

What’s your plan for getting there?


**Please note that all amazon links here are ‘affiliate links’ meaning that I get between 4 and 10% of the sales depending on the type of product. Of course, this does not affect which products I list…. it’s just that if I’m going to put links anyways, I might as well generate some income while I’m at it!




Visiting la Ferme des Quatres Temps with Jean-Martin Fortier: AKA Disneyland for organic market gardeners!

Have you ever wondered how you might set up a farm in you had unlimited financial resources?

I had the pleasure of visiting la Ferme de Quatres Temps (FQT) last week. FQT is unique in that it was started 4 years ago by a local multi-millionaire who wanted to set up an experimental farm with the aim of both showing what was possible and at the same time disrupt some of the current barriers to the development of the diversified farm model in the province of Quebec.

The farm includes both a mixed livestock component as well as an 8-acre market garden designed and managed by Jean-Martin Fortier. Jean-Martin is the co-founder of Les Jardins de la Grelinette, author of ‘The Market Gardener’, and all around visionary and innovator in the small-scale local organic farming movement.

Farm tour at La Ferme Des Quatres Temps with Jean-Martin Fortier.

As part of their mission, the farm offers annual tours for farmers to showcase the latest innovations. Visiting Ferme aux Quatre Temps is like going to Disneyland in the sense that it’s like…. wow, this is how a small scale farm would be set up if we all had unlimited access to capital! At the same time, it is intensely useful to visit FTQ and take note of approaches and principles that can be implemented even on an average budget.

The 8-acre market garden is arranged in standard blocks comprised of ten 100 foot long beds. A flowering hedgerow separates each block to provide habitat for beneficial insects.

Now in their third year of commercial production, the farm grosses approximately 700 000$ with a farm crew of 12 people. The products are primarily sold via their stand at Jean-Talon market during the spring, summer, and fall as well as to about 20 restaurants throughout the entire year including in the winter months.

Winter greens production in a greenhouse that is heated to 0c. The crops are planted 4 rows per bed rather than 12 to help mitigate the risks of disease due to high humidity.
Silage tarps are used for occultation; the practice of reducing the weed pressure by stimulating the germination of weed seeds in a light free environment (where they will automatically be killed) before planting .
Landscape fabric is used to manage weeds for most transplanted crops that stay in the field 60 days or more.
Buried irrigation lines make it convenient to irrigate crops. This is essential, as this removes any friction that might result in crops not getting irrigated at the right moment.
Electric sprayer with a retractable hose for applying biological pesticides and compost tea.
The full line up of flame weeders. The one closest us (Farmer’s Freind) is the preferred model with its 5 burners, windshield, and the wheel on the bed (compared to the one with the wheels in the alley which in incontinent when the alleys are filled with crop residue, irrigation lines, etc.) The center one is useful in a greenhouse setting thanks to its lightweight, maneuverability, and the fact that it does not flame the edge of the bed (which is why it is not preferred in a general manner).
One of the most useful tools on any farm (along with the crop planning software) is the whiteboard where the week is planned out. JM meets with the 5 member management team every Monday morning to establish priorities for the week.
Wash station set up for efficiently washing salad mix. Bubbler on the left converted washing machine spinners in the center, and stainless steel basin on the right where the dried greens are dumped, sorted for weeds, and bagged.
Loading dock with a ramp for loading pallets of produce for delivery.
The van is loaded in the evening and the plugged-in refer unit keeps the produce cold through the night allowing the delivery staff to leave promptly in the morning without having to load the trucks.
Is any farm actually complete without a giant multicolored dancer?

I love how this farm demonstrates many of the principles of the 5 Pillars. The fact of working for a millionaire owner who has heavily invested in the farm had meant that there are well-defined outcomes that JM and the team are aiming for (aka Pillar 1) … both in terms of specific sales targets and in terms of the inovative mission of the farm.  To reach these targets, careful planning has always been the foundation (Pillar 2)… from the design and layout of the farm, to the crop planning process, to the weekly team planning session. Finally (and what is most inspiring about visiting such a farm) solid production systems (Pillar 3) are well implemented (Most notably the weed control system, the harvest and post-harvest system, and the Information Flow system).



**Please note that all amazon links here are ‘affiliate links’ meaning that I get between 4 and 10% of the sales depending on the type of product. Of course, this does not affect which products I talk about in the blog…. it’s just that if I’m going to put links anyways, I might as well generate some income while I’m at it!

Pillar 1: A clear and intentional vision of the lifestyle you would love to live on your organic vegetable farm.

Do you ever feel like you are serving the farm rather than the farm is serving you?

What would it be like for you to be so clear about why you are farming and what purpose the farm serves?

This is exactly what the first of the 5 pillars is all about. My basic premise here is that the farm is a tool. It is a tool we choose to use to live a certain lifestyle AND to make a certain contribution to the world we live in. The challenge we sometimes experience is that we are so busy with the daily operation of the farm that we lose sight of why it is we are farming.

This is where the 5 pillars of lifestyle farming come in.

Over the coming weeks, I would like to dive deeper into each of the pillars. The 5 pillars are:

Pillar 1: A clear and intentional vision

Pillar 2: A S.M.A.R.T. game plan for bringing that vision into reality

Pillar 3: Mindful prioritization of how we use time and money.

Pillar 4: Solid farm Systems

Pillar 5: Monitoring results and using Support.

Pillar 1 is all about knowing where we want to go, what outcomes we want to produce, what success actually looks like for us. Success is simply defined as doing the thing we said we would do, with clarity, focus, ease, and grace. Success is a highly personal experience. Comparison to others is a pure waste of time (it’s like comparing our intimate knowledge of our inner selves to the outer appearances of someone else.)

So, What is your farm for? What life would you love to live? What contribution would you love to make?

Here is an exercise I have found to be very useful in crafting a clear vision. I invite you to set aside some time in the coming week to reflect and develop a written vision. And don’t forget, this is not something static, this is something that is in constant evolution and will shift and grow as you progress on the journey of life.


Crafting a Powerful Farm Vision*

What is a vision?

A vision is a clear and vivid declaration from your heart of the life you love… and intend… to live. It may pertain to an area of your life or to your project, farm, team, organization, community or the world.

Why craft your farm vision?

Remember, our definition of success is: doing what you said you would do, consistently with clarity, focus, ease, and grace. When you are clear about your vision for the lifestyle that you would love to live, you focus your energy and act on what’s most important to you and on building a farm that fully supports that lifestyle. Your actions consistently answer the question “what would someone with my vision do next, standing where I am standing?”

“Acting from” vs. “Acting toward” your vision

When you act from your vision in the present moment, you’ll notice your vision moving toward you. Action from your vision means using what’s available to you right here and now, to bring your vision into physical reality—versus seeing your vision as something vague “in the future”. In something as long-term as farming, it is refreshing to be able to plan for the future but live in the present.

How Your Vision Relates to Your Life’s Intentions and Goals

Your vision is an outgrowth of your Life’s Intention (an underlying aim, purpose, or direction that brings great meaning to your life). Your vision provides energy and clarity as you go for your goals. As we know, things in physical reality take energy, they are constantly changing and unpredictable. When we’re focused and engaged with our vision as it relates to our life’s intentions, it provides the motivation to continue taking action.

Criteria for a powerful vision

  • First person narrative vs. laundry list. Your vision is a story, with you as the main character.
  • From your heart vs. your head. Ask: what would I truly love? What inspires me the most about this? What would have me go to bed grateful and wake up energized?
  • What’s possible vs. plausible: Suspend doubt and concerns about “how” you will achieve it.
  • What you want vs. what you don’t want, what you “should” want or how to get there.
  • Vivid vs. abstract: Ask yourself, can I see myself in this vision?
  • Present-Tense vs. future-tense: articulate your vision as though it is happening right now.

Exercise: Creating & Using Your Vision Statement

  1. Take a blank piece of paper (or open up a word doc).
  2. Identify the Life’s Intention that gives this vision meaning and purpose. (See life’s intentions inventory.)
    1. What is your farm for? What life’s intention gives deep meaning and purpose to your farm? Chose one and only one!
    2. Write it at the top of the page and use it as the focal point for your Vision Statement.
  3. Imagine talking to a friend in 2-3 years into the future. You hear them say  “Seems like things are going really well for you! Will you tell me about it?”
  4. Now imagine answering them, “I’m glad you asked!” What do you hear yourself saying next? Write it down, painting as clear and vivid a picture as possible of your experience.
    1. What lifestyle are you living?
      1. What types of activities are you doing?
      2. What does your weekly schedule look like? How many hours per week are you working on the farm?
      3. What other interests are you pursuing passionately?
    2. How much money are you earning from the farm?
    3. What contribution are you making?
    4. What does the farm look like so as to fully support the lifestyle you would love to live?
  5. Go for “good enough”. If your internal voice of worry says anything about it needing to be “perfect”, simply say “thank you for sharing” and finish the current draft.
  6. Read your vision every day for the next 30 days. Ask yourself at least once a day, ideally in the morning: What would someone with my vision do today, standing where I’m standing?

* Vision instructions inspired by Jeremy Blanchard, leadership and life coach. Adapted specifically for use in the context of farming. 

My Vision for an Eco-Agro Neighborhood

I have a dream! To live, in a fun and nurturing eco-agro neighborhood! It’s a dream I have been pushing away for the past decade on the basis that it is not realistic…. but the vision just won’t go away. Throughout our travels over the past 2 years, I have not yet found a place like this. And so… and so the possibility I see emerging is that I am called to take the lead on such a project and use my creativity and enthusiasm to make this happen.

I wanted to share my vision with you. At the same time, I wanted to take this as an opportunity to demonstrate the O.P.A. framework I have discussed in past blog posts.

So here it goes!

Outcome: This is the ‘WHAT’ towards which I seek to focus my energy going forward.

  • I live in a neighborhood of 8 houses arranged in a hexagon according to the cardinal directions, each house 100 feet from the next. 30 acres of farmland and 20 acres forest  surrounds the living space with enough farmland for everyone to have individually or collectively farm should they wish;
  • Each resident would hold tenure over their residential lot, presumably they would own the lot;
  • The farmland would be placed in a land trust whose role is to issue long-term leases (20-100 yrs) to farmers seeking to farm the land organically;
  • 10-15 minutes drive from the center of a small dynamic college town;
  • 8 awesome households, at least 5 households with children and at least 2 older couples;
  • Cohabitating and participating in the organic development of community through the interconnected nature of cohabitation
  • In the center of the hexagon is the common area where children play in the mud, where we gather for potlucks and fires, where yoga, dance, and play occurs, where chickens live, and where we share a common space;
  • A road circles the outside of the houses, connecting them to the common parking lot and at the same time providing access to the farms.

When we lived on the farm in Dunham, there were tons of cool friendly organic farming within a 15-20 minute drive of the farm… but we rarely saw them. The people we ended up developing the most profound connection to were our neighbors across the road; a couple of conventional sheep farmers in their 60’s who drank Pepsi and had a huge open heart and mind. These are not the types of people you would expect us to develop community with, but by the nature of our proximity, this is what happened. the sense of community developed organically thanks to the interconnectedness of mutual support, of trading equipment, of helping each other fix stuff, of slaughtering our chickens together led to a deep and meaningful friendship. This is why I propose to launch an ‘unintentional’ community rather than an ‘intentional’ community. We don’t have to all be the same and have the same values; all we need is an open heart and mind and the interconnectedness of cohabitation will cause community to arise organically. 

I envision an initial eight household node, but this project could evolve to also include two and even three nodes of 8 households. I envision neighborhoods where at least 50% of the households have one or more member of the family operating a commercial farm.

Purpose: This is the ‘WHY’ that informs what I want to create.

  • To innovate what it means to live on a farm;
  • To live in the countryside and to have access to farmland, while at the same time benefiting from living in a neighborhood;
  • To be able to spontaneously engage in social activity without having to drive somewhere;
  • To provide a space where my children can grow up safely, be exposed to a diversity of people, where my kids can just run out and play with the neighboring children and I know they are safe and that everyone more or less has an eye on them;
  • To be able to farm without being isolated. To be able to cooperate with neighboring farms as we see fit;
  • To propose a new model of development in contrast to the current model of housing development that destroy and exclude nature and agriculture;
  • To mimic the rural and semi-rural villages of Switzerland where agriculture and housing co-exist in the same space.

Action: This is the ‘HOW’ of what I seek to create.

A list of actions to bring this vision into reality`. Not necessarily in chronological order nor in order of priority:

  • Form a core team of 3 people to take the lead on this project;
  • Research and implement optimal legal structure;
  • Secure funding to acquire land and implement the necessary infrastructure needs;
  • Locate and buy a property for the project;
  • Enroll residents in the vision and sell them residential sites;
  • Sign long-term rent agreements with those desiring to farm;
  • Have fun;
  • Seek advice and support from people with pertinent knowledge.
    • real estate lawyers
    • housing developers
    • successful co-housing and intentional community projects
    • visit similar projects


Are you with me!?  🙂

Do you have any suggestions or insights into such a project?

What vision is calling YOU that you may have been putting off for quite some time?