Cultivating loving relationships on small scale organic vegetable farms

What is sustainable agriculture? 

Self-regenerating farm systems with healthy, biologically thriving soils that capture more carbon than is emitted by the business while not introducing toxic chemicals into the environment? A business that generates enough profit to cover your living expenses, some recreational spending, and still put aside 20% for long term savings… while at the same time treating your employees with respect and dignity? 



There is another dimension to sustainable agriculture that is sometimes overlooked: The capacity to maintain, nurture, and grow our loving relationships with our spouses while farming together!

Of course, this is by no means a challenge that is limited to agriculture, but there are certain conditions that are present when farming with your partner that make it that it can be easy to gradually let your relationship slip by the wayside.

Here are 3 elements that can support you in nurturing a solid relationship with your co-farming husband or wife.

Structure your working relationship to be a strong team

Just because you two are lovers doesn’t mean that the rules of good business partnership don’t apply to you. 

  • Identify and honor your different skills and superpowers
  • Hold a weekly business meeting to plan out the week and discuss what needs discussing;
  • Once a month, take the time to look a little further and see what’s coming up in the next 30 days;
  • Have clearly delineated roles and areas of ‘control’. This doesn’t mean that you don’t consult each other for major decisions. Rather this simply points to the need to have an area of expertise and autonomy within the business. Ideally, this allows each person to focus their energy on an area where they are uniquely suited (aka, their farmer superpower) and to have at least one area of focus where they feel fulfilled and stimulated (aka one person isn’t stuck doing just office work… unless that’s what they would love, of course);
  • For God’s sake!!! Don’t roll up row cover together at the end of a hard day or week!!! I can’t imagine how many divorces row cover is responsible for! Ok, I’m 30% joking, but still, let’s be mindful that there are certain jobs on the farm that can cause tensions to arise. It’s important to be aware of our state of mind and be conscious of when emotions may just be a reflection of needing to take a break or to call it a dayé

Creating time and space that is non-farming

Farming with your partner can be such a rich and rewarding experience that can actually be an amazing expression of your love as you co-create and implement your vision together. 

That being said, it is important to have times in your life as a couple that are not entirely centered on the farm 

  • No talking about the farm after _______ o’clock. Or: No talking about the farm after supper. The specific time doesn’t matter, whatever you decide as a couple is perfect. This is important for you as a couple, but it is also important for you as an individual and as an entrepreneur. The brain needs downtime. This is important both for your mind to rest, and also to unleash the creative power of the subconscious mind to find solutions. It is critical to stop thinking sometimes!
  • Taking some time off each week. Yup, ideally this would be a weekend… but it can be a single day, an afternoon… whatever works for you! As long as you are setting aside a certain time each week to shift your attention off of farming and onto your relationship. 
  • Deliberately working together on a specific farm task in a calm and relaxed manner (for instance, being fully engaged and present while chatting and picking beans together.) This can even look like setting aside some time to work just the two of you without any employees;
  • Simple, regular, special attention and demonstrations of affection. It doesn’t have to be a huge deal, what counts is the intention. It’s important to figure out how your partner best perceives love… aka their love language. In “The Five Love Languages”, Gary Chapman lays out 5 love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, receiving gifts, and acts of service. The thing is that we don’t always have the same primary love language as our partners, and it’s key to figure out each of our love languages and strive to communicate love in a way that our partner is attuned to. 

Take care of yourself! 

Above all, love and nurture yourself!! The only way to fully show up as a loving partner is when you are well-grounded in yourself.

Taking time for yourself, know your needs, and do what you need to do to be well. Sometimes being a loving partner means having a warm bath while reading a book (aka taking care of yourself.)


There you go… my 2 cents worth. But… what really counts is your authentic answer to this question of how to nurture your relationship in the midst of the busy farm life.

What are 2 actions you are willing to take this week to take your communication to the next level? When is your next business meeting with your partner scheduled for?

Have you told your spouse you love them lately? What is each of your primary love language? Here’s an online quiz to find out.

Is there some aspect of the farm that needs to be changed or eliminated to create greater harmony?

What would be a small sweet step towards creating greater non-farming quality time with your loved one?

Rest, recharge, and finish the growing season with clarity, focus, ease, and grace!

Alright, folks… it’s the final stretch.

By now, most of your expenses are behind you, which means that whatever sales you make here on out are pretty much gravy! The coming weeks are critical in terms of reaching your financial goals, leave a great impression for your clients to boost client retention next year, and prep the fields for next year.

And yet… 

And yet it’s been a busy summer! I know, you may be getting tired, that you may feel like you’re hitting a wall. It’s normal. In the last 2 weeks, 70% of my clients are hitting ‘burnout level 1’ (as one of them put it). 

What would it take to leave the farm for a 2 or 3-day vacation? 

What would it take to refresh, recharge, and come back with renewed energy and vigor for the fall?

What are 2 actions you are willing to take this week to create the time and space for some rest and recharge?

Summer is almost over, the seasons are shifting, and it is so important to take the steps necessary to be fully present and engaged at this time of year. 

Your mind is the most valuable asset of the farm, it’s time to recharge! 

PS: Do these types of questions interest you? Are you ready to take your personal and business skills up a notch? I’ve got just the thing for you! Join me and 5 other dynamic experienced farmers this winter to work together towards your goals. Here are all the details for the 2020 farmer-to-farmer coaching group

Getting to the root of the problem: Digging soil profiles to better grow healthy organic vegetable crops.

One of my favorite activities when visiting farms is to dig a soil profile (and I’ve had the pleasure of digging profiles all over North America over the past 3 years of #van life. It’s wild how infrequently I did this on my own farm, and how few farmers dig soil profiles to check out their crop’s roots. 

Our first reflex when observing a less than optimal crop is to look at surface level stuff: insects, diseases, fertilization, irrigation. While all these are important things to consider, soil and root health are often overlooked and can often be the root cause of the problem  (pun intended). 

No wonder these cauliflowers we half their normal size, there’s no root development below 4 inches due to soil compaction!

The idea is to dig a 12-16 inch deep cross-section trench the width of a bed, ideally in a standing crop or green manure. Once you have dug the hole, use a pocket knife to ‘refresh’ the edge by picking at it with the blade so as to see the actual soil condition and not only the smeared edge created by the shovel.

  • Start by poking the soil with your knife, starting at the surface and working your way down. How hard is the soil? Do you notice any change in hardness? Can you identify the different tillage depths based on how hard the soil is?
  • Pay attention to the roots. How deep do they go? Do you notice any roots that turn at a right angle and grow horizontally (an indication of compaction)? What color are the roots; white and healthy, or brown and necrosed? Is there any funkiness going on (such as nematode damage)? Is there a strong, identifiable taproot for crops where this would be expected? 
  • What evidence of biological activity do you see? How many earthworms and worm galleys are there? Is there undecomposed organic matter indicating anaerobic conditions and low biological activity? What does it smell like: sweet and earthy, or funky and anaerobic?
  • At what depth is the water table? (Ideally, you won’t find the water table at 12-16 inches… but I’ve been surprised before!)
  • We often assume our tillage operations are doing a good job, but it is so important to check it out for real. Dig a profile to check that your chisel, ripper, or subsoiler is actually doing what you think it is. 
Effect of compaction of organic vegetable roots (cauliflower). Notice the lack of roots below 4 inches and the roots that are growing horizontally.

By getting to the root of the problem, we can make sure to take actions that actually have the greatest impact possible… there’s no point spending time and energy on (insert input name __________) if you’ve only got roots 3 or 4 inches deep!!

Now that you’ve ascertained that there’s a compaction issue, it’s time to do something about it! This means using some type of tillage equipment to do some deep tillage. Usually, this means working the soil 8 inches deep using a chisel plow or broadfork. If you have serious compaction or ‘plow pan’ issues, you may need to chisel deeper or use a subsoiler. The general idea is to work at a depth that is 1 inch deeper than the compacted zone. The rule of thumb for deciding on the spacing between chisel or subsoiler shanks is to have 1.5 to 2 times the tillage depth (if working 8 inches deep, shanks could be 12-16 inches apart).

Here’s a great document on the subject of subsoiling.

Above all… dig a soil profile to verify that your tillage is actually having the desired outcome!!  

Similarly, it is so important to get to the root cause of any issue in our life. 

The problem is rarely the problem. Be curious about what is really going on!

  • The 5 ‘whys’: Asking and answering the question ‘why’ 5 times to get to the root cause of the problem (My profits are lower than anticipated, Why, Because market sales are 30% lower, Why, etc… 5 times);
  • Listen for the emotional needs behind what people are saying… not just to the issue they are seemingly bringing to you;
  • Be committed to reality. Are you more interested in your thoughts, beliefs, and opinions or are you more interested in seeing clearly what is present in this moment? 

Go make a ruckus!