Are you farming using your monkey brain?

You are the weak link in your business… and always will be!! (it’s normal). The problem is that you’re probably running your business with your monkey brain most of the time.

Enter life coaching…

But wait… Isn’t life coaching just a bunch of WooWoo BS for people from California? What the heck does life coaching have to do with farmers?  Well, actually, it turns out that farmers are people too!! 

Over the past 2 years, I’ve had the pleasure of coaching 29 clients: From California to Nova Scotia, from Yellowknife (North Pole) to Guadalajara… and in between. My clients have come from a wide range of farm and food-related businesses: solo-farmer micro-farms, semi-mechanized CSA/Market farms, local food restaurants and caterers, bio-intensive market gardens, sustainable forest engineers, wholesale vegetable farms, cannabis/cannabis seed producers (with licenses), life coaches, grain elevator executives, and cut flower farmers. 

The bottom line is that in all these businesses, the weak link is always the owner/manager. The process of addressing this and leveling up your business skills always starts by learning to use the brain in a more intentional manner. 

Your brain is 40 000 years old!

You basically have 3 types of brain (ok… if you’re a neuroscientist, do excuse the gross simplification here).

Your reptilian brain is in charge of the basic life functions: blinking eyes, beating hearts, breathing, organ function, etc… in other words the full gamut of the miracle of living in a physical body!! The reptilian brain is associated with the brainstem and the cerebellum.

Your monkey brain is in charge of keeping us alive, fed, and reproducing. It’s what we call the ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ response. It’s that little internal voice that goes from doubt to worry and back to worry again. It’s on the lookout for danger and is ready to react a moment’s notice in order to keep us alive (if you’ve ever narrowly dodged a deer on the highway, you have your monkey brain to thank!) The monkey mind is also known as the limbic brain and is associated with the hippocampus and the amygdala.

Your neocortex where the magic happens. This is where we hold the ability for creative thinking, innovation, love, advanced language. This is where your authentic voice of wisdom resides. The evolved human brain first evolved in primates and is associated with a larger neocortex.

Don’t believe everything you think

The thing is…. 

So often we’re acting from our monkey mind. The monkey mind hates risk. The monkey mind has no understanding of creativity, innovation, and nuance. The monkey mind makes no distinction between a stressful email and seeing a saber tooth tiger; the body responds in the same way. While the monkey mind is so useful for keeping us alive, it’s not adapted to modern life and it’s definitely not the best for running a successful business. 

It is so easy and normal for our neocortex to be hijacked by our amygdala, especially in times of stress or when we’re trying something new. 

This is the first purpose of life coaching; To support you to clearly see when you are acting from your Monkey Mind, and learn the tools and techniques to shift your attention back to thoughts actually worth thinking about. 

Your turn

Where is one area of your life or your farm where your monkey mind may be hindering your success? (Success is so personal. Personally, I love this definition: Doing what you said you would do with clarity focus ease and grace.)

What would become possible if you more consistently acted from your authentic voice of wisdom?

Supercharge your winter with these farmer routines

Image result for jon snow
Winter is coming!

What a great time to rest, recharge, reflect on the current farming season, plan for the future, and prepare for the coming growing season! This week we’re looking at how to use routines, habits, and rhythms to support you in accomplishing what is most important to you this winter.

Decision Fatigue

Will power is an amazing human ability, but the fact of the matter is that we are the products of our environment and our routines/habits. 

The power of routines and habits cannot be underestimated: they free up our brain for creative thinking by alleviating decision fatigue. 

Every decision we take requires energy. Whether that decision is what to have for breakfast, whether to join a new farmers market, where to put away the row cover for the winter, what to bring with you to market or what to wear today: all these decisions require the same amount to brain energy (glucose). Every day, we start off with a certain amount of decisional capacity which is used throughout the day.

The question is: how do you want to use your daily supply of decision making energy?

(this is why people like Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg always wear the same clothes… one less useless decision to make.)

Your brain is for having ideas, not storing them.

It turns out that the human brain is really bad at trying to remember things, but really, really good at finding creative solutions to problems that are immediately in front of it. 

The issue is that the part of the brain that is in charge of remembering things has no sense of time. When you’re trying to remember to flame weed the carrots in 6-9 days from now, your mind thinks you need to be doing that all the time. You can see how this would create a low level of chronic stress. 

The Power of Routines

This is where routines and habits come in. Routines allow us to make certain recurring decisions once and not have to use precious brain energy on them every time. In addition, routines free up our brains from having to remember all the stuff we want to do. The purpose of routines is not to constrain you… quite the contrary. The purpose of routines is to free up your brain to focus on creativity and innovation.   

There are several types of routines, but the basic premise is the same: what recurring behavior would support you in taking your farm to the next level ? what pieces of information do you need to be reminded of ? and at which key moments in time?

Farm production systems, SOPs (standard operating procedures), and checklists are just codified versions of routines and habits. They are how routines and habits are expressed at an organizational level on your farm.

Rest and Recharge Routines

Soooo important! And so overlooked!!!

It’s easy to think that the solution to having too much to do is to work more. Unfortunately, this creates a negative feedback loop whereby the more you work, the less energy you have, and the poorer the decisions you make. 

The amazing thing is that a relatively small amount of time intentionally dedicated to rest and recharge can have a huge impact on energy levels. 

What 15-minute routine would allow you to rest and recharge? This can be in the morning to set the stage for the day or at the end of the day to transition out of work mode. 

What 1-hour weekly activity would feel great to you? A weekly bubble bath? Reading a book? Yoga class? Cooking?

The point here is that what matters more than the actual amount of time is that you are sending yourself a clear message: you are being intentional about carving out time for rest and recharge every day and every week!!

Finally, there’s the question of sleep… What time do you want to go to bed? Shut off your devices at least 1 hour before!!! I invite you to use the ScreenTime function on iOs or the Freedom app on android to literally lock yourself off your devices at a given time each night. Not only does this allow your mind to start to calm down, but in addition, it limits your exposure to the blue light of screens which messes with your circadian cycles (blue light = wake up, red light = sleep… think of the blue light of the pre-dawn moments and the red light of dusk).

Innovation and creativity routines

There are 3 roles on the farm: worker, manager, and captain.

Let’s imagine we’re cutting a trail through the jungle. The workers are the ones swinging the machetes. Behind them are the managers; measuring results, scheduling the shifts, determining the best machetes to use. 

Then there’s the captain. They’re the one who climbs up the tree to take a lookout at the horizon. And sometimes… they even realize they aren’t even in the right damn jungle!!! (to which, the managers usually reply “Nevermind! We’re making great progress.”

Unfortunately, while the role of the captain is the most important role, it’s not urgent… and so, so we push it off I’m too busy and “don’t have the time”  to stop and just think… sound familiar? The thing is, you don’t have the time not to take the time to stop and reflect. 

Take out your schedule, planner, calendar etc.

Now, block out 1 hour per week dedicated entirely to your role as captain. 

This is not the time to plan out your week. This is the time to look out at the horizon of your life and gain perspective. This is time to think creatively about your business. This is the time to see what is seeking to grow and emerge in your business. I suggest you have somewhere to take notes during the week that you want to focus on during this weekly captain’s hour.

This is a sacred, uninterrupted time. Remember, the purpose of this time is to help you stay focused on your most important transformational outcome that you are seeking to produce in the next 2-3 years.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!

Administrative routines

This is one area where having checklists of what needs to be done at what frequency is so useful!

What are the things you want to have done weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually? Here’s a link to a work-in-progress checklist of mine. 

The purpose here is truly to get things out of your head and free up that space for creative thinking while making sure you’re up to date on the admin tasks and nothing slips through the cracks. 

Some useful tools

Checklists: I love checklists! The key is to have the checklist posted in the right location where you will actually see it at the appropriate time: Admin checklist in the office, wash/pack checklist on the cold room door, CSA dropoff supplies checklist attached with a magnet on the  inside of the delivery van door.

Google keep: Create checklists and set up recurring notifications at the key time you need them (for instance: have a farmer’s market checklist that pops up every Saturday morning at 6:45 am or at whatever time you load your truck; have an end of season clean up checklist scheduled to pop up Oct 15, etc)

Todoist: A simple and easy to use task management app. I can get into this topic at a later date is this is something that interests you!


I know this can be a bit overwhelming, but: Once again, less is more! 

The opportunity this fall and winter is to start experimenting with routines so that by next spring you’ve gotten in the habit of maintaining certain of these high-level routines. 

I invite you to start with a simple 15-20 minute morning routine. What are 2-3 actions you want to do each morning ?

What are 2-3 actions you want to do each week in a routine manner? Write them down, schedule them, and take notice of what impact the routine has on you.  

Have fun!!