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? 

Yes!! 

And….

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.)

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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!

Are drugs and alcohol holding you back from reaching your personal and farming goals?

Hi. My name is Jonathan, and I’m an alcoholic and addict. 

I’ve been sober from alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco since November 9th 2013.

I am so, so grateful for the grace of sobriety, one day at a time. I am so grateful that my son has never seen me drunk or high. Not a day goes by that I don’t shudder at the thought of where I was heading had I continued of the path I was on. 

Just because our crops are certified organic doesn’t mean that we as individuals always meet the same standards  🙂

For me, it started back in high school. Smoking weed with my friends. Feeling on top of the world. Perfectly normal, right? Moving to go to college in Montreal ‘cause the drinking age is 18 and pot is everywhere. Partying Thursday to Sunday. Perfectly normal, right? Oh, and getting high all day long, normal right? Just what open-minded alternative people do, right. It’s just weed anyways, right…? Starting the farm at 22 years old … needing an afternoon boost so slipping into the coldroom for a quick beer. What rhymes with plowing the fields till mid-night? A 12 pack of beer and a couple of joints of course!! Going off to the office mid-morning to ‘make a phone call’ (aka have a couple beers and a joint). Showing up to CSA drop off smelling of beer, weed, and cigarettes to deliver my organic vegetables (I still shudder with shame at that, I can’t believe no one ever said anything, I can only imagine they must have noticed!!) 

Perfectly normal… right? I work hard, I just need a little boost to power through this…

The crazy thing is how gradual it was. Till one day it dawned on me. 

A friend of mine was sharing with me about living with bi-polarism and I started telling him about my own challenges with ‘’cutting back’’ on drinking and smoking. All of a sudden, it’s like I heard myself talking… and it was like ‘’oh, yeah, I have a problem and I’m not going to be able to figure this one out by myself’’.

The next week I went to my first AA meeting. 

I was shocked to find a jovial bunch of happy people. I was shocked to find out that you didn’t actually have to believe in God, nor be a Christian… that you were free to find your own understanding of a ‘’power greater than ourselves’, and that there were actually plenty of atheists, agnostics, and new-age alternative types (and, yes, even the old white guys talking about God were nice too and that there’s something to be learned from everyone if you focus on your similarities more than your differences!)

A week later, I had my last drink and have been sober ever since. Two months later, my son was born. 

I was amazed by how much extra brain power was available to me in sobriety. Not only was my brain not being slowed down at a biochemical level, but I now no longer needed to use up so much of my brainpower managing my drinking (hiding bottles, worrying every time I saw a cop car on the road, hiding it from my loved ones and employees, etc.)

It’s been almost 6 years now and I’m living a life I literally never could have imagined. I’ve seen improvements in my physical and mental health, my relationship with my partner, and in the full range of experiences I can now live. I’ve developed a spiritual dimension richer than ever before. I’m not saying that the occasional thought doesn’t cross my mind. But I now know that I’ve forfeit my privilege to engage in such behaviours. As if we all have a quota of how much we can drink in a lifetime, and I happen to have used up that quota by age 27. Plus, I have a full set of tools, a network of support, and the self-awareness to know when I need to care for myself and how to do it.

You may be wondering why I am sharing this story with you. 

My hope is that this reaches even one person who is suffering. 

If that’s you…

Know that you are not alone.

Know that you don’t have to do this alone. 

Know that another way of life is possible. 

No matter how many times you’ve tried, know that it matters not how many times you’ve fallen, what matters is how many times you get back up.

I’m not an addiction counselor. I can’t coach you to sobriety. But if you just want to chat, give me a call; Just one farmer to another… that’s all. 514-348-0815. farmercoach@gmail.com

Remember, you don’t have to figure out how to stay sober for the rest of your life…

It’s one day at a time. And even then, sometimes it’s 10 minutes at a time in the beginning!

Welcome to your life.

Take the dive; Come on in, the water’s great!!

Mid-Summer’s Financial Reality Check

I get it!! Summer is in full swing and you’re probably plenty busy surfing the wave of the growing season. Personally, this is a time of year I always loved on the farm– when I could be fully immersed in the richness of growing and harvesting the abundance that a well planned and well executed market farm can produce.

For many years, the last thing on my mind at this time of year was budgeting. I mean, budgeting is something you do in winter right …? Wrong!! On my farm, dialing in the mid season budget management was instrumental in allowing me to take my net income from 30k$ per year to 50k$ (and that, the year after my son was born, and my first year managing my farm without my wife.)

The fact of the matter is that this is a crucial time in terms of scoring our financial goals. The game is by all means not won, nor lost, at this point… Depending on your situation, it can go both ways. Arguably the biggest sales months are still ahead!

Thus the importance of bringing more focused attention to our finances this week.

  1. Where are your sales at? What % of your total sales target have you reached so far? Are you ahead or behind of last year’s % sales at the same date?
  2. What weekly sales targets will allow you to reach your goal? Don’t be fooled by a simple average. Weekly sales targets in August will obviously need to be higher than in June or October. Break it down by sales outlets so you can see which are ahead and which are behind. Communicate these targets to your market vendors… celebrate victories, brainstorm creative ways your staff can take an active role in scoring these goals.
  3. How are your expenses doing? What expense categories have you maxed out; which still have some budget available? What expenses can you minimize or delay till next year? It can be tempting to buy the largest format of supplies to ‘get a lower price per unit’, but please take into consideration your annual budget when making such decisions. The lower unit price of a box of 5000 screws when all you needed was 500 is not always worth busting your budget for.

By all means… don’t freak out if you don’t have the record keeping systems in place to allow you answer all these questions.

Progress… not perfection! We’ll work on those systems next winter together. 😉

Oh … and don’t forget to enjoy the ride! What would be a small sweet action that would be a demonstration of enjoying the small things in life and savouring the summer?

Achieving equity growth on your farmer mind/body balance sheet (aka self-care for farmers)

Ahhh, the balance sheet– everyone’s favourite topic and the sexyest of farm financial statements 😉

Equity=Assets-Obligations… remember?

As a farmer, your biggest asset is yourself.

Your mind, your spirit, your body. (Hereby referred to as your mind/body; alluding to the fact that separation of mind, body, and spirit (the holy trinity?) is an illusion)

And yet…

And yet it’s the farm asset that we most often neglect and fail to maintain and care for.

We do oil changes on the tractor, we repaint our houses, we fix leaks in the roof of our buildings, we grease the zerks on our machinery, we install drainage and level our fields…

Similarly there are simple actions we can take to care for our mind/body. It doesn’t have to take much time! Just 10 minutes per day makes an enormous difference!

Stretching, a quiet walk, listening to the birdsongs with a nice hot beverage, yoga, a quick swim in the pond, meditation, dancing in your pyjamas, prayer, reading a couple pages from an inspiring text, massage (self massage or with a partner), the list is endless.

The point is that this is such a personal topic– I can’t tell you what you need, but your mind/body knows! Create a 10 minute break in your day to look within and see what would just feel great to you.

What are you doing to maintain and nurture your mind/body?

How’s your mind/body balance sheet doing?

What are the major ‘obligations’ (debts) that are putting a strain on your mind/body?

What would it be like to set aside 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening for self-care?

Look within… what would just feel great to you?

Firing farm employees with clarity, focus, ease, and grace.

Firing an employee is one of the hardest things about being a business owner.

No one likes doing so. As if it were somehow bad or insulting or hurtful.

The truth of the matter is that it’s perfectly normal. It’s a normal part of being in business, and it’s normal to feel these emotions.

But what if there were a different way of seeing it?

What if it wasn’t about ‘firing’ anyone?

What if it were about being intentional about the relationships we choose to cultivate and maintain around us?

The fact of the matter is that our employees are the people we spend the most time with in our life.

When I look at it from the perspective of cultivating a relationship, I see how important communication is. Way before even getting to the point of ‘firing’ someone, it is so important to clearly communicate expectations and to create the space to regularly check in. If you see there is something that is not working, you need to let them know ASAP! People fundamentally want to succeed. Take the time to sit down and clearly communicate what is and isn’t working for you and what needs to change to correct the situation. Be clear on the time frame… 1 week, 2 weeks?

Oh… and by the way, you aren’t fooling anybody by not talking about it! Body language and attitude are so obvious and we humans are hard-wired as social animals to pick up on these subtle forms of communication. If there is something that is bothering you, you can be pretty damn sure your employee either already knows about it, or at least has a sense that something ain’t quite right.

I know it can seem like you don’t have the time for communication. I’ve been there. I know how there is always something more urgent to do than take 15 minutes for an employee check in– but it is soooo important. You don’t have the time NOT to do it!!

And be truthful– truthful with yourself and truthful with your employee. Embrace the truth of the matter. This can be challenging given the tendency of the mind to obsess on either guilt, judgement, or condemnation (thoughts like either ‘geez why am I thinking this, it isn’t that bad.’ -OR- ‘that person is such a ……’ -OR-   ‘I’m such a ….’)

What is more interesting to you, these ‘monkey mind’ thoughts, or squarely looking at whether or not this person and your business are a fit?

If it becomes clear that someone is in fact not a good fit for your business, let them know as soon as possible in a respectful, clear, and compassionate manner. As Chris Blanchard used to say ‘Hire slow, Fire fast’. It’s better to be short staffed than to have someone on board that’s not a fit for your team. I know it can be scary, but in my experience that person is probably slowing down the entire team and contributing to a tense and unenjoyable work atmosphere–and it’s amazing how often the right person appears once you create the space for it.

The key question is always: Am you more interested in what is missing, or in what is seeking to emerge in this situation?  

Weeding your 2020 and 2021 vegetable fields NOW!


When’s the best time to weed your crops? 2-3 years ago!! (Yes, I know, the real answer is when the weeds are at the white thread and cotyledon stage….)

This is the kind of Important yet Non-Urgent action that easily slips to the wayside when things get busy… especially while playing catch-up after such a wet, late spring as we’re currently experiencing.

I would like to offer a couple of simple questions for your reflection that can lead to some high impact, high leverage actions.

Where specifically on your farm are next year’s weed sensitive crops going?

The act of defining where your most weed-sensitive crops will be planted next year is surprisingly powerful. It is important that once you answer these questions for yourself, that you also communicate it to your farming partners and crew.

  • What crops are the most susceptible to weeds? (Ex: Carrots, Salad mix, onions, Insert your personal answers here)
  • What area of weed sensitive crops do you anticipate growing next year (approximately)?
  • Where specifically will those crops go?

What’s your plan to reduce the weed pressure in those areas?

Once again it doesn’t have to be complicated but as I learned as a Boy Scout when I was a kid: ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’

  • What are your most troublesome weeds? What is their lifecycle?
  • Can you set aside some land for the whole season to focus on reducing the weed seed bank?
  • If not, what actions will you take to ensure 100% no weeds going to seed in this year’s crop on that plot? What actions will you take to optimise post-harvest tillage to set the stage for the weed-sensitive crops next year?
  • What methods and technologies are most appropriate to your scale? Silage tarps (occultation), bare fallow, mechanical cultivation, fast growing green manures, etc)
  • What are the key dates that you will need to hit?

What systems or tools would best support you to actually implement your plan this summer?

This is all well and good…. but it ain’t worth a rat’s ass if it’s not implemented.

  • What systems would support you to carry out your plan?
    • Scheduled in your calendar ?
    • Automatic email reminders and alarms? (Using the nw what nw ? do you mean no ? snooze function in gmail)
    • Delegating the plan to a crew member?
  • What tools and materials are necessary?
    • Do you have the cover crop seed on hand?
    • Is the necessary information clearly available to crew members in the form of reference charts etc?
    • Is your tillage equipment capable of tilling just 1 or 2 inches deep for stale seed-bedding?

For more on weed control, check out this blog post from last year on the subject.

Have fun!!

Let me know what you see in this for yourself in the comments section below or by email!

If you enjoy this content, please share my blog in your networks and on social media. Thanks!

Farm paradigm shift: From Management to Leadership

Hi Folks!! I’m gonna keep it short and sweet this week.

First off, I just wanna acknowledge the heck out of you for taking the time to read this blog. I know how busy you are so I appreciate your readership. It’s what makes this work worth it for me… Thanks for being here!

I wanted to offer a couple of follow up thoughts on last week’s blog topic: The paradigm shift from efficiency to effectiveness.

Last week’s blog was very much focused on effectiveness from a management perspective.

Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things’

Both Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis

From a leadership perspective, effectiveness implies that your actions and goals are coherent with your vision for what is most important and meaningful to you. How heartbreaking it is to successfully reach your goal, only to realise that you sacrificed that which was most important to you along the way.

Your turn

What are those things that are most meaningful and important to you?

What are your core values?

Do your current goals and actions include and cultivate these elements in your life?

May the force be with you!

Effectiveness: A new paradigm to farm efficiency.

These days there seems to be nothing sexier in the local farm movement than efficiency (except maybe JM Fortier… he’s pretty dreamy) 😋

No, but seriously, efficiency is definitely a hot buzz word in the small farming community these days; with good reason too. Given the abundance of work to be done on a small scale organic farm it is obviously important to bring our attention to the best way of going about getting everything done in a timely manner. On top of this, labor is the greatest production cost in organic vegetable farming, accounting for anywhere from 25 to 40% of gross income (whether this is hired farm labor, or whether you are acting as your own source of labor, it’s still important to account for the work that goes into growing these delicious veggies!). Which means that producing more vegetables with the same or less labor is a great way to increase your profit margins and while money isn’t everything, it sure is a useful tool to use in accomplishing our goals and making a contribution in this world of ours!

What I want to bring to the conversation is that while efficiency is without a doubt important, what we’re really after is effectiveness. It’s important to understand this nuance.

Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re doing anything.

Just because you’re moving fast doesn’t mean you’re getting anywhere meaningful.

Effectiveness: Moving beyond the paradigm of farm efficiency

To effectively explain this nuance, I would like to draw on the teachings of the late Stephen Covey, one of the greatest thought leaders of our times in this matter (check out his book; 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)

Covey teaches that in order to be effective, we have to act in a manner that nurtures both production (P) and production capacity (PC). To illustrate this idea, Covey evokes the story of the golden goose.

A farmer wakes up one morning to find that their goose has laid a golden egg. Elated, they rush off to sell the egg. The next morning, and every morning thereafter, another golden egg is laid. The farmer is rich beyond their wildest dreams! One day, the farmer gets greedy and decides to slaughter the goose and get all the golden eggs at once rather than wait. The their dismay, there are no golden eggs within and all they have done is destroy the source of their abundance.

The golden eggs represent production. The goose represents production capacity. Focus too much on production and the capacity to produce will decrease. Focus too much on nurturing production capacity and nothing gets done. It’s like using a tractor to prep your fields but never doing maintenance. Soon enough the tractor will be scrap. Conversely, if you spend all your time maintaining the tractor, nothing is ever going to get planted.

The key to effectiveness is to think in terms of P/PC balance. The most efficient method (the quickest) isn’t always the most effective. What we really want is to be effective as we move towards our goals one step at a time.

5 Principles of Farm Effectiveness

Alright folks… I’m not here to tell you what to do. Anyways, each farm and each farmer is so unique that it would be futile to try and do so!

Instead, I want to plant some seeds for thought. Let these ideas sprout and grow! I look forward to seeing how you implement this on your farm! Here are 5 principles of farm effectiveness that a client and I distilled during one of our coaching sessions.

Beautiful, Tidy, and Organized

This is the principle of total completion. A task isn’t done till everything is put away, cleaned up, the row cover is on and the irrigation is ready to go. The day’s not over till all the doors are shut, everything is back in it’s spot, the records are filled in, and the next day is planned. This applies equally to the end of the day as it does to lunch time. It’s not lunch time until the tools are back in their spot.. even if we think we’ll be using them again this afternoon.

What would it be like to start each day and each task with a clean slate?

Enjoyment, Joy, Comfort, and Play

This is the principle of ‘girls just wanna have fun!’ Just kidding… sort of. What’s the point of all this if we aren’t enjoying it? Beyond that, being happy, engaged, and joyous unleashes the full power of human creativity and motivation in both ourselves and our staff. It is critical to build in time for rest and relaxation into the work day… otherwise we (and our staff) just find ways of resting anyways (think mind-numbing Facebook binge, basically unnecessary back and forth to the patchshed in the pick-up truck to ‘get something’). Also important to consider here is the importance of working in an ergonomic manner.

What would it be like to unleash the energy of enjoyment on your farm?

Optimized travel

This is the principle of ‘never go anywhere with your hands empty’. Every trip on the farm should be done with the smallest (most appropriate) sized vehicle filled to capacity and preceded by foresightfull thought (where am I going, what tools, materials, and information do I need to bring with me). This applies to manual movements too. When harvesting beans, my hands never move to the bucket unless they are 100% full, when harvesting tomatoes my hands never move to the crate with less than 2-3 tomatoes. Don’t be fooled by short distances (for all you bio-intensive market gardeners) and motorized travel (for all you pick-up truck and gator junkies)…. idle travel is waste no matter what way you cut it!

What would it be like for each movement to be fully optimized?

Speed/Efficiency (Rapid Action/movement)

This is the principle of ‘it’s time to boogie!’ Faster movements = get there sooner. This applies to everything from the speed of hands during harvest to how we walk… and everything in between. How long is this task taking? How many kg per hour am I currently harvesting? How many $ per hour am I currently harvesting? How many beds per hour am I weeding? On my farm, everyone wears a wrist watch. Not a cellphone in the bottom of the pocket…. a really honest to goodness wrist-watch! Time awareness is a skill to be cultivated.

What would it be like to work with full mindfulness of your speed?

Clear and fluid information

This is the principle of having the right information at the right time. This also means that the information is not just in your brain and that your employees have all the necessary information available for them to do a great job! This means production plans, seeding schedules, field maps, harvest sheet… but also Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and checklists! This information needs to be readily available…not somewhere in a dusty binder. Do you and your staff know what the top priorities for the day are and that employees know what jobs they’ll be working on and in what order?  BEWARE of walkie-talkies. While the are soooo useful, they can lead to complacency in terms of both communicating all the important info and in terms of thinking of all the necessary tools and material before going somewhere (oh… I’ll just call on the walkie talkie if I need something). Check out this other blog post of mine for more discussion of information flow. Also, taking the time to slow down and fully plan and communicate may seem like less efficient, but these simple actions pay tremendous dividends in terms of working effectively as a team and having fun doing so!

What would it be like to create a little certainty on your farm?

Implementation

What’s next? What do you see in this for yourself?

One thing that has been useful to some of the farmers I coach, is to print out these principles and post them at key locations around the farm (wash station, seedling greenhouse, next to the planning whiteboard).

I’ve prepared some bonus material for this blog post. Here’s a link to join the inner circle and get access to a printable ‘Effectiveness Cheatsheet’ I put together for you as well as a chart of typical harvest speeds that I thought might interest you.

Thanks for being here!

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Go forth and kick some ass!!