Amazing! Another year under the belt, one step closer to the grave! Way to go!
So, how’s the year going? What worked, what didn’t, what are you grateful for?
As we move into this new decade, let’s take the time to pause and reflect. Daily living can be so busy that we rarely take time to consider where we’re at on this journey of life. And yet… and yet, it is exactly this process of pausing and being aware that allows us to actually be present to our lives, to enjoy, to savor, to grieve, to learn … to fully experience what we are living.
Step 1: Celebration
Whew!! What a year it’s been! I want to take a moment to acknowledge you (yes, you!!) for everything you’ve been up to this year. It’s so easy to get into a pattern of always seeking to improve while overlooking our successes
What are you willing to celebrate today?
What do you appreciate about yourself?
What is something that surprised you about yourself this year?
What are you grateful for this year?
Step 2: Observation
This is the part where we get into the nitty-gritty details:
What worked this year? Where is there room for improvement?
What non-work activities did you do this year?
Did you reach your financial goals this year?
What crops works well, which didn’t, what needs to happen next year?
What was the best part of this year? What was the most challenging aspect of 2019?
What did you learn about yourself this year?
Step 3: Vision
This year we’re moving into a new decade! It’s time to look out at the horizon of time and envision where
So often we overestimate what we can achieve in a year and underestimate what we can do in a decade.
Imagine yourself in 10 years. Imagine that you could travel back in time to today. What would the 2030 version of you tell your current self? What will 2030 you wish you had started doing in 2020? What habits, routines, projects, and partnerships will you be so happy
What actions are you willing to take in 2020 to move towards this vision?
Step 4: Next step
Great work! Given what you’ve been reflecting on, what are the next small sweet steps to move towards this vision?
What are the 2-3 high leverage actions that will have the greatest impact in 2020?
The bottom line is NO means NO… AND …whenever you say NO to something, you are simultaneously saying YES to something else. In the context of sexual consent, saying NO to some form of sexual act is absolutely saying YES to something else; Yes to respect and integrity, Yes to personal boundaries and limits, Yes to clear communication, and possibly even Yes to exploring some other type of meaningful connection (or not!)
When it comes to farming, there can be such a tendency to say yes to every new project and idea… no wonder we are overwhelmed! I get it; there are so many exciting projects, plus, saying no to a potential opportunity can be scary.
The key is to realize that you’re always saying yes to something.
Rather than thinking “what do I need to say NO to?”, I invite you to shift to a more empowering question: “What am I actually you saying YES to in my life?”
Saying No to the urge to grow 20 varieties of tomatoes is saying Yes to being focused on the 5-10 varieties you really want to trial (and actually getting some meaningful trial data!) Saying No to that new farmer’s market (or to that CSA drop-off that’s been stagnating for years) is saying Yes to putting the needed marketing efforts into your other outlets. Saying No hosting a farm tour for the local agricultural college, is say Yes to spending the evening with your kids… you get the idea.
What are you willing to say YES to in 2020?
PS: If you’re interested in the world of consent work, here’s a very interesting blog post on the topic by Zahava Griss, whom I’ve gotten to know through the life-coach training academy we’re part of. This blog is written in a very specific context of sexual exploration… but don’t be put off by this. The principles behind these 8 questions are so useful in creating meaningful, conscious, and empowering connections of all natures (sensual or otherwise). Incidentally, these principles apply equally to you whether you’re meeting someone new at a play party, OR, whether you’re talking with your spouse of 20 years (of course, certain of the specific questions are more or less applicable, but the principle of clear and open communication on these sometimes sensitive topics is 100% applicable.) Try it out… You may be amazed at what you learn about yourself and your partner in the process!!
I hesitated to share this link as it feels a little vulnerable to do so. I decided to share this because I think that consent is such an important topic in the post-Me-Too era.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to live in a world where everyone was conscious and empowered, knew about these important conversations, and respected each other!?
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
Willpower is great, but let’s face it: it’s a limited resource.
In reality, we’re the product of our habits and our environments.
The key here is to use our willpower in a leveraged manner. Rather than try and use our willpower to muscle our way to productivity, we need to use our willpower to make decisions about what kinds of environments we create for ourselves and what routines and habits we establish in our lives
Today we’ll look at the environments and we’ll look at routines and habits in the coming weeks.
The following environments have a particular ability to make or break our farm efficiency and more importantly the farm’s enjoyability!
Farm Control Center
This is a space that is often non-existent or drastically under present on the farm…. This is unfortunate, given the high impact that a well-designed control center can have on our ability to operate in an intentional and effective manner.
The control center is the brain of the farm. This is where we manage the farm at an operational level. It is where we make our daily plans, hold team meetings, manage weekly workflow, and track your goals. This is a designated space for the operational management of the farm and includes: 2-3 large (4x8ft) whiteboards, 1-2 desks, enough seats for the whole team (or at least the core management team if your farm has a large crew), a computer, shelves and/or filing cabinets, and a coffee machine 😉 This space has the field maps, seeding schedules, planting and harvest records, timesheets, etc. Sometimes, the control center is also the farm office, though ideally have a separate quiet office workspace, since the control room can be a pretty busy, dynamic, bustling area of the farm.
The question to ask yourself is: How might this farm control center environment support me in coordinating the operational workflow and team dynamics I’m looking to nurture on my farm?
Next is the farm office. The key is to set up the space to be conducive to keeping your bookkeeping up to date. Of course, there are things to be done other than bookkeeping, but if you are able to structure your work environment to keep your accounting up to date even in the height of summer, then you can do anything!
There are 2 key elements: each person needs to ideally ace their own desk or workspace; Use an inbox system to track incoming work and make sure it makes it to the right destination. I’ll get into this in a later blog post about how to manage your administrative workflow.
How does the physical environment that you have created in your office support you to be a reliable, consistent business owner?
Is the environment of your office conducive to the good administrative habits you seek to cultivate in your farm?
The wash station
Here is another area of the farm where the physical environment we create has a huge impact on the behaviour of the people using the space.
At a very basic level, the wash station needs to be designed in a way that encourages efficient flow of vegetables from the field to the cold room while creating safe and ergonomic work habits for the team.
At a higher level, the way the wash station is organized needs to support the team to consistently do the important but non-urgent tasks that are parallelly related to washing and packing vegetables such as proper labeling, record keeping, food safety practices, making sure each order is complete and accurate, etc.
Map out the movement of products and people through the wash station… does it look like a bowl of spaghetti? How can you straighten and shorten the lines of movement?
How many times is each vegetable or box handled? Do boxes get carried more than 2-3 steps without being on some type of wheeled device? (hand truck, dolly, pallet, cart) Are workers regularly lifting weights greater than 25-50 lbs?
Is each work surface at an appropriate height so as to not cause shoulder or back issues? Are wash hoses sufficiently flexible and well positioned so as to not cause torsion in the wrist? Do workers have to lift weights greater than 25 lbs while in torsion (ie lift and turn, lift and twist, lift and extend)?
Are packing and labeling tools and materials located exactly where they are needed at each step of the process? Can labels be applied with wet hands? Are clean hand towels available to dry hands so as to be able to apply the labels?
Are vegetable washing procedures and quality standards clearly written and visible? Are sanitary and wash station cleaning protocols or checklists clear and posted at the key locations? Is there a handwashing station with soap and hot water at the entrance of the wash station?
Are harvest records and packing slips located where they are needed? Are they in a format that can be filled in with wet or damp hands (whiteboard vs paper)?
Remember, this is a space where we spend a lot of time and that can often be a bottleneck in the production workflow. Having a well organized, ergonomic wash station can go a long way in creating a fun, enjoyable workspace for your employees.
The tool room
GET RID OF YOUR CRAP!!! (oh, yeah, this applies to your office too… and all other workspaces). Hopefully, you have a sense of humor… but, in all seriousness, this is truly a place where less is more.
The fewer types of tools you have, the easier it will be to have a place for each tool (and each tool in its place). The key is to develop a farm culture where a task is not considered “done” until all tools and materials are put away. This is so much easier to do when the tool shed is not a total mess (tidiness begets tidiness).
The question is: does your tool shed layout make it easy to keep it neat and tidy?
Does each tool have a clear place?
Is it easy to walk into the tool room (without tripping on row covers, a seed, a couple of bags of green manure seed, and a ball of packaging material from the last delivery of irrigation supplies 6 weeks ago… you know what I mean, we’ve all been there)?
One last thing to wrap up this section… lest you think I’m some type of higher than thou clean freak … let’s just say that my wife would find it hilarious if she saw me writing these lines about tidiness. I merely emphasize the importance of neatness because I myself have been there and seen the enormous inefficiency that comes from farming in a mess!
What are you getting out of this blog post?
What change on your farm would have the greatest impact on the efficiency and enjoyability of the work?
What’s the next action to create the work environments you need?
I’m thrilled to share my very first podcast appearance with you! I first met Michael Killpatrick a number of years ago at a mutual acquaintance’s farm, and since then have always been impressed by the consistency, professionalism, and quality of his projects. Which is why I was honored when he asked me to join him on his podcast!
Check out my wide-ranging conversation with Michael Killpatick on the “Thriving Farmer Podcast”. Here’s the link.
What are you getting out of this podcast so far? What do you see in this for yourself?
What is a small sweet step that would create the space to see your farm and life from a different perspective?
There are two ways to get something done. Quite honestly, my default setting has often been the “balls to the wall”, white knuckle, push on through way of doing things. This is what people refer to as “the grind”. Familiar??
Hark!! Another way is possible. A more playful, more easeful manner is available to us in each moment. Not easy, easeful. Not carefree, playful.
What would become possible if life were a game to play? What if, what counts isn’t winning or losing, but enjoying the process of playing? What if everything is exactly as it ought to be? (yup… including the good, the bad, and the ugly)
This shift has had a tremendous impact in my life. I realized how futile it is to worry and try to figure out and control every little detail. Instead, it is way more empowering to see that ultimately, life is a game…at the time tremendously important and totally irrelevant; most importantly, that when I take this perspective, I am so much more present and engaged in each and every project that I care so much about. It’s as if up until now my brain had decided that the best way to demonstrate how important something was to me was to be anxious (what a load of crap!)
When we tap into this playful energy, we enter more consistently into the state of flow; the state of “mind like water”. This is the state of mind we need to be in to achieve our optimal performance and creativity. Neurologically speaking, this means using our frontal cortex rather than being hijacked by our amygdala (our caveman’s brain). I know this can sound contradictory (relax, be playful… but seek to achieve “optimal” performance), but this is exactly the paradox that I invite you to consider. The best way to care about what you care about the most, is precisely not to care too much; to relax and enjoy the ride with all of its ups and downs and surprises.
What would it be like to see that “All is Well”?
What would you do differently if it was all a game?
What would be one action this week that would be a demonstration of playfulness on the farm?
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?
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 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.
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).
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.
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).
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?