Crafting an Intentional Family Winter Holiday Narrative using the 5 Pillars.

Merry Christmas!!

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that in this non-secular era, most of us are not actually celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ, the mystical innovator, all around shit-disturber, and spiritual guide who walked the earth two millennia ago (I mean this with the highest esteem of shit-disturbers and the process of innovative disruption). Yet, we still call this time of year the holiday (i.e. Holy-day) season.

So, what exactly is it that is Holy and that we are celebrating at this special time of year?

One way of seeing it is that we are celebrating the opportunity to get together and cherish this time with our families and loved ones. While this is a big part of it, I have been looking for a deeper meaning, especially since the birth of my son. He’s five years old now, and I would love to transmit a winter holiday tradition to him that isn’t just about stimulating the economy, generating more plastic toys that will end up in a landfill, or floating the giant mass of plastic in the Pacific ocean, and the myth of the fat man in a red suit. I’m hungry for meaning and that sense of connection that comes from sharing an empowering narrative with those I love around me.

So how do I go about finding or creating a meaningful winter holiday narrative?

Actually, the process of creating and living a lifestyle we love is similar, whether we’re talking about designing farm systems or designing a holiday narrative.

Let’s take a look at how I can apply the principles of the 5 Pillars to cultivating a winter holiday tradition for my family that is authentic and meaningful for me.

Pillar 1: A clear and well-defined vision.

My family and I share a Christmas narrative and tradition that elevates the human spirit, nurtures a sense of gratitude and awe, and contributes to raising our consciousness. My family’s new winter holiday narrative draws inspiration from multiple faith-traditions including Judeo-Christianity, pagan, indegenous, and new-age cultures. To me, Christmas represents the dawning of a new era, of a new consciousness. In a very literal sense, it marks a time of the year when the days have reached their shortest length and the light is returning more and more each day.

Our winter holiday narrative is ever evolving and is developed as a family through dialogue and consensus building. We welcome all ideas. We have fun in the process. We savor this time together and we give thanks for the miracle of life. We follow an iterative process where each year we build upon the past to create a celebration that is even more in light with our vision. We have a time of reflection and discussion in the new year about what we enjoyed about this iteration of our winter holiday celebration and we take notes and have a clear plan for the following year.

We engage in family celebration. We celebrate the dawning of a new light through a candle lighting ritual. We celebrate the beauty of life through the decoration of a tree. We tell stories from multiple faiths that highlight the elevation of the human spirit and consciousness. We sing, we play, we cuddle, and we express gratitude.


Pillar 2: A S.M.A.R.T. plan.

In this case, the plan is less obvious than with a crop plant or a farm budget. This first step is crafting a S.M.A.R.T. goal towards which the plan will strive. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time based).


By December 31 2018, I celebrate with my family a one-day winter holiday celebration centered around a collectively decided, intention holiday narrative/ set of activities. Life’s intentions: To be a loving family member. (Linking it to a life’s intention ensures that the goal is truly relevant.)

 

The plan that would accompany this SMART goal would be:
1) Share my vision with my family and enroll them in this project.
2) Brainstorm a list of possible activities, stories, holiday rituals.
3) Have a conversation with my family where we decide on a set of activities and narratives that we want to try out this year. Create a written sequence of activities.
4) Gather the necessary materials etc for the celebration
5) Celebrate!
6) Have a conversation with my family about what we liked and what we would like to try differently next year.


Pillar 3: Prioritization of time and resources.

This pillar is all about identifying the activities which bring us the bulk– the desired outcome,and consciously focusing our time and resources on these activities. For me, this means focusing my energy on activities and rituals that cultivate the spiritual side of this holiday. This also means not dedicating significant time or energy to material gift giving and shopping. P.S. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of this at the grandparent’s house 😉


Pillar 4: Solid farm systems.

Hummm… in this case we aren’t talking about farm production systems. However, the principle behind this pillar is still applicable: Using systems to reduce the reliance on any one person or component of the system.


In this example, what comes to mind is having a written list of the activities we have planned for the celebration so as to empower each member of the family to act independently on the plan that we have collectively decided on.

Pillar 5: Monitor for results within a community of support.

The key is to plan for the future but live in the present. It will be important for me to stay focused on the results I want (spiritual connection with my family) rather than on the specifics of how I imagined the day was going to unfold. The key in this example will be awareness, flexibility, and communication. This pillar is really sweet because it reminds me that I am building this holiday narrative within the context of a loving family community and that we are all here to support each other.

Your turn!

 

  • What is one area of your personal life where you would like to live in a more intentional manner?

 

  • How can the principles behind the 5 Pillars be applied to this area of your life?
  • May health, wealth, and love reign in your homes during this holiday season and into the new year.

 

 


Go make a ruckus!





Cultivating joyous mental agility on small scale organic farms!

One summer’s day in July 2016, my wife turns to me and says ‘Hey Jonny! Let’s sell off all our stuff and head out on an adventure!’ As you might imagine, my first reaction was ‘What the WHAT? Are you crazy!’

I had just spent 7 years building a farm business that was able to generate upwards of $60,000 net income and had me working 50 to 55 hours per week, even in the height of summer (plus my wife and our toddler working 15 hrs per week taking care of the animals). We were farming 6.5 acres of vegetables marketed half and half through our 200 member CSA and our farmer’s markets for a total of $240,000 of sales per year. Plus, we were on the verge of buying our own land with the financial backing of the Quebec government who was willing to guarantee an $800K mortgage. As far as I could tell, we were being successful and as such, I saw no need to make a change and ‘lose’ all that I had built!

And yet…

And yet, in hindsight, I am so grateful that I was open to my wife’s idea  which I eventually decided to take. A leap and embark on what has turned out to be a two- year family road trip adventure. What amazes me the most i are the many unexpected experiences we have had. The fact that what we are currently living is so far outside the realm of what I could ever have imagined. What other possibilities could exist that are just so far out of my paradigm that I can’t even see their presence?

One such experience for me has been discovering the practice of life coaching. If 2 years ago you had told me I would be working as a professionally trained life coach with the honor of supporting a dozen organic farmers from across Canada, the US, and Mexico… I would have asked you ‘what are you smoking, and where can I get some’ (just kidding, I’ve been clean and sober now for 5 years… but that’s another story for another time).

People often ask me, ‘Do you miss the farm?’ The answer is a clear NO! AND, I am simultaneously so excited to launch the next iteration of our farm in the next 2 years! It has been wonderful for me to see that I currently have the same excitement about starting a farm as I did way back when I was 21 and about to start Ferme Mélilot. Even after all those years and with full knowledge of what it entails. When I made the decision to leave the farm, one of my fears was ‘What if I discover I don’t actually like farming?’… which I realize now was such a great monkey-mind conversation because if I actually didn’t like farming then it would have been great to find out!

You know what? It turns out that all those fears about ‘losing-all-I-had-built-up’ were just a sweat- monkey mind conversation as well! I now see that the most valuable assets I developed during the seven years of Ferme Mélilot can never be lost:  These are the entrepreneurial and management skills that I have acquired and will have with me in my tool box for whatever businesses I launch as I go forward in life.

What I’m trying to get at here, is the importance of being open to the possibilities that are seeking to emerge. Having a clear vision and being focused are such valuable qualities,but they must not blind us to the amazing possibilities that light up outside of our current paradigm. Realising that we can both dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to our current project, AND remain open to change  as well as the emergence of new possibilities, allows us to live with a little more lightheartedness and playful JOY!

My question for you today?

  • What is seeking to emerge in your life?
  • What would become possible if you temporarily suspended your paradigm (aka your current way of seeing things)?
  • What would it be like to cultivate the energy of joy and lighthearted play into your farm?

Stay nimble and go make a ruckus!

 

Time to relax, rest,  recharge, and regenerate!

Imagine if you had so much field work that you couldn’t waste time on stopping the tractor to refuel. It wouldn’t be very effective, would it? Well, it’s the same thing for you!

For the past week, I’ve been on a conference marathon with back-to-back attendance of the CAPÉ fall conference and the annual ACORN conference.  I have had the pleasure of meeting lots of farmers and have amazing conversations. I love how passionate, dedicated, creative, and skillful you all are! But…we are not super-human! Just like our machines, we also need maintaining.

If you’re feeling exhausted, tired, or discouraged then you are not alone.

You are not alone!

Before diving right into the winter-planning work or to your off-farm job, please, take some time to re-energize your mind, body, and soul. A week, a day, a half day –all to yourself, without your cell phone, away from the farm. You’ll be amazed at what a great investment this is. Take a step back for a little while and come back with a clearer, more focused, and more spacious mind spirit. You’ll be surprised how something so seemingly simple can be so powerful.

What would it be like to recharge?

What is one small sweet step that you could take this week that would just feel so great?

What would be restful for you?

Would it be ok with you to nurture yourself?

Pillar 5: Creating a rhythm of monitoring using a network of support.

Thanks to the first 4 pillars, we now have: a clear vision; identified our priorities; developed our plans; and implemented our systems. Now, it’s time to play ball!

Pillar 5 is all about consistency.

Small sweet actions taken consistently will always outperform erratic blitzes of activity followed by periods of inaction.

The question is: how do we create a farm culture that supports each member of the team to consistently play full-out and where everyone participates in keeping the farm on track to achieve the goals as planned.

Pillar 5 addresses this with two elements: Monitoring, and Support.

Monitoring… a.k.a. Keeping Score

Goals, plans, and budgets are not mere whims that we create in the winter and forget about till next year. They serve as a road map to keep us on track to achieve our goals. For this to occur, we actually need to check the map. Regularly.

This means keeping the bookkeeping up to date (minimally monthly) and comparing the current actual situation to the forecasts. It is amazing how many actions are possible to help keep the budget on track…This is attainable only if you know precisely where you’re at each month. Here is a tool that I used on my farm to visually know how each of my income and expense accounts was doing at any moment.

This principle applies to all our farm goals, not only to the financial objectives. The key is to check in regularly to compare your goals with the results you are actually getting. How often are you actually practicing the guitar? How present are you for your family? Are you taking one or two days of rest and rejuvenation each week? Whatever your goal is, it is critical that you check in with yourself. This is much easier if you have a clear, measurable goal. The 4DX system is a great example of this approach.

Support

No person is an Island! We are made to be social creatures who thrive on love and caring. There are times when our strong, independent natures are very useful to us as farmers and entrepreneurs. However, when this nature dominates the way we run our farm, we end up taking on so many roles and responsibilities that we no longer focus our time on what is important. So much so that our passion turns into work and we no longer have fun!

What would it be like to ask for support? What would it be like to be part of a network of mutual support?

Very often, we already have the networks available to us. We just need to learn to offer, ask for, and accept support. This support can be in the form of our local and regional community of farmers, our friends and families, our farm employees, and professional services such as coaching or mastermind and coaching groups.

Our initial inkling is that ‘Support is for the weak.’ The old vision of a strong leader is someone who is independent, mentally and physically powerful and is able to make all the right decisions on their own. The new vision of a strong leader is one who surrounds themselves with all the best advisors, who is mentally and physically flexible, agile, and resilient, and who makes the best decisions by inspiring and bringing out the best in those around him or her.

Ultimately, support is out recognizing that we are not alone. It’s about reaching out and connecting with those in our networks. It’s about asking for help. It’s about generously being there for others. It’s about being part of something greater than ourselves

Is there someone in your network you’d like to connect with this week?

‘Vulnerability is allowing the winds of life to blow freely over your soul’ – Maria Nemith

Getting Important Shit Done! (A summary of ‘The 4 Disciplines of Execution’ for small-scale organic vegetable farmers.)

Alright. Here’s the bottom line-this winter you need to read the book ‘The 4 Disciplines of Execution’ (4DX)!

In the meanwhile, I thought it might be useful for me to write a short summary of the 4DX system. I will focus primarily on how it can be of service in the context of a small-scale organic vegetable farm.

Breaking out of the whirlwind

We’ve all been there. During the winter we have these great intentions of what we want to improve on our farm. The challenge is that these intentions get blown away by the busy whirlwind of urgent tasks.

  • 4DX is a system for being able to make important changes IN ADDITION to the baseline demands of the whirlwind of urgent farming tasks.
  • 4DX is a system to give ownership of the goals to the farm’s crew and support them to feel what it’s like to be part of a winning team playing towards a clear and meaningful goal.
  • 4DX is a system designed to be implemented with and by your team… not to be imposed top down. It is paramount that your team be involved in developing the goals and designing the visual tools that will be used.
‘The 4 Disciplines of Execution’, page 21.

Less is More

Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly Important

When it comes to achieving important goals above and beyond the basic operation of the farm, the key is to focus your energy on one maybe two Wildly Important Goals (WIG). Imagine trying to pierce a piece of paper with all 5 fingers at once… not very effective…. now try with just one finger. Boom! Less is more. Imagine the sun’s rays… they only ignite a fire when they are focused by a magnifying glass on a single point. Are you ready to light your goals on fire!?!

The first step is the craft one or max two WIGs:

  • If everything else at the farm remained at the current level of performance….
  • What is one change that would have the greatest impact in terms of bringing your vision into reality?
  • What is one change that would have the greatest impact on your quality of life?
  • The WIG is phased as a measurable action with a set date:
  • Increase farm revenue from 300 000$ to 350 000$ by December 31, 2019.
  • Reduce work hours from 70 to 50 hours per week by August 15, 2019.
  • Increase farmers market sales from 45 000$ to 60 000$ per year by November 1, 2019.

To generalize the formula:

Verb → Key Parameter → Starting Level → Target Level → Target Date.

Focusing the right lever: Lag vs Lead measures

Discipline 2: Focus on lead measures

As Peter Drucker said, we can’t manage what we don’t measure.

There are two types of measurements we can make:

  • Lag measures are things that by the time we measure them, we can no longer influence them. Lag measures are the results that we want to create (ie Profit, sales, leisure time, etc) WIGs are lag measures
  • Lead measures are things that when we measure them, we can still impact the outcome. Lead measures are the means we have of influencing the outcomes.

Let’s take the example of the farmers market.

The lag measure would be that we want to sell 60 000$ per year at the farmers market. (WIG: Increase farmers market sales from 45 000$ to 60 000$ by November 1st 2019)  While we can measure sales, there is no way we can directly act on them. You can’t force people to give you their money (legally).

Lead measures for farmers market sales include making at least 2 product suggestions to clients, keeping the tables fully stocked and beautiful (to measure this, you could use a chart of presentation criteria and aim to score above 90% at key times), and reducing client check out wait time to 2 minutes.

‘The 4 Disciplines of Execution’, page 53.

The key is to shift our attention from trying to push directly on the boulder and actually focus on pushing on the lever. Work smarter, not harder!

TIME TO BRAINSTORM: It’s time to identify 2-3 lead measures to focus on that will move you towards achieving your Wildly Important Goal.

Make it a game worth winning: Keep score!

Discipline 3: Keep a compelling scoreboard.

People play differently when they are keeping score. The challenge is that so often in the height of the growing season, we are juggling so many balls that it’s hard to know where we’re at in terms of our larger goals.

The scoreboard is just the tool for this!

The scoreboard is a visual representation of the WIG and the 2-3 lead measures the team has identified. Anyone needs to be able to look at it for 5 seconds and know exactly whether the team is winning or losing. It needs to be centrally located and visible.

It will become the centerpiece of your weekly WIG sessions. It will become the glue that binds your team.

One more nuance that is highlighted by the authors of 4DX… People play differently when they are keeping score. Your team must be empowered to keep score, fill out the scoreboard, and own the results! This is not just another tool to pressure your crew… this is their scoreboard

One for all and all for one

Discipline 4: Create a cadence of accountability.

This is where the work actually gets started! The key to success is consistently taking small sweet steps towards your goal.

The glue that holds this whole 4DX system together is the weekly WIG sessions.

WIG sessions are highly structured, efficient 20-minute sessions held each week. The sole purpose of this meeting is to keep the team focused on the WIG and make it possible to chip away at the WIG while still accomplishing everything that needs to get done in the regular whirlwind of farm activities.

Here is the format for the meeting:

  1. Check in on last weeks commitments.
  2. Look at the state of the scoreboard.
  3. Make a commitment for the coming week.

Each week, members of the team make personal commitments regarding what they will do this week to move the scoreboard towards a victory. This can be an action they take, or this can be some way they are willing to support a team member by clearing the way for them to advance. The following week everyone reports back on their commitment. Team members are accountable to the whole team, not just to the leader.

WIG Session Rules

  • Do not let whirlwind topics encroach into the WIG session. The ONLY topics at the WIG session are limited to:

‘How do we move the scoreboard forward?’

How do we meet out lead measure goals?

Is the lag measure responding as expected?

If needed, hold a regular planning meeting at a different time

(it can be right after the WIG session) to discuss the farm activities for the

week.

  • The WIG sessions are non-negotiable. Meaning that it is paramount that you hold them every week, both to keep on track towards your goal and to send the clear message to your team that this is highly important for the success of the farm, and the farm’s ability to create meaningful and satisfying employment for them.

Have fun! As I said, this book is a must read! Here is a link to the book on Amazon.

Looking forward to hearing your feedback and experiences implementing this on your farm!

Go make a ruckus!

 

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*Please note that all links to Amazon are ‘affiliate links’ where I earn between 4-10% of the sale depending on the product. Of course, this does not influence which products I mention… I just figured that if I was going to be linking to them anyways, I might as well generate some income!

Pillar 4: Building kick-ass farm production systems that support your farm lifestyle goals!

Have you ever had great intentions but have failed to follow through? Or perhaps you are like me and get very excited about making great improvements, but you lose interest and motivation after a couple of weeks? Do you find yourself doing work that is either redundant or that could have been avoided with the right preemptive actions?

Using the first 3 pillars, you know clearly what outcomes you want to produce, you’ve planned out how to get there, and you’ve made the decision to focus on the actions that get the greatest bang for your buck… now what!?

The key lies in the consistency with which we take action. In this context, farm production systems serve 3 outcomes:

  1. To support us to take action with greater ease by reducing reliance on ‘willpower’ and memory;
  2. To ensure that each action or task works synergistically with the other components of the farm thus reducing overall work;
  3. To allow us to effectively delegate to our employees and thus reduce the degree to which you are the bottleneck in your farm operation and free you up for focusing on your unique abilities, for working less, and living the lifestyle you would love to live.

What is a system?

A complex system is a self-perpetuating arrangement of interconnected parts that form a unified whole…” (The Personal MBA) and work to achieve a common outcome.

In the context of a small-scale organic vegetable farm, we could literally define dozens of systems. However, there are the 5 essential systems that must be in place:

  • Information Flow System
  • Soil Management System
  • Weed Management System
  • Harvest and Post-harvest System
  • Marketing System

Designing and optimizing farm systems:

Over the course of the fall and winter, we will be looking in depth at each system with the goal of identifying and implementing the key adjustments to support you in achieving your lifestyle goals for 2019.

To start with, here are some seeds I would like to plant in your brain for your consideration

 

  • What is the desired outcome of each system?
  • What are the key elements of each system?
  • Map out the system: How do materials and efforts flow through the system? (Both conceptually and physically. Pay particular attention to where the bottlenecks or weak links are.
  • What synergies exist between systems? For example, great weed control greatly increases the efficiency of harvest.
  • Are the processes and procedures clearly communicated in writing accessible to the whole crew?

 

 

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

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

This is where pillar 3 comes in!

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

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

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

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

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

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

As in:

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

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

Parkinson’s Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Alright!  Your turn now:

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Elements of a Good Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also, powerful goals are writ

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

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

Includes the appropriate safety margins

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

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

Reverse engineered back from the envisioned outcome.

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

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

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

 

Your turn now!

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

What’s your plan for getting there?

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pillar 1: A clear and intentional vision

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

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

Pillar 4: Solid farm Systems

Pillar 5: Monitoring results and using Support.

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

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

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

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Crafting a Powerful Farm Vision*

What is a vision?

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

Why craft your farm vision?

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

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

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

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

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

Criteria for a powerful vision

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

Exercise: Creating & Using Your Vision Statement

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

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