Identifying the most profitable crops on a small scale organic vegetable farm!

There are two ways to make more money: increase your acreage; or grow from within by increasing your productivity and efficiency.

As you might imagine… I would highly recommend the latter. The cycle of increasing crop acreage in order to compensate for insufficient profit is all too familiar to me and is a great way to jeopardize the lifestyle we are seeking to create on our farm. This is not so say that there is not a time and place for scaling-up  but rather that this needs to be a conscious business decision, not a reaction to insufficient profits at your current scale.

A key element of growing from within is to shift more and more the mix of crops we are growing, towards the higher profitability crops while at the same time increasing our own productivity in terms of the income we generate each hour we work.

There’s no question about it: the best way to go about it is to have super accurate data on every aspect of our crop production and as a result, be able to create precise and accurate crop production budgets for each crop…. this is all well and good, but back here in in the real world, this is not always a feasible option nor is it necessarily a wise use of our time and energy.

So how do we go about determining which crops are the most financially beneficial for us in the absence of detailed crop by crop production budgets; and we have no way of knowing how much net income each crop actually is generating?

There are two key indicator parameters: Gross income per surface area and Gross income per hour worked.

Gross Revenue per Area

What actually counts is net income, AKA money in your pocket. However, in the absence of detailed crop budgets, what I have observed on my farm (and have confirmed with other farmers!) is that for small and medium scale farmers, there is a direct relationship between how much gross income it generates per area and how profitable that crop is. There are a couple of exceptions to this, but what we are looking at here is an indicator parameter, not a hard a fast rule.

  • First off, decide on a standard unit of area. For a bio-intensive farm, it might be a standard 100 ft bed. For a larger farm, it might be per standard 300 ft bed, per acre, or per linear bed foot. Whatever unit you choose, pick a unit that you can stick too and that is easy to visualize (this is why it is more useful to talk in terms of per bed, or per bed foot rather than per acre or hectare).

*For the sake of simplicity, for the rest of this blog post, I will be assuming that our standard unit of area is 1 bed.

  • Next, determine the yield either based on your own harvest records or based on a reference chart if you don’t have accurate yield data.
  • Not all crops take the same amount of time. Some crops (like tomatoes) take the whole season, while others take less time and open up the possibility for double cropping (or more!) We thus need to factor this in when we are calculating this indicator parameter. If the crop is harvested fast enough to get a second crop in, multiply by two. If you can get 3 crops per year, multiply by 3 etc.
  • To calculate this indicator parameter multiply the yield per bed x the average sales price x the number of crops possible per year. Here is a sample spreadsheet to calculate this. Make sure to adapt the numbers to fit your growing conditions and market realities.

Now that you know how much potential revenue each crop can generate per bed, we can use this parameter to make decisions. I’m not saying you have to overnight drop all the crops at the lower end of this scale. What I am suggesting is to take a look at these numbers and be sure you are making the decisions that are in line with your goals. I invite you to aim for grossing at least 40k$/ac in an extensive system and 100k$/ac in a bio-intensive system.

  • What are your overall gross revenue goals for the farm? Given this, what is the baseline gross revenue per bed? Which crops make the cut and which crops don’t? What would become possible if you didn’t grow those crops take fall below this threshold? (or at least minimize them)
  • One useful thing to look at is to compare the potential gross revenue per bed for each crop vs. the actual total gross revenue of that same crop on your farm. Are these two parameters pretty much proportional… or are you growing disproportionately large amounts of low revenue crops?
  • What could be changed to increase the gross revenue per bed of a certain crop so as to get it up above your farm’s baseline value? Can you increase the price and/or the yield? Can you find a way to reduce turn-over time so as to get a second or even a third crop planted in that same area?

Gross Revenue per hour worked

Once again, it is impractical for most of us to gather sufficiently accurate data in order to precisely know how much time we are spending on each crop. Again, we are looking for an indicator parameter that is easy to measure and practical to use in the decision-making process.

When we look at the production cycle, we see that harvesting is the step that takes the most time and is usually the bottleneck in terms of labor. Depending on the crop and the production system, harvest accounts for 20-33% of the total crop labor.

This is a great place to look for the key indicator of Gross Revenue of the crop harvested per hour.

Amount of a given crop can be harvested per person per hour X Sales price = $/hr harvest rate.

  • Make a chart and compare $/hr harvest rate to total gross revenue for each crop.
  • What do you notice?
  • How can you tweak the equation to increase this parameter? Increase in speed? Increase the price?
  • What is the minimum threshold for you? (if you want to earn 20K$ net per year in 20000 hrs worked per year and you’re net is 30% of your gross, you need to generate 33$ gross per hour worked. If the harvest is 25% of your total work, then you need to be harvesting 133$ worth of produce per hour worked.)
  • Are some of the crops you grow below the minimum threshold? What would become possible if you didn’t grow those crops? (or at least minimize them).

All right folks! That’s it. I know it’s been a math-y post. The key here is to remember that the farm is a tool to create a lifestyle we love to live…. And part of that is generating a sustainable net income with a sustainable workload. If this isn’t currently your experience: do you want to grow bigger or grow better… work harder or work smarter? The choice is yours 😉

Question: What would become possible if you cut the number of acres you crop by 25-50% while maintaining the same gross income?

Mitigating the risk of exhaustion and burnout on small-scale organic vegetable farms

It’s all well and good to use ecologically sustainable practices on our organic farms, but it pretty much does no good if we burn out.

Human/psychological/emotional/spiritual sustainability is therefore a key component of building a food system that is in harmony with nature and is well suited to the ongoing needs of the human race in the coming times of change.

The question is: How do we farm in a manner that allows us to remain energetic , enthusiastic and effectively mitigates against fatigue, exhaustion, and burnout?

I would like to offer you the following ideas resulting from examining fatigue, exhaustion, and burnout from an ‘engineering’ perspective.

Farming requires energy. There is the physical energy required  in doing farm work. There is also the mental/emotional energy used in managing and coordinating a complex system.

Stress in its purest sense is simply pressure or tension exerted on a material object.

“the distribution of stress is uniform across the bar”.’ When we perceive external stimuli and circumstances, this applies a stress to our inner being. The question is whether we bounce back or whether the stress remains within us in the form of anxiety and physical weariness.

Fatigue in a technical sense is ‘weakness in materials, especially metal, caused by repeated variations of stress. (as in “metal fatigue”).’ Fatigue is the accumulation of weariness or tiredness resulting from hard work, but most noticeably from the tensions or anxieties resulting from the stresses of the management of the farm.

Exhaustion is ‘the action or state of using something up or of being used up completely.

As in “the rapid exhaustion of fossil fuel reserves”.’  Exhaustion occurs when fatigue surpasses our ability to physically and emotionally ‘recharge our batteries’.

Burnout is ‘the failure of an electrical device or component through overheating. As in “an antistall mechanism prevents motor burnout” and just like machines, we are susceptible to burnout too. Burnout is a perfectly normal reaction to a situation where we have repeatedly exhausted our inner resources..

So when I take a  look at all these, here’s what stands out to me:

1)   We have got to be in good shape for farming, both mentally and physically. Just as elite athletes train, so should farmers. In practical terms this means three things: a flexibility routine every morning (and ideally evening too) during the summer; strength and flexibility routine during the winter; and some form of short meditation practice all year long.

2)   We need to mitigate fatigue by releasing the accumulation of stresses and tensions as we go. This means knowing what life-giving activities and routines we have in our tool box, and giving ourselves permission to take the time to actually do them! When we think ‘I don’t have time to do that’… the truth is you don’t have time NOT to do it! (Like thinking ‘I don’t have time to refuel my tractor.’) Again, we need to think both physically and mentally. I invite you to make a list of 50 life-giving activities. This exercise is great for getting our creative juices going and seeing which of these activities we can integrate into our daily lives.

3)  Exhaustion is not normal! It is a warning sign, similar to the ‘low fuel’ light in a car. The time has come to shift the farming culture away from thinking that feeling exhausted is a normal part of farming. If exhaustion is a regular experience for you, it’s time to listen to this red flag and make the choices necessary so that you won’t be in the same situation next year.

4)   Burnout is not failure. If you are experiencing burnout, there is nothing wrong with you. You are simply having a normal reaction to running on empty. In this day and age, it is now perfectly acceptable to talk about it and reach out for support both from our friends and family, but also from qualified professionals. The problem is never the problem… the problem is always an invitation to take a closer look as some element of our life.  

What about you?

  • What activities or practises do you find to be rejuvenating and re-energizing? What is one routine you could introduce to your summer schedule that would do you a world of good?
  • What 20% of your farm generates 80% of your stress? How might you go about reducing or eliminating some of these element?
  • What would is be like to ask for help when you need it? Would it be alright with you if life got a little easier?

Cultivating word of mouth advertising for direct marketing small scale organic farms

We all know the importance of word of mouth. Happy clients are our best ambassadors. When I had my farm, a full 60% of new clients came to us via word of mouth.

But did you know that there are actually things we can intentionally do to cultivate word of mouth… aka the talkablity of our farms.

Here is a podcast episode from the Building a Storybrand podcast that shifted my thinking on this and that I would like to share with you.


Discomfort: A perfectly normal human experience.

It has been a year since my first blog post! Wow! Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity to share my ideas with you while practicing and developing my writing skills.

However, to be quite frank… I have not been feeling very excited about the blog recently. It actually feels like a burden and I’m not sure I’m actually enjoying writing. No… to be truthful, I am not enjoying the process of writing as I am experiencing it currently.

The question then becomes– is this a good reason to stop blogging? Is it that I am currently experiencing some simple discomfort, or is it, in fact, a case of me wanting to use my time in some other way? It’s not that there is anything wrong with stopping something that is no longer aligned with our vision. However, it is important to determine if what we are experiencing is truly an indicator that we should stop, or if it is the natural discomfort we can experience as we leave our comfort zone.

When I take a good look at it, I see that what’s coming up for me is plain and simple discomfort. This is great, seeing as discomfort is a perfectly normal experience when we are up to something that is important to us and that is asking us to leave our comfort zone. Discomfort is not a problem but rather, a sign pointing to something for us to observe and shift. For me, the discomfort I have been experiencing recently around blogging is pointing to the lack of regularity in my writing practice: the fact that I have been waiting until the last minute to write a post (which is absolutely not a good way to enjoy an experience!)

What would it look like to enjoy blogging? I would do it regularly. I would savor the experience. I would experience a sense of growth and personal satisfaction from doing it. Rather than worrying about whether or not my blog was useful in terms of increasing my only visibility, I would be more interested in contributing to my readers while developing my ability to express myself in writing. I would take 20 minutes, 2-3 times per week to write and let a blog post emerge out of these writing sessions. There would be weeks where instead of writing a full blog post, I would instead share a video, an article, a podcast, or some other resource I think would be useful to you.

Boom! There we go! Here is my new vision for what my blogging experience will look like for the coming year!

Questions for you today:

  • What is an area of your life you are currently experiencing discomfort?
  • What is this discomfort pointing at for you to examine?
  • What shift is seeking to emerge in this situation for you?


Putting profits ‘first’ on small-scale organic vegetable farms

Relax! I’m not talking about prioritizing the pursuit of profits ahead of social and environmental considerations. I was just teasing you with that title 🙂

What I am referring to is how we view profit in our financial planning.

Is profit simply what is left over at the end of the year once all expenses are paid?

Building on the principle of Pillar 1, I propose we shift our paradigm and put profits first when we start working on our budgets for the coming year. The first step in crafting an empowering budget is to declare what profits (salary) you want for the coming year. In a certain sense, profit is the first ‘expense’ to be planned in a budget. 

Before: Income – Expenses = Profit
This year: Income – PROFIT = Expenses

There are two things that come out of this shift.

Firstly, we realize that we have a greater degree of flexibility in terms of our expenses (and our incomes, but we already tend to think about acting on income). This is a key element in moving towards greater financial mastery. It is easy to think we have no control over our expenses, but the reality is quite to the contrary. This flexibility exists both at the planning and the execution phase.

  • At the planning phase, the act of planning profits first opens the possibility to use our human creativity and ingenuity to see ways of modifying both our income and expenses in order to achieve our financial goals.
  • At the execution phase, we are able to keep our expenses in check by making conscious spending decisions by comparing each month how much we have spent in a particular category versus how much we had planned for. Given how passionate farmers are, it can be easy to spend too much when we don’t take a moment to pause and see how much money is actually left in that budgetary category.

FREE TOOL: Here is a spreadsheet that I have found useful on my own farm to track the evolution of my income and expenses on a monthly basis (using color coding to help me see the current situation of each expense category at a glance)

Secondly, this shift allows is to tap into the power of declaration. When we declare what net income we are willing to earn in the coming year, we set to work the immense power available to us when we focus our mind on a specific outcome. The mind is like a super-computer, it will work instantly to find answers to whatever questions we consciously or unconsciously ask it. If we want better answers, we need to ask better questions (aka, more conscious questions).

With the traditional way of seeing profit as what is left over, we are asking our mind to solve for the question ‘How can I have enough left over at the end of the year to scrape by and make it through another year?’. When we shift our thinking to ‘profits first’, we are asking our mind to solve a very specific question: ‘How can I manage my business so that I can pay myself an income of 30 000$ this year?’

The final element in this approach is to actually set up automatic monthly bank transfers from your farm bank account to your personal bank account. This way, you are actually paying yourself first. Start out at least with a baseline salary… 1000$ per month, 2000$ per month or whatever is authentic to you. The idea here is, once again, to prioritize and attribute your resources to what is most important to you first.

What do you see for yourself about this shift in mindsets?

What net income are you willing to earn in 2019?

By what date are you willing to complete an empowering ‘profits first’ budget for 2019?

Happy New Years! May health, prosperity and love reign in your life in  2019!


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.


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


  • 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!



*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!