Mastering your farm sales targets with ease and grace!!!

Ahhh.. the joys of marketing!! For many of us, we got into farming for the love of being outdoors, growing food, being our own boss, and contributing to building a better world. And yet… Money is a necessary form of energy available for us to use in the accomplishment of that which is most meaningful to us.

It’s easy to feel that we’re at the mercy of the markets. That marketing is some nebulous thing for soft handed office people. That making the money we’d love to make is a goal that is mostly dependent on luck, good weather, and keeping our nose to the grindstone. 

While there’s a certain truth to this, the fact of the matter is that there are some simple actions that can have a huge impact on reaching your financial goals. 

Profit = Sales – Expenses… remember?  Great! Let’s take a look at the “sales” portion of this equation today; we’ll dive into budgeting and expense in a future blog. 

Today I offer you two simple practices to focus your energy and bring a greater degree of intentionality to your farm business. 

  1. Setting clear, precise monthly sales targets.
  2. Reviewing those sales targets weekly with your team.

These two practices serve 3 main purposes.

Priming your brain 

The power of clear intentions is not to be underestimated.

Setting a clear sales target primes your conscious and subconscious minds to see and seize opportunities that will contribute to you attaining your sales targets. Your mind is like a supercomputer whose role is to collect evidence and find patterns…and yet we only use about 5% of our brain’s capacity on a regular basis. By giving your brain a clear search query to focus on, you unleash a powerful search engine (have you ever noticed that if you’re shopping for a certain car or truck… all of a sudden it’s like that model is everywhere but you just never noticed it.) 

The point is that hitting your sales target is accomplished through consistently taking actions that seize upon the available opportunities, moment by moment, day by day. With your brain primed to this, you will naturally be more inclined to see and act on such opportunities 

Aligning your team

The second piece of this is to tap into the collective creativity of your team (even if that’s just one other person!). To do so, I suggest you post the following chart in a prominent area of the farm…. Ideally next to your weekly planning board in your farm “control center”. The purpose of this chart is to clearly show progress towards your monthly sales target. Each week, the past week’s sales are added, thus creating a second line that represents the actual sales. 

Sample chart to review weekly progress to your farm’s monthly sales target.

Each week, take 5-10 minutes to review the chart with your team. They appreciate you giving them an insight into the big picture. They will feel more part of a team playing towards a goal. The desire to win is a powerful universal energy. As leaders, it is our role to tap into and channel this energy. You will be surprised at the ideas that you and your team will come up with, both by bringing in other opinions AND simply by getting it out of your head and being able to talk about this out loud. It’s amazing what we can see differently just by talking out loud about something.

Keeping you on track

Finally, this practice serves to keep you on track. The time to take action is in the present moment. By the time winter comes around and you finally get your bookkeeping all up to date… it’s TOO LATE to take action!! 

It is way easier to course-correct early on… Before things get out of hand. And, yes. It actually is amazing what an impact we can have on sales in those moments that they need a little (or big) boost.

Your turn

These simple practices have worked for me on my farm, for my clients on their farms (and other small businesses), and they can work for you!

  1. Set your annual sales targets per sales channel (based on last year’s sales, on projected growth rates, and on your profit goals for the year).
  2. Break them down on a monthly basis based on the normal monthly variation of sales.
  3. Inform your team of this new practice. 
  4. Start tracking sales RIGHT NOW!!! This is not only useful for market and wholesale, but also for tracking CSA sales in the coming months.

What would it be like to master the energy of money?

Ohh… and in case you hadn’t figured this out, I love this stuff!!! If you’re having any trouble implementing this, here’s a link to my calendar to book a free sample coaching session. Looking forward to meeting you!!

Mastering your weekly TimeFlow rhythm on the farm.

There are basically 3 types of roles on the farm: Producer, Manager, Captain/CEO/Leader.

Imagine that we’re a team cutting a trail through the jungle. The producers are those swinging the machetes, actually cutting the trail. Behind them are the managers; sharpening the machetes, setting up the work schedule, managing payroll, writing SOP’s etc. The captain’s role is leadership and vision. She’s the one who climbs the highest tree to see that the team is heading in the right direction, working towards a worthy goal. 

Day after day, week after week… there’s so much production work to do on the farm that it can be easy for time to fly by without taking the time to work on important but non-urgent administrative, management, and leadership actions. 

Enter the weekly rhythm!! This is an approach to scheduling your weekly workflow that has worked for many of my clients and allows for the inherent change and uncertainty that comes with running a farm. Whereas schedules are rigid and fixed, Rhythms are a flexible foundation upon which we can build. In the world of music, the rhythm is the foundation upon which the musicians can jam!

The purpose of establishing a weekly rhythm is to use your time in an intentional and focused manner so that you don’t put off important but non-urgent tasks until an emergency forces you to deal with it!

I suggest you split each day into 4 time-blocks, plus a 5th block that is the evening. Each block is approximately 2 hours. Next, dedicate specific time blocks to specific categories of actions. No need to be super specific right now about what each action is (which will change from week to week anyways), but at least block out time each week for the various roles (Production, Management, Leadership/Captain time) plus some dedicated time to your personal life. 

Then, each week, use this framework to dispatch the tasks for the week to the different categories. 

The bottom line is that if you want to take an action that is outside the usual range of urgent production activities… you need to set time aside for it. “I’ll do it when I have time” NEVER works!! If it’s not scheduled… it doesn’t exist!

So… what’s your flow? 

How would you love your week to be structured? 

What would become possible if you had time reserved each week for non-urgent actions?

Are you farming using your monkey brain?

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

Enter life coaching…

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

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

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

Your brain is 40 000 years old!

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

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

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

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

Don’t believe everything you think

The thing is…. 

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

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

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

Your turn

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

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

Relaxing and unleashing your playful energy on the farm.

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?

Broadfork farm: Being intentional, keeping it simple, and innovating!

This week we had the pleasure of stopping in for a visit with Shannon and Bryan at Broadfork farm in River Hebert, Nova Scotia.

With 4 acres of tillable land and less than 1.5 acre in actual production, Shannon and Bryan make a full time living growing organic vegetables and cut flowers and working 5 days per week (Sunday and Monday is their weekend). The farm basically follows a bio-intensive model except on a 7 year crop rotation including 4 years of green manure.

The thing that stood out to me was their desire to keep it simple. Specifically, the fact that they only one off farm marketing trip per week to the Dieppe, NB farmers market, and have no employees at the farm (except a helper at market on saturdays). They also sell to a couple of restaurants that either pick up at the farmers market or at the farm. The decision not to have employees is based on their desire for freedom and flexibility in their schedule… plus they both have had farm management roles in the past and have learned that managing employees is not what they enjoy doing.

Part of their success in keeping the farm simple is their willingness to adopt innovative techniques or to literally create them when needed. Here are a couple of photos to illustrate what I mean.

Shannon and Bryan are magnificently lazy… amongst other things, they do not like weeding. 😉 In addition to using landscape fabric to block weed, they also use a 2 inch ‘mulch’ layer of compost and plant directly into the weed free compost. I personally wonder about the long term impact on soil phosphorus and potassium levels in a system that would receive such large doses every year (which is not the case at Broadfork Farm, given their long crop rotation.)

To reduce the labor needed to spread compost, they had this self loading compost spreaded built by a local machinist.

This self loading compost spreader allows then to spread compost efficiently without needing 2 tractors or a front end loader. The spreader is capable of spreading a light dose but takes 3 passed to apply the 2-3 inch layer required for the compost mulch weed management technique.

The self loading compost spreaded drops te compost directly on the bed top without flinging it all over the place like a traditional manure spreader. One challenge Bryan noted was that the compost bridges if it is too moist. This could be addressed by the addition of a second set of beaters, or perhaps larger fins on the beaters.

Notice the overhead sprinklers in the caterpillar tunnels… a nice touch I don’t see often. Also notice that the tunnel is filled with foliage and flower crops for bouquets; a crop mix that tends towards the highly profitable crops which is a key strategy in making a full time income from the farm.

Sorghum-Sudan Grass (SSG) and forage pea green manure that will be mowed or rolled for the cucurbits that will be strip till planted next year with a landscape fabric mulch. We don’t often see SSG used in a green manure mix. I love the look of the frosted killed SSG with the peas just starting to climb up and dominate… I wonder what it will look like in a month! The SSG isn’t as tall as I would expect… late planting? Cooler maritime climate?

The use of silage plastic for occultation is so key for getting the weed seeds to germinate prior to planting crops!

Oh… and they have no internet or cell phones. I love it!! Talk about being a stand against the current IT addiction that is prevalent today! Instead, they use the local public library’s wifi 5 minutes away and have taken great advantage of the ability to schedule posts ahead of time to maintain an active presence on social media without bringing internet into their home.

All of these elements point to how intentional Shannon and Bryan are about building a farm that fully supports the lifestyle they want to live. From the very beginning Shannon and Bryan have been very specific about what they want to create with their farm. They mention the Everdale Farm Business Planning course as having been very helpful in starting out the farm with a clear plan of what they wanted and what they didn’t want. Building on that, Shannon and Bryan have made a point of finding new tools every year to stimulate the reflection and discussion of what they want and how they want to guide their farm.These range from holistic farm planning courses, to RRSP retirement planning questionnaires, to ‘backcasting’ (rather than forecasting)(ie, reverse engineering the next steps based on what your desired outcome is).. to name a few. The point is that every year, they make the time and space to reflect, discuss, and make choices about the direction the farm is headed in.

Broadfork farm is a wonderful illustration of many of the principles laid out in the 5 Pillars of Lifestyle Farming

Now, your turn….

What outcomes do you want to produce on your farm?

Where could your farm be simpler? Where might you be making things harder than they need to be?

What would a truly satisfying lifestyle look like for you?