Don’t Work Yourself to Death on the Farm

Vacation We started July with a vacation! Taking time to step away is a critical part of the business for several reasons. One of the most important reasons is that farming is truly a 7-days-a-week business. It will relentlessly grind you into the ground with no mercy, if you aren’t careful. Here is an example of what the typical work week looks like. Monday: Work starts at 7:30 a.m., with one worker picking produce for the CSA and restaurants. Another worker is doing general farm work such as fertility, mowing, hoeing, and trellising. Another worker is organizing and packing our CSA bags for Tuesday. Jay manages all this, while I work a “regular job” because, sadly, farming barely pays the bills. Tuesday: Early 7:30 a.m. CSA delivery, followed by restaurant deliveries, followed by evening CSA delivery. Carlos Transplanting Wednesday: This is a pure hard work day. Four workers show up to help. We pick, prune, hoe, till, compost, pick, plant, trim, weed, clean, mow, trellis, stake, pull crops out, put crops in, and anything else that needs done. The day starts at 7:30. Workers go home at 3:30. We work until 6:30, or until the jobs are done. Thursday: We pick produce for Friday restaurant deliveries, visit other local growers to add to our restaurant offerings and round out our CSA, and begin organizing and preparing for CSA and market packing on Friday. Friday: Friday is our most difficult day. Again, we have three workers. One worker is responsible for picking everything for our CSA, restaurants, and farmers’ market. Another worker is responsible for packing our CSA. The other worker does anything else that needs done, mostly helping to pick for the market and CSA. Everyone together makes sure that by the end of the day, the CSA is packed and everything is packed for two Saturday markets. This day often runs long and we fall into the bed exhausted. Farmers-Market Saturday: Up by 4:00 a.m. and out to the pack house to load the truck by 5:00. CSA and market produce all go in the truck and we head out by 6:45. Another worker arrives by 7:00 a.m. to get the produce going to the Union County farmers’ market. We work the market until 2:00 pm, then head over to deliver our CSA at 3:00. Finally, we get back home near 4:00 p.m. and still have to unload the truck and clean up. Another long day. Sunday: We fight hard to not work the day away, however, a few things have to happen. On Sunday we enter all our receipts into Quickbooks, decide what produce to deliver our CSA members the following week, and send them an email to let them know. We decide what produce to offer our chefs, and send them an email to let them know. We also take the time on Sunday to walk around the farm and list everything that needs to be done the following week. We create a huge “to-do” list that is several pages long. Then we schedule it out for the following week, and delegate things to the appropriate workers. This may sounds like a full day’s work, but we really hope it isn’t. We want to be able to spend relaxed time together, maybe go to church, maybe enjoy some time doing something fun like kayaking. It can be challenging. Seed Packets Not only do all these daily farming tasks need to happen, but we also have a multitude of other activities that have to be squeezed in somewhere. This includes managing social media, answering email, writing original content and articles, strategizing what we will be planting in the future, ordering seeds, and communicating with other growers and customers. So, can you see why a “shutdown” on the farm is important? It is essential we not only take time off, but also go away. If we don’t leave the farm, we will just keep on working! The work never ends. This is the first year we actually scheduled several breaks within the CSA season, which includes Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. It helps. It more than helps, it is essential. It takes non-busy time to be creative. When our brains and bodies are so involved with just getting through the day, and getting all the work done, it leaves no time to dream, improve, strategize, and create vision. Without vision and strategy, things can easily go awry. It is never good for a farmer to work themselves to death! Jay Dreaming Delegate Every week Jay and I look at our to-do list and try to figure out who we can teach to manage the tasks. We have great farm workers, and try hard to maximize their skills. Jonathan is starting to become adept at managing our CSA. He completes everything from making all label cards that go on the bags, prepping all produce that will go in the bags, deciding what to substitute if we are short on something, and confirming the label cards match the printout of  deliveries. This may not sound too complicated, but there are about a million ways to screw this up. Jonathan handles it well. jonathan-and-cullen We also have Vaden as our lead field man. Every week he gets our pick lists and makes it happen. He also has a marker board, where he takes note of things he sees in the field that need done. He organizes everything he picks. If it is for the CSA, it gets labeled and put in a certain area of the cold room. If it is for a restaurant it gets labeled, the weight recorded, and put in another area of the cold room. Lastly, he organizes how the produce for our two farmers’ markets are packed and staged. He does a super job managing lots of moving pieces. Next month I will tell you about Cullen. He is a young high school student who has been helping us this summer. He is eternally happy, which makes him a pleasure to work with. I’m still considering what aspect of our operation he should be responsible for. His skills are more than just simple labor. With this type of good help, we can do this. Without it, we can’t. Our challenge is going to be keeping these high quality workers. Farmers don’t make enough money to swing big paychecks for their employees (or themselves). People farm because they love it. I hope these guys love it. We need them.

Eat your veggies,

Robin

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4 Responses to Don’t Work Yourself to Death on the Farm

  1. MOM says:

    Enjoyed reading this, Robin! and love the pictures.

  2. Tina B. says:

    I hope you know how thankful and grateful we are for all your hard work!!!! Thanks for sharing. I had no idea. Appreciating level for what goes on just sky rocketed. You guys ROCK!!!

  3. Loretta Melancon says:

    Thank You seems not enough to express my gratitude for all you do to keep the veggies coming! Until I come up with a better way…………THANK YOU!!

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