Get Lean in 2017

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“Once you decide upon your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering yhour skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorable.”

-Jiro Ono

Are you ready to get lean this year?! I don’t mean fitting in your jeans mo’ better, I mean increasing productivity and efficiency by eliminating waste! If you’ve been keeping up with the newsletters, you’ll know that I’ve been working really hard to develop some systems that I intend to implement this upcoming season (which, is coming up so quickly). I’ve spent all week in front of the computer screen, refining some of these systems, writing out some standards of procedures, closing the 2016 books, and creating spreadsheets for better record keeping that will most definitely help me root out inefficiencies and grow my business year by year. This is all in an effort to start farming more proactively, as opposed to the reactive approach I’ve been accustomed to the past couple seasons. And I’m pumped. I’m so excited for this coming season. And daunted. Terribly afraid.

Last year was a good year, and it turns out the business made a profit! A very, very modest profit, but a profit nonetheless, even after making some bigger investments in tools to help make next year’s operations run more efficiently. I’m ecstatic over this, and I need to, I absolutely must express my sincerest THANK YOU to all of you, my faithful, beautiful customers, friends and family! I don’t really know what a typical path looks like, but most people say that it takes at least five years for a new business to turn a profit. I just finished year two. Mama, look at me now! I jest, for while the business did eek out a meager profit for the year, I have yet to start paying myself for my farming efforts… That’s right, I payed for all my personal expenses out of my personal savings account. I want to know if you’re familiar with the term, “dwindling?” At any rate, for this business to be sustainable, I need to make a living wage. Thankfully, my expenses are extremely minimal, and I’ve received a lot of support from friends and family, which they have most likely extended against their better judgement. So, to that effort, I have begun paying myself a modest wage, but I’m confident that my efforts this off season, and my continued dedication to mastering this craft of agrarian stewardship will pay off and this year will be Street Fare Farm’s best year yet!

Anyway, back to lean. When I decided to move into the camper that I lived in for two years in order to save money to expedite my journey to full-time farming, I was really into minimalism. There’s a great book by “the Minimalists” Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus called Minimalism, which I would recommend to anyone who is interested in the tenets of the ideology. It’s really not what you think. It’s not all about getting rid of your things so you can live a spartan lifestyle, shedding all modern conveniences to find meaning in a simpler life, though there’s a lot of that. What it’s really about is figuring out what it is you truly value and being able to identify those values in the things you choose to have or spend your time doing. It’s more a method of living intentionally and being true to yourself, and finding meaning in things you care for most in this life, and discarding the rest. A lot of this mentality appeals to me, especially when I decided to live in a 30′ camper and was forced to drastically downsize… If you’ve ever had a good purge, whether it’s the clothing that’s been piling up in your closet, the junk drawer in the kitchen, or you’re one of them “stackers” who has finally “unstacked,” you know how good, how liberating it can feel to let go of such waste. When there is less clutter, less things in the way, it’s much easier to move towards your intended destination and to follow a much more direct course. That’s efficiency.

I’m reading a book right now called The Lean Farm by Ben Hartman (good name, sir!), owner of Clay Bottom Farm in Goshen, Indiana, where he explains how he has applied and implemented the principles of lean manufacturing into his small-farm operation. Lean manufacturing was developed by engineers in the Japanese automobile manufacturing industry as a means to increase the efficiency and morale of their workers by streamlining the operations and eliminating muda, or “waste.” And I mean waste. They break everything down to it’s finest components to try to root out the waste, and not just material waste, but wasted movements, wasted time, wasted energy, waste of surplus, so on and so forth. The basic idea (I’m only halfway through the book, mind you) is to look at the entire system of production from the planning stage to the point where the cash hits the bank and breaking it down into each and every step, identifying whether each step adds value that will equate to increased returns, does not add value directly but enables steps to transpire that do add value, or that neither adds value directly nor indirectly. Then, you work eliminate all the latter steps, minimize the middle steps, and you have a system of generating products of value by the shortest route possible, saving time, energy, labor and money. That’s efficiency.

There is a lot available to us this day and age that does not add value to our lives, but it’s hard to be certain with everything we are bombarded with on a daily basis on the internet, social media, television, etc. I think we can apply some of these lean techniques to our every day lives, but it starts with figuring out what it is you truly value. Personally, I value personal development, connecting to nature, physical, mental, and spiritual health, productivity, self-control, and education. When I walk around, listen to the radio, or surf the web, and something catches my eye, I can immediately assess whatever is being pitched at me aligns with my personal values, and therefore could be of value to me. This is possible because I have clearly defined my values. I challenge you to figure out what it is that you value, and use that as your compass as you traverse through the day. If everyone lived according to what they value, as opposed to what is perceived to be expected of them, or trying to keep up with the Jones, or following all the latest fads, then I hypothesize that there would be a lot less waste and a lot more peace and happiness in the world.

But I digress. Here at the farm, we will be starting trays of lettuce and beets for the field on Monday! That means we’re only a month out from our first spring plantings, and only a couple months out from being back in full swing! Matt and I will be at the markets tomorrow with microgreens, oyster mushrooms, “farmer’s grade” sweet potatoes, and our incredible, edible, pasture-raised, non-GMO eggs! I fried up some of those oyster mushrooms in a breakfast scramble yesterday… scrumptious! The NoDa and Winecoff markets run from 9am til noon, we hope to see you there!

I’m super duper excited to be continuing this journey with you all. Stay tuned next week for information about our 2017 CSA! Also, if anyone is interested, that camper I mentioned earlier is still in my possession, and is for sale! Shoot me an e-mail for more information. Have a terrific weekend, and live according to your values!

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