Working on (not) my strengths

Working on (not) my strengths

Starting the Market Gardener's Masterclass

Thanks to the support from many of you, we recently started in JM Fortier’s Market Gardener’s Masterclass. I am excited to get into the nitty-gritty of bed preparation, crop-specific best practices, and irrigation system design. But, before any of this fun starts, the first topic the course dives into is…planning. Can you hear the dread in my typing?

I know the importance of planning for successful farm management, and I’ve heard all of the catchy mantras about planning. “Failure to plan is planning to fail,” “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” “Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance,” and on and on they go. I studied leadership in both undergrad and grad school, none of the rhetoric around planning is new to me.  And, I agree with most of it. Yes, you need to have a clear direction and purpose in order to progress anywhere. Simply living by the credo of “hey, I’ll just see what life brings me” usually results in life and the world passing you by. Still, goal-setting, planning, and sticking to a plan are not my natural strengths.

Natural tendencies

For several years I worked as a paramedic. The work was high-paced and unpredictable. A great paramedic needs the smarts to master the intricacies of field medicine and the wit to shoot from the hip as each shift progresses. I never knew what I was going to encounter in a night, but I was ready to take on whatever it might be. This attitude served me well as a paramedic, but when I transitioned to management I suddenly faced a new set of expectations. Conversations revolved around questions like, “how is what you are doing today moving you toward your goal for the year?” Or, “how are you progressing on your 90 day plan?” Now, I can get by in either of these environments, but speak to anyone I’ve worked with in the past and they’ll probably tell you I’m better suited for the “in-the-moment problem solving” than the “90 day plan.”

Oh, we need that high dollar generator delicately placed between a power pole and a satellite dish? Yea, sure I can figure out how to make this work.

Winter is for planners

So, what does all of this have to do with the farm? Well, we are entering the doldrums of winter and the solstice cannot come soon enough. We have plenty of projects going on, but for all intents and purposes farming is at a standstill. Still, as JM shared in the opening segments of the masterclass, this is the time of year that shapes the success of the upcoming season. Effective planning right now is what will set us on the path to meeting some of the expectations we’ve set for the year. We expect to have higher quality produce this season. We expect to have produce available for specific events throughout the year (i.e. our inaugural farm to table dinner!). And, we expect to establish a membership-based CSA this season. The only way we’ll accomplish this is by starting out with a clear direction and a plan for how we are going to stay on course.

Planning a season on the farm takes a little more work than throwing open a seed catalogue and putting checkmarks next to all of the crops we want to order. Thankfully, we gained access through the masterclass to some excellent resources to help us in the process. The planning phase for next season will take a few weeks itself. But, when we are done, we will have every detail of the season, ranging from seed ordering to planting dates to cultivation dates and even harvest windows outlined, mapped, and scheduled on a calendar. This plan will help us stay on track and optimize the space we have to produce the highest quality food possible.

When the sun starts going down at 3pm, it leaves plenty of time for farm activities like building excel spreadsheets. Wait...what?

Season 2...our first full season!

Now remember, planning is not my strength. Simply writing that last paragraph gave me anxiety. But, I’m fortunate because this is the stuff Emily loves. So, as I squirm in my seat, she’ll help us get this “Season 2 Plan” on paper and on the calendar. And, though the planning phase is a struggle for me, I do look forward to the outcome of a clear course for each day. There will be plenty of work to be done and problems to solve on a day-to-day basis, but task lists do help me stay on course. They work a little like a compass to keep me moving in one direction rather than spending hours digging a hole for some who-knows-why reason, only to realize I then need to stay up until dark harvesting for a market the next day.

We look forward to sharing more about our farm plans as they come together over the next few weeks. As I eluded to, we have some exciting things coming next season! Our first season was a whirlwind and we can’t wait to see what happens when we enter 2019 with a clear plan and fewer distractions.

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