Some people dream of a job where you work from home and you have your spouse working with you. One such opportunity is farming and owning a farm where you live and working on the farm together with your spouse or partner.
This is the reality for farmers Emma Hendel and Elliot Seldner, husband and wife, and co-owners of Fair Share Farm. Though they’re living the dream, it’s not to say that everything is perfect. They’re putting in work and effort into balancing marriage and farming. Today, we have them on the show to talk about the keys to farming and marriage coexisting peacefully.
Today’s Guest: Emma Hendel & Elliot Seldner
Farmers and co-owners of Fair Share Farm, Emma Hendel, and husband Elliot Seldner, are now running the business. Emma was a secondary education teacher first before jumping into farming with her Elliot. Now, they’ve found, and are still finding, the perfect balance between marriage and managing the farm together.
In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart
- Getting into and finding the joy of farming (02:40)
- From teaching to full-time farming (06:50)
- Resentment and making it work (10:00)
- The key to getting where they are (14:00)
- Teaching: are you leaving it behind? (16:45)
- The journey from then to now (19:30)
- Making the decision to go on-farm (22:00)
- Risk and worry after coming on-farm (24:30)
- Work relationship and allocating work (29:50)
- Feeling better about the business (33:00)
- Own territories as de facto decision-makers (38:15)
- Managing employees and division of labor (44:30)
- Keeping each other up to speed (49:00)
- Approaching decision-making (52:30)
- Making sure life isn’t just about the farm (57:35)
- Evolving the farm to match the lifestyle (01:04:00)
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Diego: [00:00:00] How do you make a farm and a marriage coexist peacefully? The key is a lot of work, a lot of communication and a lot of give and take. That's what this one's about with farmers and spouses, Emma Hendel and Elliot Seldner of fair share farm coming up. Welcome to farm small farm smart host Diego, DIEGO.
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For today's episode, it's a different type of episode. And it's an episode that I'm very excited to bring to you because it's an episode that has husband, wife and also co-business owners. They're the farmers who own run and operate fair share farm it's Emma Handel and Elliot Seldner.
Now you probably are really familiar with Elliot because he's been on the podcast several times in the past, talking about everything that he's doing at fair share farm in North Carolina. But what he's doing, wouldn't be happening. If there wasn't someone else working behind the scenes to take care of a lot of the things that he isn't doing and that person behind the scenes is now stepping into the scene.
And her name is Emma Hendel. She's Elliot's partner, both in life and on the farm. Today, I'm going to start the episode out by talking to Emma about her journey into farming and starting fair share farm. Then we're going to bring Elliot into the conversation and talk about how they make it all work. How can they coexist peacefully as husband and wife, and also as partners who run a business?
I think you're going to really enjoy this one. Let's jump right into it and start the conversation off with farmer, Emma Hendel.
Diego: So in the past, I've done quite a few interviews with farmer Elliot Seldner of fair share farm, but there's another key piece of fair share farm that hasn't been on the show before and today I'm going to introduce you to her. It's Emma Handel. Emma you're partners with Elliott both in life and on the farm. What is it about farming that is so enjoyable for you?
Emma Hendel: For me, really, the most enjoyable part of farming is getting to be home and around like really productive environment. That is just�it gives me a lot of satisfaction to see work being done and being a part of it, and I really I must say that I enjoy doing this a lot more than what I did before, which was teaching secondary education.
Diego: Coming out of the teaching world into the farming world. Was that like always a plan, sometimes people happen upon farming just because. It was something Elliot was interested in. Were you along for the ride or was this something you always wanted to do as well?
Emma Hendel: I would say I was definitely along for the ride and have developed like my own love of farming. That's separate in some aspects from what Elliot does and likes to do. Really it was Elliot that was interested in agriculture, that sort of outdoor lifestyle. And while I always have enjoyed being outdoors, I don't think that I thought that this is what I would be doing, but I am. I'm really happy to be doing it.
Diego: And when that idea of starting a farm first came up in like serious conversations, what were your thoughts?
Emma Hendel: It really all happened at the same time because Elliot and I, we met in college and that's really�like maybe two or three years into our relationship was when he started getting interested in farming. And I was like, Oh, like that's pretty interesting. He was like, Oh, how inter it might be something that you would say and somebody would say, Oh, how interesting?
Oh, I like to. Hike. And I like to do this, and I'm thinking about, maybe pursuing farming as a career in, that it's so really, it was like almost like a party trick feeling, Oh, that's an interesting thing to be thinking about. And I went along and I'm doing my own thing and we're graduating and I'm going on to a job and Elliot's doing his farming internships. So I did something interesting myself and I went and I took a job teaching overseas in Hong Kong, and I taught English as a second language for a year after school and that was really great.
And, and then I came back and Elliot, still interested in farming, still doing different internships and I was trying to figure out what to do with myself and adjusting to being back and started looking for different teaching jobs and pursuing that as a career and through many different like iterations of Elliot working one place or another, and we're moving around and doing different things. And then finally settling down in North Carolina.
I got like my first farming job with Elliot. We decided to, really get serious about farming. Had a few conversations about it. And I took a job farming full time as well. And then after that I got a full-time teaching job.
Diego: In this journey you're teaching, and then you go work full-time on a farm prior to going full-time teaching again. What was that first year of full-time farming, like when initially, this was like a party trick idea that had come up?
Emma Hendel: Yes. So at first it was extremely enjoyable for me and I really liked it. And I was feeling really successful in the job. So like I was doing a lot of good work. I was learning a lot of good things. And then like that, that job and that relationship with our employers didn't work out for me. I ended up leaving and then, going and getting a job teaching.
So I didn't even make it through the full year farming job. It was enjoyable and then it was not for me. And it just didn't work out. And so I went and I was teaching again, and that was more for interpersonal reasons than it was to do with farming for me. And Elliot and I had previously, I guess that wasn't the first farming experience that I had.
The first one was actually when, Elliot took a job managing or starting a farm and managing a farm for a family in West Virginia. And I went along with that too. And we went there, but I wasn't really�I ended up doing a lot of work with Elliot on that project, but originally I wasn't intending on like doing any of that, really.
Diego: One thing that comes up that I've noticed from talking to a lot of farm families is usually, this is the similar story. One person is really into it and the other person is supportive and into it. And sometimes it works out great. And I think in your case, it's worked out great for you guys. You've gone along with it and it's become a part of your life and you've enjoyed it. At least that's my perspective.
And other times it just builds up resentment. Coming out of a teaching role where you were doing this and you're saying, Hey, this was, there's probably a reason you wanted to teach. And you're going along with what he's doing and moving around.
As a couple, how do you make that work? Because again, this is a friction point, a pain point for a lot of people, and I know a lot of relationships, they don't survive this when it's one person's dream and not necessarily the others.
Emma Hendel: It's really interesting that you bring up, like resentment and because I'm actually extremely nervous talking about this in general. Just preparing to have this conversation with you, was really, it brought up a lot between Elliot and I, and just talking about a lot of that. So it's still is difficult. It's not that we're that far removed from that, but it's still difficult�I find it difficult to talk about.
And we did talk, Elliot and I would talk about how we both felt resentment toward each other, as we moved to working together towards one goal, as opposed to maybe having, having two separate pursuits, which is the traditional like to, and I don't even know if he would call that traditional or whatever, but if you were having a two-income household or a two-project household, you would have, you're both working towards goals, they're different goals except for, the overarching goal of wanting to have a successful household.
So you're still you're so really working towards the same thing, but you're doing it in different spheres and in different ways. And so that was really difficult for Elliot and I to figure out because all of a sudden, as we're working together, we have to have the same goals and beyond the same page about how we're getting there.
And so at first it seemed like we had to, discuss every single decision or every single move because we weren't sure who was in charge of what. And, as we really came together and both were operating the farm together, as opposed to, Oh, I am leaving every day. And what I'm doing is important too, because I'm financing a large chunk of the household income.
And at a certain point, it got to where, it would be better for us if both Elliot and I are working on the farm because instead of me being pulled in two directions where, okay, I'm teaching all day, but then I come home and Elliot needs help to make sales or input sales.
And it's something that I want to do to help because I enjoy that too. And I enjoy, like the farm and being there and working on the farm. And like I felt really pulled into directions, but then also trying to move out of having an off-farm job into being on the farm full-time was also difficult and it brought up new and different problems and resentment.
Diego: Yeah, and this is the challenge everybody goes through. I still face this with my wife. There's just so much give and take and wanting to have a real job and all the struggle that goes with trying to make your own thing work and her dream not necessarily be in my dream and just getting it to solidify.
And I'm glad you talked to that and brought that up because it's, I think it's so real. Yet it's not discussed, and people pretend like this all just happens and it's easy and we worked together and here we are successful, but I just know again, like from talking to so many people that the road to success is just littered with potholes.
And there's a lot of give and take and sacrifice and meeting people in the middle that's required to get there together. And yeah, that's the key. You guys have made it here together along the way. What do you think he has been here key to that for somebody who's, maybe in a situation where you were five years ago, 10 years ago, their partner really interested in farming, they're doing their own thing. What would you say to them?
Emma Hendel: I would say that if there's an aspect of what you see your partner doing, that you enjoy helping with like if you can find something that you really enjoy and something to take ownership in and make it into a partnership and that's something definitely to pursue.
But I think if most people are willing to put in the time and weather the adjustment, I do think that anybody is capable of working with their domestic partner on a business, but it's not going to be easy, but I think it will be worth it because you get to learn a lot about yourself, a lot about your own strengths and weaknesses. You get to know the person that you're working with better, and you get to know yourself really a lot better, or, you better get to know yourself or it's really not going to work.
Elliot and I�we didn't have a lot of the communication skills when we were like, it's interesting. And we've already known each other for like over 10 years, and we really have and have grown up together. So it's just interesting to see how much it is, much. Those skills have developed and sharpened over time. And that. We can really talk about things a lot more and figure out what the problem is and why we're feeling that way and try and solve it together.
Diego: Communication is key. And I imagine that's one of the things that assisted and made it a little bit easier to transition from going off-farm to on-farm. Before we bring Elliot into the conversation here, previously.
You were a teacher you went to school for teaching. Was that something that you really loved or was that something like, Hey, I'm 18. I decided I'm going to be a teacher. Like when I went to college, it was I'm going to be an engineer.
I didn't probably really want to be an engineer, but I had to pick something and that's what I went to college for. And here I am today, not an engineer. So going from teaching to farming was that was the teaching just like a step in the whole process or was that something like you really wanted to do? And if it was something you really want to do, how hard is it Ben to leave that behind, to take on this new thing?
Emma Hendel: I don't feel that I have left teaching behind it all. I feel like I teach people all the time working on the farm. I get to educate people about, fresh vegetables and produce at the farmer's market. We're constantly training new people that we're bringing on and adding to the team, training people on something that they haven't done before.
And that's what I'm lucky because I don't feel like I've left it behind it all. And I actually, it's keeping with a little less paperwork and meeting, but I really did want to be a teacher for a long time. My dad was in education and he actually switched careers and joined the education field when I was, like a young teenager
And I think that education in my family has always been highly valued and in teachers who were well-respected and I saw that as something, noble to be doing something worthwhile of my time and expertise and so I really wanted to be a teacher and I really did like being a teacher, even though I found it extremely stressful.
And so I enjoy getting my teaching degree. I got, I have a social studies education degree, and I loved learning in high school and I really enjoyed college and I loved all my classes and so I really loved the subject matter and I get a lot of energy from the social aspect of education, like I like being around kids and other people and, and I like to see people learning things and sharing what I know about things. So that's a really big boost for me. So it's great that I still get to, I still get to find that same enjoyment just in a slightly different application.
Diego: Hearing everything that Emma's talking about, Elliot. Looking back on the journey to get to where you guys are at today in thinking about this, both now and previous to recording, how do you think the whole journey has gone?
Elliot Seldner: [00:17:45] Pretty good. We're better off now that I'm working on the farm full-time and I listen to, which was really cool to do. I think you didn't quite represent how much you wanted to be farming after a while, because yeah, because you were teaching. But at a certain point, your heart was with the farm more than it was with teaching.
So I wanted to make that point.
Emma Hendel: You were outside all day, you were checking boxes, getting things done so much was happening that I felt like I was missing out on and I wanted to be a part of. And it took a while for me to really appreciate, get to have that feeling that I was jealous of it.
Elliot: [00:18:44] Yeah. And we were both in a grinding sort of mentality. But, Emma was helping students, but had bosses to answer to at the same time. Whereas I think I was getting more of the direct reward out of the exchange. So anyway, we're on the same page now and we own the business.
We had always owned the business 50-50, but we're actually putting in 50, 50 directly to it. And that's nice. Yeah, we�re good.
Diego: [00:19:19] Prior to her coming on the farm full-time, she's working off farm and you're working full time on the farm. Now. Fair share farm. The farm you guys have today. How did you guys find that off farm job? The benefit of that was, as she said, she was providing a lot of cashflow to keep life going while the farm was getting up and running. But then I imagine on one side, you're thinking Elliot that, it'd be great to have her here utilize her skills on farm, and it's this catch 22.
You hate to see somebody leave the farm where the home base is, but you value the benefits, the cashflow that external job brings in. So if you go back to that time, what was it like for you guys? And how did you make the decision to, we gotta get you on farm?
Elliot: [00:20:09] So after our first year, it was just me doing things that was working was teaching. And so we made some money. We earned some money. We didn't make money though. So we weren't, we had almost broke even. We were like just shy by a couple of grands. So that was encouraging for us to keep going. And we happened to find somebody to work for us for very little money who was definitely worth a ton more and really helped me like get through our second year through the main bulk of the season.
And I guess we more than we almost tripled our sales the second year with added help. And so going into year three, We felt like we had the momentum and the numbers to justify taking the leap.
Emma Hendel: But I went half time first.
Elliot: [00:21:08] That's right. Yeah. I forgot about that. Emma was teaching
Emma Hendel: Taught a whole year for, I just taught half the day.
Elliot: [00:21:16] So half the workload. so she was coming and then helping with you were doing a delivery one of those days. So that was really important because we had started, yeah, that's freed us up to start delivering in Winston twice a week.
And so that was like a really important leverage point. Once we were able to start servicing our customers, our hometown customers twice a week, our workload went down deliveries wise and picking one cause you know, any given day, cause we can start spreading that harvest throughout the week anyway.
So it just freed up a lot of stuff, and then it became pretty evident that we wouldn't improve unless I'm a came on full-time and it made more sense to for us for the cost of Emma being on the farm full time, rather than paying somebody else and having that money to go to a different family.
Diego: [00:22:05] What was it like when you finally flipped the switch and she left that job suddenly that income's gone, she's coming on farm. Were you pretty confident? And did you feel pretty safe at that time? Or was there still a little bit of. Risk and worry at the time when that happened?
Emma Hendel: I think there's still risking worry now.
Elliot: [00:22:25] Big risk, big worry.
Emma Hendel: [00:22:29] Yeah. It really was his there's no more safety net. You know where it's like, Oh, it's okay if this happened, because there's still this stability of healthcare. Or other benefits of having a job, and not just relying on our business, on what we're doing.
Elliot: [00:22:51] I remember we were like counting, like the way that your pay schedule was, we were like, okay, I'm just coming on. And I think we actually got, you got paid like for two more months or so, or at least a month. And that was like a big deal.
Emma Hendel: It was like, Oh yeah, the last few checks are still going to be coming.
Elliot: [00:23:13] So it's honestly, it's not until we feel like anyway, we could get into like how we didn't know. We were not trained and running a business, so doing the whole accounting stuff, we're just starting to get some comprehensive clarity and dexterity with that stuff. So we did not really know what was going on. We knew that we were growing a good bit of vegetables. We were selling a good bit of vegetables. We had cash coming into our bank account but that we did not really feel comfortable about. Even our sales trends at that point and stuff.
It was super uncomfortable. And then, we realized that was the time to where, like I was having to train Emma on a lot of things and that wasn't going very well. And, we just didn't have a lot of time. We didn't have time to do laundry and basic housekeeping stuff.
So we at a certain point organically developed that we set some goals, but we set the big goal of trying to get a certification. And it's not a bad goal for a farm. Just choose any certification. If that's certified organic or gaps as to logical certifications to embrace as a method to start organizing your farm.
And we ultimately decided to go for gaps, for our business for right now. But we leveraged that to start creating a language, in an organizational framework, run the farm. And we basically set that goal together and started working on that project together. And so we basically built the plan that now organizes the farm together. So before it had been my farm pretty much, and now we've basically created our farm after doing it.
Emma Hendel: And that was really my first big project that I spent after, beyond like accounting and sales and all of the stuff that I started doing, that was really the first big project that I was a leader on for the farm. And so that was. A big deal for me to help to work together with Elliot on developing what is the food safety standard here at fairs share farm and how do we do things?
Elliot: [00:25:42] Yeah and I guess the disclaimer is don't fix it on gaps. set goals together. We just happened to do well when we have an external pressure to work against.
And so we impose that on ourselves. Nobody forced us to do gaps. We had certain revenue goals that might have an issue with like compliance. So just going for gaps seemed like a way to mitigate any risk of compliance that we might have with future earnings and also help us run the farm better.
Emma Hendel: and just like a jumping off point for being able to pull the rip cord on like production, Oh yeah, we can�
Elliot: [00:26:27] Proceduralize and then a break. Break the day out into general to-do lists into, organized tax test sheets. It's a way for us to communicate with employees and to give them guidance about micromanaging, so there's benefits to that.
Emma Hendel: When you look at, when Emma first came on the farm, say on a full-time basis, how did you guys look to allocate her work capacity because suddenly having a full-time body on farm, that's a lot of labor that otherwise was not being done. Like you suddenly get all this capacity for somebody to do something and the stuff you like to do, Elliot, the stuff you're good at doing.
How do you decide, okay, here's what I want to hand off to Emma, here's this added capacity here's stuff we can do that we weren't doing. And also preserve the relationship because unlike an employee and you gotta treat employees nice, but you don't have to live with them at the end of the day and you want to make sure that everything's still functional.
Elliot: [00:27:41] Our arguments became so habitual and so cyclical that I finally realized that I needed to�and it was usually about me treating Emma poorly, and maybe, one frequent reminder from Emma to me was that I'm not your employee.
And that was how I felt so much pressure to see things perform that. That at a certain point, I felt that it was acceptable for me to treat my spouse worse than she deserved. Whereas we had actually agreed legally to split the business 50-50 when we incorporated the business officially. And so I was at, in a legal sense, I wasn't holding up my end of the bargain.
And then in a personal sense, I think some of it was unsustainable, both the stress level and the structure of the relationship, because it was like clockwork. We would start the week and eventually we'd crash and then we'd start the week over, and so it was problematic.
I don't exactly know how we resolve that per se, but we started addressing the roots of our disagreements and stuff. And then basically felt I know I felt like�our relationship was getting in the way of our goals to some degree. And so again, the gaps stuff and we started working our way out of it because we didn't like where we were and how we were feeling.
I just got a little raw there and drafted myself. This is like a little like recorded. It was tough.
Diego: [00:29:45] Well, it's tough! Because in one hand, the business is the fuel to get the relationship. To where the relationship eventually wants to go, whatever life goals, you guys both have the businesses what's going to cash flow it.
But sometimes the business I've found like that can become the thing. And it requires attention. It's for me, it's like almost having another child and it takes all the attention and it can be easy to expense the relationship for the business when the business is not the most important thing.
And it sounds you guys had those challenges. Now looking at where you're at now, I'd like, do you feel a lot better about things, Emma? I'm on division of roles and your place in owning this business and being a partner in it?
Emma Hendel: Yeah, I definitely do. I would say it took maybe I think�So like at least six months for me to start to feel comfortable and better in the day to day. It seems like such a small thing, but even our houses in better order now, it's just�
Everything is better because it seems that I really had to figure out what I was doing and like kind of push, open a space for me and find my spot. And then now� I do a ton on the farm and I have a lot of things that are really my projects. So I started doing a lot more with, electronic and social media marketing and doing a newsletter.
We purchased a software to help with inventory and other marketing. And that was really a big deal because I learned how to use it and I'm still learning how to use it. So I learned a lot about. The computer and desk operation part of a farm that I frankly really didn't even realize existed, which seems like a silly notion now, because I think every business has all these different aspects to it.
And that's why in a large company, you have different department and then division. But so that's my thing. And I do. And then, I started going out and doing like public events in groups. And things and representing the farm in, in a more public way.
And one thing that I found that I'm good at that Elliot really doesn't like to do�actually, it can be a point of friction between us, if we're stressed for time and he has to help packing up for delivery. So I really head up. The packing up for delivery and, getting all the labels ready and organizing and checking and loading and doing all that.
And then that's something I think I can speak early and say that he doesn't like to do.
Elliot: [00:32:55] I just wanted to jump in and say, when you stopped asking my permission to do things, because whenever anybody would ask me to do something, and this is actually like fairly true in most negotiations. It is the person's natural inclination to want to say no to whatever the request is. And I was just shutting down Emma left and right. Not about the merit of the idea, but maybe the timing or this or that.
Emma Hendel: But then it wasn't getting done because I had asked you to do something, if I want it to be done, I just need to go do it. And if there's a problem, we'll discuss it and fix it.
Elliot: [00:33:45] And from my side, it felt I've got a list a mile long, and now you�re something that I don't understand, because my head is buried in whatever I'm working in, doesn't seem relevant at all. And I'm not relating to what you're telling me,
Emma Hendel: Because I'm worrying about different things. And I�m like, Oh, I've gotta do this. so that I can do this electronic media thing, or I need to do this, to bring us up to this gap standard. And then Elliot's why do we need to do that? I don't understand why we need to do that. If I'm confident and I know that's what needs to be done and I do it, you know what Ellie is going to say, he's going to say, Oh, I'm glad you did that because I wasn't even thinking about it. That's going to be how that goes. And it's the same thing for Elliot too. if he's, thinking about making a sale to a chef or he wants to add something onto an order, don't ask me about it, just go put it on the order.
Diego: Given that, do you feel like at this point, you guys each have your own territory, like this is the area that I handle and it's mine and not don't touch it, but I got it. And I'm the de facto lead decision maker on this?
Elliot: [00:35:01] Yeah, pretty much. It's easier that way.
Emma Hendel: It�s a little bit less for each person to think about.
Elliot: [00:35:08] Yeah. And it's just, it's filtered out naturally and what you can't hear through the speakers is that like I'm much bigger than Emma. And so it was just a very natural sort of workload breakdown that it just seemed appropriate for people, not people.
I would work on things that I could have the most impact doing. And Emma would have the things that she would have the most impact doing.
Emma Hendel: Yeah. I did a lot of DCF work when we were first meeting.
Elliot: [00:35:43] and that's a good example of choosing appropriate tools. DCS is a well-balanced tool. So that for most operation where anybody can use it. Those sorts of things.
Emma Hendel: I'm not doing my best work. If I'm carrying around 50-pound bags of amendments, like I will go a lot slower than Elliot.
Elliot: [00:36:05] That's correct. And when we were starting out, we didn't have the resources to equalize any given task, which is something that we're trying to do now across the board.
We don't want to feel like we need to discriminate. We want to be able to hire. The right people, not necessarily for their body type, but for their, for the mind and for their work ethic and stuff. So we're working on equalizing how we do our work, but in the beginning, when we couldn't afford to think that way�
Emma Hendel: That was scary.
Elliot: [00:36:39] It does it filter it out, well Emma was going to handle more of the accounting work because she's getting, she's adding a phenomenal amount of value to the business. And it just so happens that me using the paper pot transplanter was a better use of my time. So if I was the smaller person in that equation, perhaps I would be the one doing more desk work.
Emma Hendel: And I also find a lot of them too. I'm at working with numbers and math and all that stuff is very interesting to me. SO I like entering sales and I like knowing, what we have on hand and the possibilities of what we could do and deciding, how we're going to use what we have.
Diego: So it sounds like you guys just naturally fell into these roles versus more here's everything that needs to be done. Elliot, Emma, Elliot, just assigning out categories.
Elliot: [00:37:37] Pretty much. And I think that we're a little bit more deliberate going forward about that stuff. Oh, if we have somebody coming on board time full-time and, are they young? Are they old? And then we'll try and pick and choose tasks that we feel might be conditioning appropriate. But getting to this point has been a natural, shake down.
Emma Hendel: We did not sit down and say, Oh, this is what each of us are going to do and in retrospect, like maybe that's something that would have been helpful and might have cut down on some growing pain. But maybe, we wouldn't have been able to figure out. I think that we wanted it.
Elliot: [00:38:27] We did, we weren't able to think that way back then. We didn't know how to think that way. So anyway, if we were to, if we were to start, if we were able to, if we were to work on a brand-new farm from scratch, perhaps we would have some sort of.
Deliberate way about going about that. But I think it would probably shake if it was us as the two principal members, they'd probably shake the same way. I don't see it changing right now with that said, I always liked doing the desk work and stuff because I love�To me, I'm willing to do data entry in order to look at longer term trends because that's the reward you get for doing the work.
Just like planting the vegetables, the reward is getting to see a crop coming to maturity, worth it. I think we would share the way it shakes it out. Cause I used to do a lot more accounting work. I used to do all the sales texts and stuff.
But, it was seemed highly appropriate and I'm just got a great personality for the emails and stuff. And you greatly improved sort of the structure of the sales text and things like that. Just a, it was a way to, we were adding more value to our customers when Emma came on board full time, which is something to remember, we are vegetable growers.
Our product is vegetables, but we don't get to sell it without customer service. So Emma adds incredible amount of value to our customers, which keeps us in business. So I don't know, I wouldn't have you. There's not a better role, quite frankly.
Diego: [00:40:06] And you have employees on the farm. Do you have employees that are, say Emma employees? Cause so Emma is doing a certain amount of things and maybe there's employees that need to be under her to support those types of efforts. And then there's everything Elliot you're doing and different employees there. Do you, are you organized that way or is there say one person who's the de facto employee manager?
And if that's mr. Elliott, regardless, whoever is dealing with that person will say, Hey, Emma, need you to do this. You got to go do that.
Emma Hendel: I would say that Elliot is definitely, like the leader among employees with the exception of if we're packing produce through delivery. And so that sort of like where I'm leading employees on tests, but outside of that, I would say that I would say definitely Elliot takes on that role.
Elliot: [00:41:06] and our business hasn't really been at a scale to support a structure like you're suggesting, but I could see it heading that way.
Emma Hendel: We have talked about like somebody to help with sales, but it was�we've only ever talked about it in like a future sort of context. Like it's almost like we're not quite big enough yet to warrant it. I don't know if another, if there was another employee dedicated to the different things that I was doing, if there would be enough work for two people in that.
Elliot: [00:41:48] Yeah. maybe so Emma handles a lot of the domestic stuff too, Laundry cleaning the house, which is excellent for me obviously, but correct me if I'm wrong.
Emma Hendel: Oh boy, we did hire somebody.
Elliot: [00:42:06] I was just going to say, I'm trying to say that, I think for us, like it's more valuable. It doesn't seem useful to bring somebody else on board to help manage accounts and things like that at this point, that seems like something that we want to do in house to make, to have less stress for Emma and more time to do that quality work would make more sense to hire somebody to help with domestic work.
Emma Hendel: Yeah. So we hired somebody to, help us. maintain a clean household and it's only, and it's really
Elliot: [00:42:39] with the deep clean stuff, anyway, we don't have to justify why we've done that, but I think that I think people would relate to how that shakes out Emma gets to put more value to the business during the workday, rather than splitting her time keeping the house and. I happened to be a messy person who puts all of my effort into the business and I would live in squalor. And so my standard is very personally, my professional standard is much higher than my personal sense. So it's just the way that works out.
Emma Hendel: Elliot�s areas outside of the house are. Justine and organized and they're clean, but that doesn't come inside for him.
Elliot: [00:43:22] Yeah. That's a fatal disconnect that I have.
Diego: [00:43:25] Hey, you only have so much bandwidth, right?
Elliot: [00:43:26] Justify it. I'm actually I am working on that and it's important for me to do that. so I guess that's how I would see that, but we're, we want to get to that point and it's really the person, Diego. I feel like this year, the demographics of our team, like it's been mostly men working for us right now.
It's shaping up to be like our crew's going to be majority, female. So that's going to be different. I'm looking forward to that. And I'm looking forward to hopefully having, more responsible people. I just feel like there's a little bit of sexism. I feel like women tend to be more responsible and get that rules matter for something and we'll respect that, which makes me feel like I can let those people have more space.
And have more voice and how things get done, because they're already agreeing that standards are worth keeping. So I'm very much looking to see how that plays out.
Diego: [00:44:30] Given this division of labor and division of roles. Do you guys have a process for keeping each other informed and up to speed with what's going on and issues? Do you have say one day a week where there's a meeting or is it just. We're always together. So we're always talking about this.
Elliot: [00:44:51] I'd like to formalize that more. I think if we were to have people staying on for more than a season and would become the factor of middle management, we would have, we would need to enforce a structure for their sake for communication, so that they're feeling like they're having an impact on the choices we make, which would then give us a much more formal venue to do that. But right now it usually shakes up like a Friday afternoon. We'll get a late lunch and, just decompress and we just keep chatting, whenever the mood strikes and sometimes we're not in the mood to talk.
Emma Hendel: Well, we check in about what we're going to do for the day every morning. And we have a, like the pre-council before the morning meeting with all the employees.
Elliot: [00:45:44] It's one sided. I plan the day, there's a fairly based on our sales. There's a cycle to our week. Which becomes a rhythm once you're in tune with that. But I plan the day and I tell people what they'll be doing. I'm a factors into some of that. Like I may need to assign that I need you to pick edible flowers.
And that sort of, that sort of one of the harvest things that sort of breaks down for Emma to do, but then, I�ll say that like it's rare that I would occupy all of your day with something, it's mostly, so we check in and Emma is like the free agent. She's sorta like the expediter.
She, I expedite in a fairly traditional fashion where I'm keeping employees facilitated and moving along and helping. But then I'm the sort of the fixer in a way she plugs holes.
Emma Hendel: Get getting it done. So sometimes, most of Elliot nice communication is him telling me if he needs to pull me off of, like whatever I'm doing in the office.
And so it's Hey, I really need you for two hours to do this, can you make that work? And I'm figuring out, how to make that work in the day. So that's. What we're communicating about these days.
Diego: It can be tough with partnerships and this doesn't apply to just partners who are also spouses is when you have to make a decision and maybe people are on both sides of the fence and a decision has to be made, how do you guys. Say, okay. Somebody's gotta make a decision. Somebody who's going to be disappointed or hurt around this decision. Do you each have areas that you say this is mine? And if there's a decision that comes down to it and we can't agree, like somebody's got to make the call?
Emma Hendel: I think crop planning is a good example where, or, if we're having to make a decision about something or about what we're going to grow, in general, like we're for you on that? I don't feel like that's a decision that I get to make. Like I'm going to be making suggestions or I'm going to have things that I want to do, but ultimately that's your decision because I'm relying on you to make that correct decision for the farm and figure out what's gonna make us money and get us to the next time of crop planning and so I think that's an example.
Elliot: [00:48:20] I don't know an example. I'm struggling to think of an example.
Diego: [00:48:25] if you can't then it sounds like you guys just reach mutual decisions on a lot of stuff. there's, it's not coming to where, like I have to make this decision. I'm sorry, but this is what we're doing.
Elliot: [00:48:35] Yeah. We don't really apologize for making hard choices. We tend to argue, pretty thoroughly. So yeah.
Emma Hendel: Even when you might think it's done, it could come up.
Elliot: [00:48:47] Yeah. And I think I tend to be making more choices in a way. or maybe that's just how I imagined it, but, I think we. We have, we have a fairly balanced set of values between the two of us. And we�
Emma Hendel: have very different ways of thinking about things
Elliot: [00:49:08] We do, but we tend to defer to when the point is correct, we're willing to say. I know you have to get over that shit fast because there's no point in wasting energy. If you're wrong on something, then fine.
Diego: [00:49:24] If it's just that about like pride or vanity and you're defending something, that's there on point. If you can't, if you can't realize Oh, now I see what you were saying.
And this happened a lot when we were going through, like figuring out our certification, like we wish we would chew over like a lot of fine points and really trying to figure out, what is this regulation saying? And what does that mean? We have to do it. So there were times where both Elliot and I were like, Oh, I'm sorry. I was like totally wrong. I didn't understand that.
Elliot: [00:49:56] Indecision is an energy killer, a momentum killer. And it's something that we don't really like. How can we just make a choice and hurry up and fix it?
Yeah. I have very little patience for quibbling about stuff. And the certain point that's where, when you have our image, it's we don't have as many arguments as we used to because we don't see the value in wasting that time because we're on the same team. Like we're�I feel like we have, again, we share values.
There's certain things that we've committed to. We love each other. We're going to stick together. So we have very simple foundations that were not real, there's points at which that were, we are not going to compromise. So making small decisions or who cares if we fail our gaps audit, there's always another chance we're paying these people.
They're in the business of passing us. We will get it done. So we have very strong place to come from to make choices because we are already committed.
Emma Hendel: We're also like, it's not a competition. Like we're not, we're no one. We're not, I'm not trying to beat you. You're not trying to beat me. We're trying to. Like winning together
Elliot: [00:51:14] Which is nice too, because I don't have to, we don't have to compromise, like when Emma was working teaching, there was, there were compromises made that were very frustrating. So like the business wasn't as successful because we were compromising because Emma needed to be doing other things that were just as important.
Emma Hendel: it would Elliot found it. We find it very frustrating when, if I would come home from teaching and, I would say I would have like a pile of, farm work to do or whatever. And but instead of sitting down and doing it, I would need to relax for the evening and wake up early and do it before I went to go teach the next day.
And that was difficult for Elliot to understand, but we weren't really working together at that point. Whereas if I were to do something like that now, it would be, he would just know what else I was doing in that day and like why I was doing that.
Diego: Given all these decisions and given all the time on farm. You live on farm, the farm pays the bills. How do you guys make sure that life isn't just about the farm and you don't lose Elliott and Emma, and it doesn't become Elliot. Emma fair share farm in the same circle. Can you leave the farm behind?
Elliot: [00:52:43] I don't know, not right now, we're working on it. So it's going to be, there were like 2019 is year five. It's going to be a big year for us where we're planning to get paid on a weekly basis. Decide we are paying ourselves every week rather than, we just don't know, we're just like, we're going for it. We're doing us, which means we're pulling money out of the business in a different way than putting it right back in, which is gonna let us save some money personally, like we're just going to start making the business work for ourselves a little bit.
Emma Hendel: I do think that this past year we made more of an effort to spend time with friends and, get off the farm, even if it was just for a day or for a weekend, or even for a few hours and making sure to really making sure to take time for ourselves. And so like, when I say like off-farm, it's go into town for dinner.
Elliot: [00:53:48] Yeah, like the be able to leave overnight. That's why we wanted a vegetable farm in the first place, but it's still, you don't get to leave because, you might be irrigating or filling up your irrigation tank or needing to hear, there's things that are always time sensitive given the weather and this
Diego: [00:54:06] microgreens on top of it, which is
Elliot: [00:54:09] a little bit of work every day
Diego: [00:54:12] What about even mentally just being able to like, stay where you live, just tune the farm out?
Elliot: [00:54:22] We're keeping a cleaner house, this past year cleaner than it's ever been. So that's nice for we're Marie Kondo-in the house a little bit right now,
Emma Hendel: beyond that though, we do get to spend. Like most of the time we get to spend like Saturday afternoon through Sunday, really just being with each other, doing nothing together.
Elliot: [00:54:42] To me, it seems I think we're on the cusp of some of that. And same too. Like the property itself, we've been here making a big impact on the property over the past four seasons. We're getting to the point where the best land for us to be using? Is. Almost fully exploited. So our grow, grow, grow, maybe slowing down, but so we'll be able to start filling in the lines or fill it putting in lines between the dots.
And so I made that say like planting things for beauty and to fill in the landscape and make the space. Not just a production focused farm, but also build in some of the second and third level sort of integrations of the farm, which is something that we've been looking forward to, but more Ben sort of pie in the sky.
And so being able to do that will really be rewarding because it's an urban farm, but we're in the country, but we're on the city lines. So very soon our whole neighborhood will be much more built in. So we're looking forward to creating more privacies through nature and being able to enjoy the outdoor space in our time off more.
We certainly don't have a private outdoor space. So we're looking to make that in the future so that we don't just, we want to enjoy our, we wanted, it's always been a thing for me that we spend all of our time working on the farm and we don't really get to enjoy and sit back and look at it.
And part of the one literal obstacle is that we don't have a space built. Outdoors for us to do just that. so finding time and energy to invest in ourselves and work on more domestic style project projects would be really fun to do. And you need a little free time and a little extra cash to do that. And we're just about getting there.
Diego: [00:56:44] I'm really glad you both came on today to share this, because I think in many people's eyes, you're living the dream, you work, where you live. It's a farm. You work with your spouse, you work together and that's not to say there aren't challenges. There's not stress, but this is the lifestyle I think a lot of people in this space aspire to, and why this space intrigues people so much and why so many people want to get into it because this is what they want right here.
Elliot: [00:57:19] Yeah. And some of them who said something, I said at the dinner table several months ago, things were pretty nice back then. We had folks working for us who are at this point, maturing as employees and handling responsibility, it was nice weather. And we were having dinner. I said, okay, let's enjoy this because this may be as good as it ever gets. And it's not perfect, but we're doing really well. Right now. There's no guarantees.
We're working hard to have the farm, hopefully support us for the rest of our life. I think that's what we want that can change. And that may change regardless of what we choose. So remember that it's pretty good today. Take a quick mental snapshot, file it, because. Yeah, life's up and down. So anyway, that's pretty good for us. We are living the dream, but yet, ain't perfect either.
Diego: [00:58:21] And if you look 10 years out, how do you need to evolve the farm? To match where you want to go in lifestyle. you're talking, Hey, I want to develop the landscape. Some, you obviously want to save some money. Be nice to be able to leave the farm.
I imagine for a weekend or a week at some point in time. So given that you guys are spouses, you know where you want to go in life. Is that is the idea to grow the farm big enough, where you can have enough employees, enough sales have some middle management to manage the employees so you can step away.
And so you can do some of these other things.
Emma Hendel: Yeah. Because I think once we get to that point, then there's room for more big picture ideas and really to figure out well, okay. What's, what's the next big projects and, and where we're, how can we make the farm even more successful?
How can we, how can we make it more trim and slim and easier to run and yet, so ultimately, freeing up ourselves to think about the big picture, more, take a step back.
Elliot: [00:59:35] Yeah. I'd echo that, but it was just. A shade, more of uncertainty. I think that's probably accurate. And that's where we're headed.
Diego: [00:59:45] Maybe another way of asking that is could the farm stay just like it is and get you guys to where you want to go or does it have to evolve? And if this farm stayed just like it is in 2019 and 2029, are you gonna be able to do what you want in life or would you have had to change it?
Elliot: [01:00:06] we're not done yet.
Yeah, that's for sure. so maybe in a few years, maybe. Closer to being fully baked. I
Emma Hendel: I think it's inevitable that we'll have to like, just because of like time and getting older, we'll have there will be certain day to day things that eventually someone else will need to be responsible for.
Elliot: [01:00:28] Yeah. We'd like we would definitely love to share. Well, I think we're getting the function of the farm to a point where it's. Teachable to the right people. and people of a certain characters should be able to handle this on their own. There's nothing magic about it. Sales is the hardest part but, and then, like I was saying hinting at whatever, but equalizing tasks making it so that the me of 2029, can perform at the same.
Level of output as the 2019 me, but hopefully with less effort, because I'm not going to be an upbeat, we're fighting old age, we're just starting to, so yeah, we're working on that. just whatever, just simple convenience items. How can we quit bending as much? How can we quit caring as much farming is materials handling.
So just working on that'll. Who knows. We may reach a point where it's very small improvements, but we have a lot of improvements to make yet. So how about that for being very nondescript? Stay tuned, I guess?
We don't really want to say. We have a lot of specific ideas, but we don't know, we can actually afford and implement and then what timeframe, but we are building more tunnels.
That's just going to lock in an increased volume of production on a consistent basis. So yeah, we're scaling it up production wise and hopefully. As our revenue increases fairly quickly, we are making those tasks to handle that increase in production a little bit more ergonomic. Yeah. That's the number one goal. It's just makes stuff more ergonomics.
Emma Hendel: Time efficient, so if you can cut down on spending an hour bending over to a half hour, then that would be ideal.
Elliot: [01:02:29] Yeah. Like the tunnels we're putting up now could be simply the vehicle to generate the revenue, to build better tunnels down the road, which are more sturdy and more and cheaper to operate, even though that'd be more expensive to put up. So that could be one way to go.
Emma Hendel: I don't see it as being the same farm at all. In 10 years, I think it will have to evolve and change to survive.
Elliot: [01:02:55] We want it to, and even if we weren't like the doing all of the day to day oversight, say we do get to the point where we can have far manager managers. They're going to want their own input to see it change too. And we're open to that. because it has to state interesting. Otherwise the spark will die and inevitable. That's cool.
Emma Hendel: Want to keep doing it?
Elliot: [01:03:13] Yeah. Yeah. It has to go. It has to grow. Has to change at least. Yeah. But hopefully we get it to a point infrastructure wise where those changes will be more conceptual changes in product changes in customer, tweaks to operation, but pretty much just humming.
Diego: [01:03:32] Big things in store for fair share farm. And I think you guys have built it on a solid foundation. That sounds like that foundation is growing stronger and stronger every year. I really want to thank you guys for both coming on and giving a look behind the scenes, getting raw, like you said, Elliott and a couple of points there and showing like what this is really like.
I think some people have an image of what being a farm. Owner couple is, and I think you guys gave a good representation of what it really is at least for you guys. Thanks for doing that for people that want to reach out, say thanks, give you a shout and follow along with everything you're doing, where the best places to get in touch and fall along with fair share farm.
Elliot: [01:04:21] Instagram fair underscore share underscore farm. And I dunno, email, maybe
Diego: [01:04:29] email, firstname.lastname@example.org. And then, so our website is also fair. Share farm
there. You have it. Emma share farm. If you want to follow along with everything that they're doing, be sure to check them out on Instagram or at any of the links below in the show notes for this episode. I only want to thank them for coming on and sharing their story, getting raw, getting real and getting an honest look at what this is really like.
I think on Instagram, you tend to see a lot of happy pictures of couples and families. And while happiness is great, I don't think happiness is 100% of the time you heard it in this episode. And I can tell you from personal experience, that's how it is in real life. It's not always unicorns and rainbows with your spouse.
When you're trying to run a business together. So I applaud them for sharing their story, giving some tips and advice that hopefully can help other couples out there if you enjoyed this format. And you're a couple that might be interested in doing an episode, just like this one. Then send me a message on Instagram at Diego footer.
I'd love to talk to more couples in the same conversation to get both sides of the story, to get bold pieces of the puzzle. How do you coexist in life and how do you co-exist as business owners on the farm? So if you're listening to this and you're either half the couple, or you're all the couple and you want to participate, send me a message at Diego footer on Instagram.
That's all for this one. Thanks for listening until next time. Be nice. Be thankful and do work.
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