Jordan faced challenges on the farm this year, just like any of us out there in the field. Physical and mental challenges that he had to deal with.
Right now, just postseason, when all of the problems you’ve just faced are fresh in your mind, do a mental inventory of what you’ve faced. Think about what you can do to better mitigate or handle those problems next year.
You’re not going to be perfect, none of us ever are. But we can reflect and learn, and that’s what this episode is all about.
When you think about this year, 2019, what do you reflect on? (6:40)
It’s been a tough year. Lots of ups and downs, both on the personal and the professional side. We achieved the highest revenue we ever have on-farm since 2015, but it was also difficult both mentally and physically. The tough stuff tends to stick out over the victories.
“If there’s anything I want people to walk away from this conversation with it’s that it’s incredibly important to take care of yourself, both psychologically and physically.”
By keeping yourself healthy you are going to be capable of handling the challenges of the farm from year to year. This year I’d rate myself at a 6/10. I took the year off of drinking so that every morning I’d be clear for those first hours. There are routines I wish I’d kept up; stretching and meditation. When I did take the time to do those practices it made a noticeable difference and compounding effect on the rest of the day. You end up winning the whole day if you get rolling early. I still have room for improvement. I’m hungover now doing this interview because I allowed myself to celebrate last night. It’s a reward I give myself for being disciplined during the season, but I still regret it somewhat. I’m not over-doing it as much as I used to, though, and I’m proud of that.
Do you find that you’re imposing on yourself taking on these challenges for self-improvement, or are they just a natural fit? (14:20)
“It’s important to have a daily ritual at the beginning of the day where you take time to establish agency over your day, over your thoughts and actions.”
At the same time if you keep adding to this list, to the point where it takes 30-40 minutes to review your day it can become overwhelming. It became something I didn’t want to do, but I didn’t want to become binary about the decision. I found the balance by taking just 5 minutes to establish this habit and structure my morning and it worked well.
I would rate myself an 8/10 when it came to sleep this year and it wasn’t an imposition to get the 8 hours I needed most days of the week. If you take the time to experiment and try working out what you’ll actually stick to eventually you’ll find them. Even though I wasn’t meditating or stretching 10 minutes at a time I realized that if I could just do one minute of these things it would be better than not at all. I came up with this concept that I called the “minimum resistance killer”. Even if it was just for 8 seconds, where I took one calming breath, it was worth it.
I also have this list of things that I know are good for me and I don’t have to do them all the time. I sit down and write out all my thoughts every 2-3 weeks just to get them out of my head. I found these thoughts were like weights on my ankles I was carrying around, and sometimes I just needed to shed it. If I can just do a few habits regularly that’s what makes the difference for me. Your self-care should work for you, not add stress on.
There’s a dramatically higher suicide rate amongst farmers. They need these positive physical and mental retreats for themselves that are self-driven and not necessarily chemical-driven like smoking or drinking. That’s why I wanted to do this episode with you. (28:00)
These small doses of restoring your humanity, while easy to overlook, are critical. One of the mantras I carry around is “I love myself, I’m a good person.”
“It’s common and easy to have negative self talk, but you need to realize that if you were saying these words out loud to another person they would rightfully punch you in the face.”
Another line I say to myself came from The Tallest Man on Earth “All I can do is say things will be fine.” It’s not like I’m replacing action with hope because hope isn’t a good strategy. You still need to take action and plan for the future. But you have to have faith that the actions you are committing yourself to at this moment, at the end of the day, week, year, are going to add up to something that at the whole makes your life work.
I love these things you can take with you while you work. Like podcasts you can listen to. And positive phrases like I’ve said. I also navigate the many hats, 25 or so, that we need to as farmers, down to the moment right in front of me instead of shouldering the whole year all at once. For example; we used to till our soil only with the three tines on a hoss wheel hoe. I would get out in front of a 300-foot bed and if I thought of the whole job from the beginning it would’ve been impossible. Instead, I thought of it one second at a time, and by narrowing my timeframe I could step one foot in front of the other instead of being overwhelmed by not just that task but all the other tasks I knew that were coming after it.
You need to find ways to start that conversation positively. Farming is riddled with tasks that can inevitably suck. So you need to either buck up and take it or find ways to make it fun and challenging at least to get through so you are not mentally crushed when you start and when you finish.
Ideally, it’s exciting when you start and challenging, but in a good way, while you’re in it, so you’re conquering that thing instead of it conquering you. (37:30)
It’s not going to last forever. Telling yourself, as I learned from a Buddhist monk, that “I have an ocean of endurance”, is one way you can get through it. Just like the little engine that could. That can make a big difference.
We often over-impose busy and urgency on ourselves. The business isn’t going to collapse if we let go of the extras. You let these things go and no one notices. That even comes down to some self-care. We don’t have to do a lot to be our best selves, just some things consistently. (46:00)
You have to be able to remove some of the drudgeries in your life. What is the 80% from the 80/20 rule that is important and what 20% can I cut out? I’ve tried to think about removing the tasks that are optional and also the long term picture of what I’ll need to offload. Eventually, I’ll be in my 50’s and not want to do the physical tasks around my farm, I’ll look to hire employees to keep doing this work.
The biggest challenge I’ve seen on small farms is when you do not have employees. Once you get someone in there it doesn’t all fall on your shoulders and you can choose your battles. It’s not easy to get to this stage, but important.
There are other people who bare the cost of you being overwhelmed, such as your family. Thinking about it from the perspective of my children, I have to consider; are they seeing what I’m going through and absorbing that? (49:00)
There’s a major motivation behind thinking of others. If you can’t do something healthy for yourself think of your loved ones, like children. The way we’ve implemented this on the farm is to think of the low hanging fruit and focus on it driving the farm. Microgreens earn 40-50% of our profits but are a 2-3 hour repetitive task every morning. Now I take 10-15 mins in the morning to orient my employee and then hand the task off to him. This employee even prefers it when I’m not there now since they can concentrate and not have to worry about all the additional stuff I came up with.
Now when I come home, I’m a lot more pleasant to be around. I’ve identified more low hanging fruit this year. If you take the time to do this each year and implement it eventually you will have a smooth-running operation that will allow you to operate successfully and without stress on yourself and others.
Ask your loved ones that know you the best for a review of how you acted this year when you were at the busiest part of the season. Thinking about your 2020, what do you think would make you better next year? (1:00:00)
First of all, I’ll take that advice and talk with my partner and ask her for a review of how I did this year. I’ll also try and get better at estimating what can get done in a day. It’s easy to underestimate how much a job will cost or how much time it will take. Next year I’ll estimate at 70% capacity so when things happen, like greenhouse plastic ripping, I’ll have room to get those things done without being frustrated.
While we all acknowledge farmings’ many challenges, there are not just tools but techniques out there that can be of great service. Just taking the time to reflect on what works well for you without the pressure of making it work right away can make all the difference, one bed foot at a time.
Lastly, Jordan would like to extend an offer to whoever wants to write about what they’re going through right now to write him. He might not be able to get to it right away, but even just getting it out can be beneficial. His email is Jordan@MapleBloomFarm.ca and he will get back to you eventually.