“You don’t come to Toyota to work. You come here to think.”
– Taiichi Ohno, father of the Toyota Production System
Working in your farm, have you ever thought of whether or not you were doing too much work on the farm, and that maybe there were ways to cut down on the work while maintaining your productivity? If so, then today’s episode is for you.
Today we’ll be talking about the concept of lean farming—reducing waste activities in your farm to improve efficiency and therefore saving you a sizeable amount of time and energy. We have Ben Hartman, the lean farmer himself, on the show today to share some principles on how to apply lean thinking into your farm’s production system.
Today’s Guest: Ben Hartman
Ben Hartman is the owner of Clay Bottom Farm in Indiana. He authored The Lean Farm and The Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables that talks about sustainable farming built from a sustainable system. He also offers several online classes including market growing masterclass on efficient organic urban farming.
In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart
- The lean perspective: principle vs. technique (03:10)
- Learn the principles and how they apply to your context (06:30)
- Lean thinking for the starting farmer building a business: ecological health of the farm and economical health of the farmer (13:15)
- Four principles of lean farming (15:40)
- Organize your farm with the 5-S system
- Store tools as close as possible to where you’re using them
- Precisely identifying value of everything from product to effort
- What the customers want
- How much they want
- When they want it
- Customers are who define value (50:10)
- Cut out the activity that isn’t adding value, “muda” (58:40)
- Type one muda: necessary activities
- Type two muda: activities that are truly pure waste
- “Kaizen”: continuous improvement and efficiency (01:14:00)
- Being nimble and flexible by understanding what customers need and want
- Continuously removing more and more waste from your system
- Organize your farm with the 5-S system
- Creating a mental red-tag holding area (22:00)
- Freeing up time with lean principles in farming (32:15)
- More time on the farm doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more time wasted (37:45)
- Making a difference with eliminating what doesn’t add value (43:10)
- Customers are who define value (53:10)
- The push and pull dynamic in a heavily pull-based lean system (55:45)
- The difference between pushing and educating about produce (57:30)
- Constantly checking and rechecking if what you’re doing is adding value (01:05:20)
- The 15% rule: keeping work fun with experimentation (01:11:15)
- The Lean Farm: How to Minimize Waste, Increase Efficiency, and Maximize Value and Profits with Less Work by Ben Hartman
- The Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables by Ben Hartman
- Ben Hartman’s Lean Market Growing Masterclass
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Diego: [00:00:00] You don't come to Toyota to work. You come here to think. That's a quote by Taiichi Ohno. One of the founders of lean thinking, and it's one of the tie-ins to today's episode, focusing on lean farming with the lean farmer himself, Ben Hartman. Welcome to Farm Small, Farm Smart. I'm your host Diego, DIEGO.
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Today's episode begins a series of episodes that I'm going to be doing with the lean farmer, Ben Hartman. I'm going to be trying to do an episode with Ben every month for the foreseeable future. We're going to be talking all things lean from the technical concepts and principles. Like you'd find in his book, the lean farm to the more practical aspects of farming that he uses at Clay Bottom Farm.
I'm really excited to start this series with Ben. I think you're going to get a lot out of it and I think you are going to enjoy it. I think Ben's work. And the principles that lean farming is built, a bond can change any farm and make it better. The key here is these are principles.
These are ways of thinking. And if you apply these ways of thinking to your farm, it's going to make your life easier. And the great thing about these principles is they often don't cost you money to implement. It just takes some time to look around and notice things and then apply them. So as this episode and this series progresses with Ben, think about how you can start to apply some of these principles to your farm.
Diego: [00:02:32] And today we're going to start at the beginning. These are the four base principles of lean farming and how to use them on your farm. Let's get into it with farmer Ben Hartman.
When it comes to the lean system. I think a lot of people like to focus on techniques versus principles. You see this with many things�permaculture, small scale farming. People think that a broadfork or swales is the concept, but it's much more broad than that. And lean, I think is the same way I wanted to take today and really set the stage and talk about some principles that make up lean. When you think lean regardless of lean farming or not. How do you view it from a principles level versus from a technique, this-is-how-you-apply-it level?
Ben Hartman: [00:03:25] That's a great question because one of the biggest mistakes new farmers will make is to copy technique. And the reality is that the specific techniques, tools that you're going to choose to use on your farm are going to be very unique, your context.
And so it makes sense to. To learn and broad range of techniques and choose the techniques and tools that do actually make sense in your context. So if you, follow my technique exactly in your context, it will not work cause your soil type is different, your customer base is different. The crops you're going to be growing is different, your microclimate is different.
You most 99.9% likely chance that you are going to need to develop your own unique. Technique for your own context. And one story that, that lean management Toyota, that, that they took is of Americans coming over to observe their process at Toyota. And I, then they will go home and copy their techniques.
So one example would be a racking technique where Toyota uses to parts in racks, and they had developed an automated system for racking parts that go on in their vehicles. And Americans came and observed a system. They went home, copied the system, and the next, year the Americans went back to Toyota and observed the racking process.
And Toyota had completely changed that they completely got rid of that process. And we're onto a completely different process for parts a lot, but, and the American said, what's going on here? We just invested millions of dollars in this racking system based on what you guys were doing and here you totally scrapped it.
And the managed it to you to say this, because you can hear you observed our technique, observed our tools. But you did not understand the principles behind our process development is much more powerful to understand the principles that underlie the thinking of successful farmers than it is to copy their technique.
Diego: [00:05:27] Yeah, I think this is pretty universal in terms of being a human trait. Like I know I have made this mistake before, like when I started running businesses and doing things of you, see what somebody else is doing, that it's working for them. You copy it blatantly.
It doesn't work for you. And then you're left thinking, Oh, my business is no good. I'm no good. It's just not working. When you need to step back when you're starting in your new, and this is really hard to do, and just say, okay, what's going on here from a zoomed out perspective, how are they applying some broad principles to make those techniques work on their side? And where are the similarities that I can apply some of those broad principles to?
And I think the hard part about that. Is when you don't just blatantly copy and you have to go through this exploration, like you're talking about you're bound to make mistakes, you're bound to make errors. And that might mean wasting time, wasting money.
So how do you give new farmers the confidence to say, follow the principles, learn the principles, take time to figure out how they apply to your situation versus just saying, Ugh. Copy what I do.
Ben Hartman: [00:06:41] and notably, to be a bit of a devil's advocate, it is a bit of a mix. There are some techniques that you simply have to learn. You have to know the basics is soil preparation. You have to know the difference between a unleaded, gasoline and diesel fuel. For instance, there are some things you have to learn that, are not necessarily principle-based. however, I'm always struck by how much is principle based. And there are actually just four, there are four main lean principles, that we use that power, our farm.
They're very powerful principles that are used in a lean business is all over the world. that were first identified by the rice farmers who started to work at Toyota and very powerful concepts. And they propel every decision, make every tool choice that we make every process that we come up with.
All, I'll go back to these four principles and the best farmers. I know use some version of these four principles on their farms too. And farmers who are not making it, who only lasted for a season or two have missed the boat somehow on these four key principles.
Now from a marketing and sales standpoint is much easier. To sell your technique and to sell tools than it is this whole process. And then there's the sell thinking and principles. So if you go to a farm conference, the line goes around the building, leaning up to the new tool vendor. Okay. Or someone who says, Hey, I've got this awesome technique.
Oh, I use where I have no weeds on my farm. Okay. That's intriguing. As they're sexy vendors, the vendors staying there saying, Hey, I've got a better way of thinking is going to have a very short line or say, Hey, I've got principles at work that might not be as sexy of a concept. However, it is just as if not more important to understand principles behind successful farming than it is a specific techniques.
And so with my, the educating that I do workshops I give an online course I'm developing. I try to infuse the principles, the way of thinking behind the techniques that I'm describing, because I do believe in our technique, we've designed 10 growing season, honing growing seasons, honing very powerful and very efficient techniques for growing our food. However, these are techniques that are tied to the principles and not, and these techniques are not going to be universal. They're not going to work in all contexts. And I try to explain some reasons, two layers of plastic makes sense on our greenhouse in our context, but that aren't necessarily.
Two layers of plastic don't make sense in your context, or are a steak and weave tomato, trellising system, our lean and lower trellis tomato trellising system. Some of the Dutch, pruning methods we use why they make sense for our types of crops and customers. And I'm going to give you some options for techniques that might make more sense in your context.
Diego: [00:09:37] And it goes back to just understanding the bra or concepts, so you can apply those individual techniques where and when if needed. And it's interesting that point you make around tool vendors and conceptual vendors. I feel like in America now, it's if you can buy something, it almost feels like you've done it. Like I bought that new tool. So now I'm productive. I did something I made forward progress.
It feels good too. Spend the money, get the thing in hand now you're professional now you're moving on. When you study a principle, when you study a technique, a lot of times you're not getting that same instant gratification.
There's no, usually there's no transaction taking place. So there's it. It's an ongoing study. It's somewhat of a look within and. In a loud society. That's throwing information at us to pause and look at what we're doing and focus on us. I think can be really hard for people these days.
Ben Hartman: [00:10:39] I think it is, we're in a superlative, advertising culture too.
We're superlative sell product. And what I mean, is that a farm or any type of business? Like a. you see this model all the time, making million dollars a year, selling a beach front real estate or make millions of dollars selling this or that product or doing this or that business model. And it's all about making more money than the next person and that our farm makes the most money per square foot or per acre or whatever.
And what lean comes around it, lean is very counterintuitive and says that, Hey, you might be able to make a lot of money with lean and people certainly do use lean concepts to boost their farms economically. however, with lean, you can also waste a lot less on your farm waste, a lot less time, pay your people more, or, enjoy a better standard of living on your farm, achieve a higher ecological standard on your farm, through waste elimination, and it's much broader.
And it's also about, frankly, respect for animals and for the ecological system around your farm and for the workers on your farm and to maximize the volume. Maximize the true beauty of your farm. Yeah. By respecting it and not just pump and not just raking as much money off that one-acre plot or whatever you have as possible.
Diego: [00:12:10] Being devil's advocate. I could say Ben, you're somebody who's done this successfully for 10 years, you have a business that works. You're settled into your niche. You have a customer base. You can think about these principles and refine your farm and move it closer towards perfection versus somebody who's just starting out where in a lot of ways, it is all about the money because they have bills to pay.
They might have a family to support. It's a new business and it needs cash to survive till next year, when we started thinking about these lean principles in this episode and in future ones, how should a new farmer who's focusing on startup and building our business? Think about lean, because it's great to say I'm going to eliminate waste, but if you're eliminating ways that the near term detriment of your business, or you're taking some capacity away from, Hey, I just got to hustle and get sales right now. How do you balance those out?
Ben Hartman: [00:13:13] Perhaps my favorite author is one little bit free and he's a farmer from conduct syncope and, has been writing for decades about the wrong track that our agriculture is on and animal. My favorite question is agricultural choices must be made by these two inescapable standards.
Number one, the ecological health of the FOA. Number two, the economic health of the farmer. So to stay under dragger culture, the ecological health of the farm and the economic health of the farmer. Those two have to go hand in hand. And when we separate the two, when we just look out for the economic health of the farmer, and then we are just raking as much money off of our land as possible and to the longterm debt, detriment of environment, and ultimately the health of our communities.
When we just, when we focus too heavily on the ecological health of the farm, and I love permaculture systems and I love, natural farming and we use organic grain methods on our farm. however, one challenge I would sometimes have to, the permaculture. the permaculture community. And then some cases, the organic farming community is that if you focus exclusively on the ecological health of the farm, then you can very quickly create a system, that is economically unhealthy for the farmer.
The two have to go together. And so this might be a good segue to talk about what are the four lean concepts that we have found to be very powerful on our farm and that apply to other can apply to new farmers especially, and these are concepts, they're principles, they're ideas. However, there are, I want to talk about some concrete steps behind each of them that any new farmer can take.
Diego: [00:15:01] Yeah. And these are four principles that you've gone and refine these go beyond the five principles listed in your book, the lean farm you've condensed them down. So in your new online firstname.lastname@example.org, people can learn more about these four let's start talking about them.
Ben Hartman: [00:15:17] So the first principle that we found that over the long haul is the most, is very powerful for many growing seasons is to organize your farm with the 5s system. And what this means is to, become ruthlessly organized and the main idea behind this is, every minute that you spend tripping over yourself, tripping over hoses, looking for that shovel, or every minute spent looking for your knife, looking for the, the knife sharpener to go with the knife. This is all wasted time, that eats in your bottom line is very simple.
They're very simple to correct. Okay. And, there's some counterintuitive ideas behind it. So the first, first way to the first, so the 5s system, each of the S�s corresponds to a step, an organizational step and the first is sorting.
And so essentially what you want to do is keep. In your production here. Yeah. Only the tools, supplies that you are using on a daily basis, they add volume to your product for your customers. Okay. And so if you have a podcast studio, there's probably very little you actually need that you're using on a regular basis to add value for podcast listeners.
And that is what should be in that serious place. Everything else should be somewhere else. Okay. And I do off the property and, in a farm context. I think it's okay to have what they would say, calling me in a red tag holding area that would be a corner of the barn, or another building that you put stuff that you're not using saying.
And an old Massey Ferguson tractor that you inherited from your grandpa that you love, but it's just not part of your production system, or say it's, Oh steaks or rollers from an old tomato trellising system. You're no longer using, but you're not quite ready to get rid of them. So I'll put those in that red tag holding here.
Yeah. Which means they're physically separated from the rest of the farm. And then in your farm environment, in your works should only be the couple hose that you're using. You only be the amount of plastic you need that growing season. If you're using a plastic culture system, only the inf the tractor influence that you are actually going to use that season, should be in that works.
And w we have actually a physical line of separation. there's a lane that goes through a narrow passage, through a cluster of turkeys and everything that's on the South side of that narrow passage is our production environment. And we keep on the South side, only the items we're using that growing season, the best of tools and supplies and everything.
On the North side, we do have a barn, a storage in the North, and that's going to hold old. Irrigation parts. some old implements that are on the way to the auction and, just stuff we're no longer using that are gonna trip us up throughout the growing season. And their reality is this stuff on the South side.
There's very little, we only need a handful of hose. you only need a certain length of drip tape. You may only need a few, so many irrigation risers, like 10 or 12 irrigation, risers, trays for starting our seedlings. We don't need to have room fools of old, old dusty break, broken down trace to start our seedlings.
We just need a small pump pile of them. And so a practice at the beginning of every season is to. Go through the South side of the wooded passage and make sure that only items we're going to use the next growing season and the fair and everything else gets moved to the North. And then there's produce equipment supplies, auction every twice a year in North.
And so if we haven't used those items, by the time the auction rolls are on, we're going to send them off or ship those items off to the auction. So very powerful concept. And this is a great example where what you are going to keep is going to be different than what I'm going to keep. However, it's important to understand that principle and most successful farmers.
I know, but do understand that principle that you cannot be, you cannot afford to keep supplies, materials on hand that you're not using, you simply can not as the profit margin is too thin to be wasting time and storage, money to store these items and time tripping over them.
Diego: [00:19:36] Yeah. I think that goes back to one of these things that a lot of people who collect stuff have of, I bought this, it costs this much money. It's still worth this amount. I might need it someday. How do you counter those types of responses?
Ben Hartman: [00:19:51] I sure. it's the designated red tag holding area. If you're someone who procrastinates and in getting, or if you're someone who's consistently ambivalent about deciding whether or not to keep a tool or an item, if there's any ambivalence whatsoever, get it out of your production environment in farm without it, you'll probably be amazed.
You probably learned that you actually didn't need it. how we're getting out of your production environment in farm with outfit and, don't be tripping over it. Ambivalence, there does take a degree of decisiveness. If you're going to be a successful business owner, you have to say, this is the direction we're going and we're not going this other direction. And so you need to learn that skill of decisiveness and separating your items. is one way to build the hone those most muscles.
Diego: [00:20:40] I think I've always found fascinating about your work and about lean is tying it over into the time management time organization space. Because I think this idea of creating like a mental red tag holding area is also equally important.
If you're starting a business and you have another job, or maybe you're doing something else on the side, a hobby. At some point, you need to focus down on your efforts and where they're being spent and you need to have this mental red tag holding area for, Hey, I have a full-time job. I'm doing the farming thing now on the side, my hobby, all non-requirements need to get red tagged because otherwise they create this mental clutter that you're just tripping over and that creates problems. And also thinking at it from the mental side of things eliminating. Tools and extra stuff and equipment around the farm. Or a business or home, it just reduces choice confusion.
there's this whole concept of choice fatigue. If you have to constantly make decisions, you were out the part of your brain that does that every day, very quickly, where it's, if I have one hole. That I use to cultivate with. I know when it's time to call it the fed, I go grab that hole and move on the sit there and say, Oh, do I want this one or this one?
So I'm eliminating my brain from having to make that decision because it's already been pre decided for me. And that little bit of mental power can go towards something else. And it's a very powerful principle. It's why people like Steve jobs and Mark Zuckerberg always wore and wear the stuff. Same thing every day that you're not making these types of decisions.
Ben Hartman: [00:22:23] This is a very powerful concept. We keep to Dewitt half-moon hoes. So a new farmer. This is a tool that I think is essential, because it is, a tool that can, have a sharp point. And so it can take out small weeds and it's strong enough. It has that strong goose that it can be used as a grubbing hoe or hoe that can really knock down taller weeds.
It's a very. that brought application, we management tool. And so we keep a couple of them and then we keep a couple of smaller wire weeders, that Johnny sells a LA Coleman is a faint, orange wire weeders. Those are very, very useful, very powerful tools for when weeds are very small and we need something that can weasel around their crops more efficiently than the half, and then we keep.
We keep a tine weeder made by two bad cats, a Vermont company, and this flex tine weeder is a tool that will, we have a 30 inch wide version. So it goes over an entire bit of crops. And, what it will do is leave the crop that you've transplanted in place. And disrupt the tiny weeds underneath your plants.
And you wouldn't think that would work, but it's very powerful and does work. And I found that's a, and as long as you hit it, when you're you want your, we transplant our crops, then we'll wait a couple of weeks to let those root systems get us wished. And then we'll start tying weeding. And we'll time read a couple of times a week, a Greg using this rig right over our crafts in my online course will have a lot of videos and shows more specific technique on how to use this tool.
how are some very powerful on our farm for wheat elevation? So how are my points to say that's all we need for weed manage for weed management tools? We don't actually keep, we're in that, so I would recommend new farmers get yourself. I do a half moon Hill and pick a couple of smaller hose, the hose that and nicely, for the smaller weeds.
And if you want to try the time we are go for it, that probably not as essential for brand new farm. that's about all you need for your early weed management. And then my best weed management tip. We're going down, we've met rabbit hole, but I want to talk about how we apply this thinking. And so it was a good way to get some specifics.
So my best weed management tip is to actually use no tools. And we love processes and techniques that actually eliminate supplies and tools, because like you're talking about it. You want it, there's a fatigue that happens. That analysis process you want to. Consistently simplify your systems. And every year we should farm as fewer tools and fewer supplies than we did the previous growing season.
Our systems should get simpler, not more complexity here, and we should build more value for our customers are we should be able to charge more for our crops and should be able to produce more with less. Parts every season. So that's why lean is about more with less. And I live this way. I love it. And it's very counterintuitive because you go to the conferences.
it's about more, with more, I think, more implements and more tools than you can produce more, but actually lean says there's a better way of doing it. And it's so powerful on a small farm where there's only one or two or three or four workers on the farm, especially to keep a very simple system.
And the simplest way to manage it, we use is prevent them in the first place. And so what we will do is make sure we do our bed preparation, ideally a month ahead of when we're seeding, especially with direct seeded crops, like solid greens. I split an inch seated crops that appreciate having no weed pressure.
We're going to do our full, rounded bed preparation, including a deep tillage. If we have steps would be using a broad Forker chisel, plowed his deep tillage, then we'll, till to break up chunks, we're going to add fertility at our composts or granular fertilizers, and then we'll tilt, and round of shallow tilling to.
to make sure we have good seed, nice from seed, and then run all the art to power. Harold is a great tool for doing this. you can buy rollers, two that now fit behind a BCS tiller. These are great way to give you a fine Tilth and a level compact seed for your exit leading into. So we'll do that final round that tilt lean.
I should say there's a tilt there too, that Johnny Seldin calls the tilter. that's a battery tool operated and we used that for several seasons and I don't, it doesn't work in our context, the ears, too many sticks in our compost, and I found it to be a common, clunky tool to use. We prefer not to use that for our final tilting.
We use, we just use an 18 inch BCS with a tiller. Behind it. And then I'll just stay very close to the surface with that tiller, just an inch or two, just tilling the top into, and then use a mesh roller behind it to compact her soil just a bit. Anyhow. So we'll go through those steps preparation a month ahead of before we planned.
Okay. And by thinking ahead, we're gonna limit our weeds. And so during that month I might let a crop or two come up and then tilt again. Okay. So shall skim tilt, take out that. those kind of leads those weeds that are just coming up, and then we'll plant into what is effectively a stale seed.
And we're not going to have any weed pressure. And I love never getting out of ho and so many crops this year, most crops that we put in, we never got out. We just seeded in harvest and these are true value adding activities. we'll get into a volume adding versus mood or waste a little later, but so that's where you're.
Your farm really makes money is when you don't actually pick up the hoe and you just focus on seeding and harvesting and getting your crops off your customers. Now let me explain a couple of, so that's what we do. A couple other options, use a big sheet of plastic or silenced tarps a spread out and do that bed preparation.
I just mentioned. You'll get a nice firm, clean, a level it's deceit into. And we actually 36 inch wide as our boat is our current width of our beds that fits our 18 inch tiller very nicely. And we can straddle 36 inches, easily. Anyhow, so get your beds prep and lay a tarp out over them for a month.
Before you seed into them. And the tarp does the same thing. Sweets come up, kills them, less weeds come up killed. And by the end of a month, you'll have a relatively weed free area to see your crop into. We choose not to use tarts because it's a thing. we tried farm with as few things as possible, and it's just simpler for us to not use the tarps are a bit of a pain for one person to manage and take quite a bit of room just, or in the mice, love to get in there and chew them up.
And P and M and I would just prefer avoiding them. However, in a lot of contexts, tarps are going to make sense and then don't want to discourage you from that technique. another option, a friend of mine, Michigan, grows acres of carrots. And he will lay down plastic with a bed shaping plastic Lang implement.
He uses the same notes, bed shaper for a compact tractor that I use sold by the notes pro supply company. This makes a beautiful res. And puts plastic over it and it folds the edges of the plastic in, and this is the same tech common technique. People are using plastic culture, production, broccolis and tomatoes, all, any crappy put into plastic.
He's going to lay plastic for his care, which seen it's the wrong thing to do because you're directing carrots. He'll do this, he'll lay plastic a month ahead of when he's going to drag seat his carrots. And then he's just going to peel off that plastic. And direct seed has carrots. And that plastic has that bed shaper has created beautifully loose, raised beds for his carrots and his plastic has taken care of his weed management.
And so he can plant carrot, seed carrots and know that he's going to have a successful harvest and little to no. Anyhow. So this is an example of simplifying our systems using fewer and fewer things. And preventing mood or mood, meaning activities that are not adding value for a customer.
Diego: [00:30:40] And it ties into one of the base principles in your book. And I think in lean is present capacity equals waste plus work. If you're removing all this waste, be it by pre-emergent techniques or controlling weeds. You're leaving just the work side of that equation. So you're adding to your presence now, which means you can do more things on the farm or more things off the farm.
And I think we're coming off of a time of year, as we head into the fall here. Where people went through a busy summer. And what would you do with an extra hour or two each week? If you could use this type of thinking in the off season to save you that time next year? I think a lot of people would love to have some of that time back or gain that time in the future.
Ben Hartman: [00:31:27] And that's the whole focus of my online course is teaching you techniques and ways of thinking that free up that time, because it's one thing to farm. It's one thing to make a lot of money farming. It's another thing. To make money farming. Hi, and do it work week. So you have time and energy for your family, friends and for other pursuits.
Okay. And that's what makes our, my course unique. And that's what makes my teaching unique is I focus on efficiency and I focus on time management. So you have time for other pursuits and you're not burning it burning out farming. Let me tell you this story of this, just this past growing season for us, because this is a very different type of a growing season.
We sold our farm, the farm that is featured in the books that I wrote. We sold that farm about a year and a half ago. And we moved to a blank slate, a bare piece of land, and we had this challenge of quickly billing a new farm and setting up our infrastructure and being able to pay the bill. Okay. And so what we did that first, the first winter over the winter last winter is my farm worker and I built a large.
Large greenhouse 34 foot by 148 foot wide greenhouse or long greenhouse, and took us all. Winter. Hower is a piece of infrastructure that has proved very powerful, this growing these, and we made a lot of money out of it. We built a rudimentary processing area about the size of a one stall garage, instead of her washing tanks.
And attached to lean, to propagation house, to it. So basic infrastructure, in started farming and I, this year we're billing and Barnhouse. And so it's, a resonance will be on the East half. And then the West half of his will be for our business. It includes that processing area. I just mentioned, plus ordinary for attractors and supplies and tools and propagation house.
It compresses all the functions of the farm in one building. Anyhow, the point is I've got a lot to do this year, besides farming. I have a lot of building construction to happen. And so we said, okay, Ben. Let's we have got two kids. Rachel spends most of her time with those two kids and she does her marketing and sells our products at the local farmer's market.
We said, okay, Ben, you're going to farm. just three, three mornings a week. Can be morning was the morning and Friday morning. And the rest of the time, we're going to focus on building this barn house because it's hard to find contractors in Northern Indiana, right? Oh, if you do find them, they're charging arm, real leg.
So I'm doing a lot of the labor, on my own with some help from our farm hands. And now we're saying that. The volume, adding farming activities are gonna happen on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. And we immediately, because we have the greenhouse and rudimentary infrastructure and had efficient processes that I brought with me from the old foot farm.
we started selling around $3,000 a week, when our first crop started becoming ready in mid to late. and we're going to shut down the farm here sooner than normal so that I can focus on finishing up the Barnhouse. over the winter here. However, the point is with just three mornings a week, we're able to get to that $3,000 a week sales target, and it's me.
And one or two helpers. one or two paid staff, people who help those three mornings a week. And then the rest of the time I have to do focused on building the house. And I spent time with the kids, especially while Rachel at our markets. And so the point is you don't, I actually have this and a lot of time on your farm.
If you have developed techniques and process, these that can shave the waste out of your process, you can free up. You can free up lots of time, a lean, they call that capacity. We free up lots of capacity without spending more money. And usually the way farmers add capacity is they keep on working past 5:00 PM and go until nine or 10 in the evening.
And sure. That's another way to add capacity with two young kids and my wife and I are both artists. I enjoy ceramics doing pottery. she's a jeweler and makes. Wonderful pendants. and in other silversmith, some were Smith, projects. And so we want to have time for these other pursuits. And the only way to do it is to apply a lean approach to our me.
Diego: [00:35:51] Painting with broad strokes here. Would you say then that people who are spending the 80, 90 hour weeks on their farm. They are then by default, probably wasting more time than they think they are?
Ben Hartman: [00:36:06] I think there's probably a lot of mood in their process and maybe not, maybe they just want to make a lot of money. And they've got a very lean process, these, and they just repeat those processes over and over again.
However, there probably is a lot of what lean terminology. We type one MUGA, which would be activities that aren't directly adding value for your customer. And so this might be a good segue to the second talking about the second lead principal has been very powerful her, which is to precisely identify value.
Okay. And what value is from a lean standpoint is. Any activity that is causing the value of your object to go of the object you're selling to go up. So it's, whenever you touch your object, touch the object you're selling and you cause an action you perform on the object causes the volume of it to go up.
Let me give an example with carrot. When you seed carrots, you cause their value to go up. Because I see that's in the ground is worth more than to see that's sitting in the mail box. When you have seeds in your hand, moving them from the mailbox to the ground, there can be a lot of Moodle in there. Let's say you store those seeds for a period of several months or all.
Then number of those seeds will end up going defective on you. You get a lower rate of germination. Let's say that you have chosen a poor location to store those seeds. Is that the other side of the farm, then you have a lot of walking muda to go get the seed, before you seed them. Okay. You're only adding value at the point at which you're touching the seeds and putting them in the ground.
And then when you are reading those carrots, you're not directly adding value to them. You're not touching the object. You're not causing the IRA to go up and weeding might be needed. They call is type two mood and necessary activity. That's not adding value. You might need to weed to save the crop. however, you're not adding value to it.
Don't be fooled your, then when you harvest carrots, You're probably doubling or tripling the volume of those carrots. We can pay customers that come out and harvest carrots. Okay. They're worth actually nothing in the ground. they're worth quite a bit once we harvest those carrots. And then once we hose those carrots and wash them, we probably double their value.
Again, they probably have gone from 50 cents, a bunch to a dollar, a bunch once they're cleaned up. Okay, is it you activity? And then once we bunch those edits and deliver them to our customers. And so delivery is a value adding because it gets, it physically moves those carrots closer to your customer.
And by moving them closer to the customer, you add value to them. So you want to choose your sales outlets very carefully, and that's an activity that's adding value to carrots. We probably double or triple our volume again at $1 worth a dollar, a bunch on our farm, probably worth two or $3 a bunch. Once we deliver them to the proper location.
So it's just four or five touches activities that add value. Okay. And everything else has moved up. So your task as a lean farmer is to put aside, have eyeglasses on and recognize, Hey, when did I touch the object? Cause value to go up, contribute to value adding. And when did I contribute to muda or waste?
Okay. And so I alluded to the fact that the first work is that until Yoda who developed this system were rice farmers. And so on a rice farm, it's all about motion. Okay. There are so many practices. There's so much management that involves moving her eyes, opening up canals and moving water around and hauling rice and processing the Embry emotion.
Intense. And so these people were, these rice farmers were, I think in constantly about motion and about when they're actually adding value. And when they're just moving for the sake of movement and they brought this way of thinking with them into the two at a factory. And that way of thinking propelled Toyota passes competitors so that it became.
the world's leading automobile manufacturer, and it's why these concepts fit hand in glove within agriculture too. We have to think very carefully about motion. And when did we, when do we actually need to be moving?
Diego: [00:40:23] Yeah, I think they're really powerful. And I think about. Removing waste from the daily stream of my life. I have a lot going on right now. I have this podcast. I do a livestock one at run paper pot. I have an online course myself. I'm doing a lot of things and I have hobbies I want to do. So I'm continuously looking at all the things that I do and saying, okay, what is waste here? What can I remove?
And what does the customer value? There's a lot of things that I get these ideas and Oh, that'd be really cool to do. But then I realized it was that's going to take time to do, and if I do it. Is the customer gonna value that? You had, I think about, I think it was in your book, you referenced selling salad mix with and without a label and it didn't make a difference if it's not going to make a difference.
Why do it? And I, if somebody listened to this podcast for a long time, they'll notice, like I used to have intro music. But that's all gone away and I've standardized the same sound effects that I use on every podcast that I do, because I'm like, why am I messing around organizing all this stuff? You have a limited amount of time in each day.
And I once heard an author say something that really hit me hard. It was like, if you're going beyond your stated work week or work daytime, that's cheating. And it hit me hard. So I said, okay, if I'm going to do all this and I want to help my wife homeschool our kids, I need to remove anything that's not adding value to customers and anything really in my life.
That's not adding value, true value, how I identify value to my life. And it's made a huge difference. And that's, what's enabled me to do as much as I can do. And then still be present in mentally engaged when I can leave, work behind and go spend time with my kids.
Ben Hartman: [00:42:20] Yeah, it's cheating. And it's cheating yourself and it's cheating the people around you. I think everyone is a beautiful person. Everyone has something to contribute to the people that are the families, to friends, to their communities around them. And if you're stuck in your work. And then you're cheating yourself and you're cheating those people around you, of the beauty you have to give to them.
And so I think a lot of what we need to do in our culture and our time and on farms too, is to stop cheating, to start to live with a sense of abundance and to not overwork ourselves. I want to tell you a story about how we're developing this online course because it's in the middle of a year where there's a lot else happening.
And so it does seem like a strange thing to do, to try to take on a whole other project. So the first thing I did is that it would say, okay, we're going to do this with gluten lean principles in mind. So what I did was I have, we have this lean farmers, Facebook group, and I put, posed the question, Hey, if I were to develop an online course, what would you want to see in it?
What would add value to you? Such a course. And I got wonderful feedback from people who potentially purchase or use the course. And one of the things I heard was we don't need fancy high-resolution images or video. What we do want to see is you, and we want to see your, you doing your process.
Okay. I heard that over and over again. We want to see your farm, see you doing what you do. And we want to have the information broken down into sizable chunks. And that's the reason we broke the course into 12 separate mini courses. You can go with just one of the mini courses or a couple mini courses, or you can try the whole course out.
So we said, okay, then we're going to have to do this course in the midst of the growing season. And what I did was I went out and bought a handheld cannon camcorder, it's a RX 800 and it gives a decent resolution, but it's not the highest resolution. However, it's a camcorder that was small and bold and we could keep it in our greenhouse, or in the processing area, close to where we're doing our processes.
And it's a tool. That anyone can use. And so this is another lean principles, choose tools that anyone can use technology where the human face is the language they use. And so when we are say preparing our ground for carrots, someone, anyone on the farm can grab the cam quarter and record that process and we can do it.
And we store it close to where we're using it. This is one of the sorting or one of the. one of the five best principles, store tools, close as possible to where you're using them, stored that camcorder close to where our processes they're taking place and quick get a video of that process. And then we that's, when we're adding value for customers for the online courses, when we're actually the camera's rolling and we're shooting video of a process that people are curious to know the process that we've come up with.
And so it's a very action-oriented course, and certainly there's a lot about farming that is best talked about in lecture type format. And so I do talk about some key points in such as more professorial in a lecture diet. However, there's a lot of action, a lot of images that show how we actually do things.
And then I've developed a process where I can quickly, what we do is, a single peaceful process with the images and the videos that we take. Meaning as soon as we get that video taken, we take out the SD card from the cam and get it into the computer. And then I send it off to a former intern of ours who now lives in California.
He's helping us take those videos and images. And does the editing. And uploads them into online course form. And so it all happens very quickly and in real time. Yeah, because I knew that if we would have backlog of hours and hours of video that needed to be sorted and edited, it would bog me down.
It's much more efficient to just complete the whole process in a single flow. And so that's how we've been able to develop this menu. And I think it is�we captured moments, that I think are high volume moments from the point of view of the customer. They told us what they value and that's going to be the heart of our course.
Now, another way to develop it would have been to hire a film crew to come in and you did come in and do some shooting and we got some good interviews are how to add roll-off. They relied on an outside high definition film crew to come in. We've gotten great video footage. However, that crew would not have been there at critical moments.
Farming is such a fleeting business, many of these steps, many of these processes, we're only going to do them once or twice a year. And so it's so valuable to have a camcorder there when that process is happening, we can capture the moment. Okay. And if we had an outside crew come in, they would have captured the moment for the two or three days or a week that they'd have been there filming, but there've been so many moments that they missed.
And so it's been fun. It's fun now to go back and see all the moments and all our whole season put together. in this online course format, anyhow. So the point is using lean principles from the beginning. It really starts with the customer and you work backwards from the customer. And that really sums up, the lean system, as simply as I can.
And so that what we do with our farming, exactly the same thing. I sit down with our customers. We have six chefs, that I supplied food to is the bulk of our income. These are set high end restaurant, artisan type restaurants. And I meet with these chefs every winter, I'll call them up, send them an email and say, Hey, can we have a beer together?
And I'll go eat in the restaurant or say, let's sit down over a meal and we'll talk about produce and we'll say, Hey, how was the range of produce? I deliver to you last season, I'll take a seed catalog. We'll leave through that catalog and they will choose the seeds they want me to order and grow for them the next growing season.
And it comes down to getting precise answers to three questions. Number one, what do they want, what are those customers want? Number two, how much do they want? And the way I put it with our chefs is, okay, so you want green beans, how many pounds of green beans, you want. Be precise with me. Do you like 10-pound units?
Do you like five-pound units? We're going to get you exactly the mountain you want. And third is when you want, so what do you want, what do they want? How much do they want it? When do they want it? And so you've told me you wanted green beans. You told him you, I come in 10-pound, bulky units, long cases.
And so when are you going to put green beans on your menu? Okay, you're going to have a green beans, sliced almonds dish say from, August to October, I'm going to aim to have you those green beans during that three month window when that dishes on your menu. So that's the level of precision that it takes to really secure customers.
Keep it for a long time, keep them happy for a long time. And the more precise you are in identifying value from your customers and getting precise answers to those three questions. Yeah, the more hard and precise you are then the, that the stickier, your product that means is it's like pouring honey over your product to get precise on these questions, your customers won't be able to keep their hands off of them and you'll keep your customers for a lot longer.
And you'll be in business for a lot longer too. So the biggest mistake I think farmers make is what I call value distortion. They let the seed catalog define value. They, the seed catalog tell them what plant seeds they should order, or they go on their own hunches. They say, Hey, this looks like a good tomato.
I'm going to order that or that tomato and see if there's a market for it. Okay. And so you have to get away from the seed catalogs, defining value. You have to get away from yourself, defining you. you go to farm conferences and you'll end up being convinced to buy a tool. And then you develop your system around some tools you purchase or tractor implement or whatever.
And so you have to get away from the tool suppliers defining that view. It is only the customer who defines that view. Taiichi Ohno used to come used to repeat this all the time is managers that tell you it is only the customer who defines value. No one else defines it. Everything else is distortion. And so that's been a very popular concept. It works very well for our farm. I have basically an Excel spreadsheet. Then I, can I take all this information I've gotten from the chefs and design a farm plan for the year based on it.
Diego: [00:51:23] If we think about a recent example here of your online course, you pulled the Facebook group ahead of time about what they would want. If you hadn't done that, do you think you would have designed this and done this differently?
Ben Hartman: [00:51:36] If I hadn't done that I'd have been shooting from the hip. Tomatoes came up 10 times. People want to know, and artisan selling artisan tomatoes, restaurants is the fastest, most efficient way to make money on a small farm, small market grow in market farm in the U S at this point in most places.
And so I want to focus on providing solid, efficient on how we. On our tomato processes. It's our biggest income maker on our farm. And my hourly wage is the highest when I'm working on tomatoes. And we heard that over and over again. And so I developed an entire mini course on it. It's called it tomato master class course.
And actually when I'm done with the interview here, we're gonna, we're just finishing that up and it should be uploaded by the end of the afternoon today. And by are there other specific pieces because of content that I heard, people definitely want it. And then, like I said, they wanted. To be able to purchase the course in chunks.
So you don't have to spend their money on the full course. If they are just really struggling with weed management right now, they can focus. They can buy our weed management Or germinating, or we have a course on the propagation house getting seized to Germany. They can just buy that many courses.
And so sure it's so important to respect your customers and, to respect the people you're serving. And, and it respects your time too, because then you're not eating. You're not wasting time on activities that aren't gonna, that aren't going to have a market.
Diego: [00:53:05] Do you think you'd go through that same process with brand new customers say chef customers on the farm side, where a lot of people. They say, grow microgreens and then they try and push those microgreens onto chefs. And this is the whole concept of push versus pull versus going into a restaurant and asking a chef if they'd be interested in buying microgreens, but you're maybe not growing them yet, have them define what they want.
And then you go out and grow that versus you going in and you're trying to sell all this micro basil?
Ben Hartman: [00:53:39] Yeah. So I think there's a difference between push you mentioned the push and pull dynamic. And so lean system, of course, is heavily reliant on pull systems. You want your customer to pull your product from your arm, and you almost want to hear a sucking sound on your farm.
Those care's being sucked off your farm to the customer, or the sucking begins with the seed catalogue. You hear that carrot being ordered by your customer almost. I mean pull through your arm to the customer and you're just there. The only job you have is to touch that item as it's being pulled as few times as needed to get it into your hand and your customer.
So that's the ideal is that pull system. And however, I think there is a place for a bit of push pushing. however, I would phrase it as. Educating. There's a difference between educating and pushing. And so he brought it microgreens at our farmer's market. No one in our market in Northern Indiana. They haven�t even probably heard of microgreens until we started introducing it at our market.
So we didn't pull our customers and say, Hey, do you want micro greens at the farmer's market here? People didn't know that we're a pea shoots. How once we start bringing in pea shoes and in small amounts and educating people about the pea shoots and small amounts is key.
We didn't grow an anchor pea shoots and try to push them onto our customers by offering at a low price point. We bring in small amounts, educate people, let them taste, test them, and then see if there's a pool for that product through education. So I think there is some place for educating, however, farmers you've got enough to do.
You do not need to spend a lot of time in that. Let NPR, let Michael pollen let Joel South and let others educate people about the importance of healthy local foods about the products you have to offer. And you just, your role is to be a radar and sense for where the pool is in your community and supply those products precisely when they wanted me to Mount, they want, supply what they want.
Diego: [00:55:45] It's going to save you a lot of work. It's gonna save you a lot of stress. It's gonna save you a lot of time. If you make what the customer wants. I've learned this doing retail, selling all whole bunch of stuff over the past 10 years.
And it, when you really focus and know what they want, it's going to make business easier. And the best way to know what they want is to ask them, have continual conversations, really pull, ask for feedback, and you've done a great job on that, on your farm, going from that concept to the third one, which your third principle?
Ben Hartman: [00:56:18] Okay, the third would be simply now that you've precise, identified the value from your customer. The third principle is cut out the Buddha or the weight, any activity that is not directly in the service of adding value. Okay. In English, we have just one word for waste, and it's a concept that usually refers to trash stuff.
We're no word that's lived out its useful life. Okay. And, it's waste because it ends up in landfill eventually, or wasted time is time that, was truly spent on a truly frivolous activity. And in cornea link thinking it's a more nuanced concept. And so I want to break it down, once my too much time on, by one, it's important to understand that Luda is a little different from waste.
So in Japan, in Japanese, the word Buddha. In lean context is going to refer to an activity that's not adding value for your customer. And the two types, number one would be type one Luda, and these are activities that are necessary activities, but don't add value for your customer. So you have to do them, but you want to be skeptical about them.
Put them on the chopping block and say, can I get rid of them? And perform them as quickly as possible. An example would be doing your taxes. Everyone has to do their taxes. Some people try to get around it. However, it's a type one muda is a business. You have to do your taxes by your customer's not going to cut you a check because you spend all afternoon doing your taxes.
Another example would be research and development. You have to learn your trade. however, there are more and less efficient ways to do it. And I've met lots of people who go to every farm conference. There isn't a universe and they spend lots of time and money. bopping around to farm conferences and buying every book there is on the subject and really they're stuck in analysis process and that's type one.
Muda they're their customers, their potential future customers. Aren't cutting shack because they wanted to some comments in New Zealand, and they need to focus on shifting their activities towards volume activities, mowing the lawn or designing our new property. So there's hopefully. A little or no lawnmower needs to happen, around her plots because that's mood at time.
It's not by writing. Alright. So there are lots of other examples in that category, but it's important to recognize them. Now then type two. Muda are activities that are truly waste. And Jim Womack, who, who helped define a MIT professor, he went over to. Toyota in the 1980s and has done much of the early, early writing and research on lean system.
He told me that most businesses could immediately become much more profitable if they would just recognize their type two muda�s and to get rid of them. Okay. So type two muda, would be a truly unnecessary activity such as, such as overpackaging your product. Okay. you brought this example up and so maybe I'll reiterate it.
It would be putting fancy sticker labels on your salad mix when your customer's not paying you more for that fancy secret sticker label, and maybe they are maybe in your market, those fancy sticker labels work. However, I see a lot of overpackaging at farmer's markets, so that's a classic example of a type two muda, pure waste that you want to just get rid of, slice it off your farm.
Another pure waste would be when products become defective. so if you have a system where you're storing your product on your farm for too long and it comes defective, then. Ah, that's pure waste. And if you find a way to eliminate that, you can add less capacity. I'll give you a specific example.
When we market our crops, we always do a three tier marketing system. and we use what we call stack marketing. So what that means is if I'm going to grow carrots, I never grow carrots just for one customer. Okay. I talked to me about the importance of finding a customer for those carrots. How is so important to stack your markets in produce?
Because those carrots are gonna last for a week or two, while carrots can last for a month, if you some times, but a lot of our crops are only gonna last for a week or two, and then they're worth nothing. And so if we have a carrot that we've got to a restaurant customer who wants those carrots on Friday evening, Awesome.
We'll grow those carrots for them. However, I've got a backup, which is a Saturday morning farmer's market. We don't sell them to that customer. I got a backup. They can go to that market. That's the second tier. If they don't solve that farmer's market, we've got Monday morning CSA boxes. We can pack those carrots.
We'll definitely still be good enough. By Monday morning, we can move them in the form of a CSA item, which our customer will be appreciative of. And so we have three tiers. Three, three outlets for those carrots and we never grow something until we've identified specifically, what are the three, stacks here?
And the reason is so that we eliminate the waste of shrink the industry term for a product that comes home and sold, and we want to completely eliminate it. One of the reasons we moved to the paper pot transplant system was to learn a little bit still. It was to eliminate type two mood or the defect waste.
Okay. So may of our crops we found or not being successful in a direct transplant, turnips, for instance, we can, they're much more successful for us if we're transplanting them. Number one, we're ahead of the weeds. Number two, we have controlled germination and our germination chambers. We just eliminate a lot of variables when you transplant crops.
So we eliminate the waste of defect, even though it might be faster to drag seed. turnips, there it is a transplant. Them, I already have success is so much happier when we take that extra step, to transplant them, that we do it. And we eliminate these techs in the process so that we get paid for our activities, which is really what it comes down to.
You want every effort to get paid for? And if you're growing crops, that number one, don't germinate that as success, people are number two that are successful, but don't end up turning the cash that don't sell in your market. Then you're spending time on activities that do not get reimbursed. And the profit margins are so thin in this business.
You cannot afford very many of those losses.
Diego: [01:02:45] I'm thinking of this from an execution standpoint. When's the best time to do this, or is this all the time? And do you do it as you're doing processes? Think about, Oh, should I be doing this step? Or you do or recommend, a year-end review to really look back at the season and say what could be removed here similarly, before you start something, do you look at it and say, okay, here's how I think I should do it and then really try and root out the mood before you even start.
Ben Hartman: [01:03:14] Sure. the Taiichi Ohno don't always say that it's something you and your workers are doing all the time. I said, workers don't come to Toyota to work. They come here to think, Hey, they don't come into Yoda to work. They come here to think.
And what that means is he's asking his workers to put on that set of eyeglasses and say, Hey, am I adding value right now? Or am I contributing to muda? And if I'm contributing to muda, could I put it on a chopping block? Could I eliminate it somehow. Could I shorten the mood of time so that I can get back to value adding?
And here's how we do it on our farm. I mentioned I worked three mornings a week, this past growing season. I love that schedule. I'm going to keep it up next growing season and will way it works is that we have a Tuesday morning and Friday morning, our value adding mornings. And so what I'm going to do is send out a text to our chefs, on Monday evening or Tuesday early morning and say, this is our availability list.
This is what you told me. You want this time of year. Here's what we have. and then they'll reply to that text X with an order. Okay. And then we have a board. A white magnetic white board that lists all the items list, all this Oliver's each of our chefs, each of our accounts.
And then I'll fill in the amount, say a chef of the Goshen brewing company ordered 20 pounds of carrots. All right, 20 on next to carrots and next to Goshen brewing company. Anyhow. So Tuesday morning is devoted to evaluating activities. Tuesday and Friday mornings are volume adding mornings because we are harvesting for chefs.
And we are adding volume, our crops in it's unambiguous that we're volume adding a Tuesday mornings, we're picking carrots, we're washing carrots, we're packaging carrots, and getting them off your customer. And then with our new farm location, we're within a mile and a half of all of our customers. And so we send, we are able to harvest and deliver.
those crops, usually if we get an order by eight o'clock in the morning, they're usually in the hands of the customer, usually by 11 o'clock or by noon. So then three or four hours, and that's a faster turnaround than Amazon can offer them. Okay. And I pride myself on that fast turnaround and our chefs love it, and it makes us stand out.
It makes us unique and adds a lot of stickiness to your product. And from lean point of view, where we actually don't use walking coolers here. Oh, I parked our walk in cooler and we're not using it's up in our red tag, holding area. Okay. It's on the North side of the woods. And in case we ever do need it, I'm not quite ready to cut the bird.
However, we went through two growing seasons without a walking cooler, and this is how we did it. We got those orders early in the morning. We harvest. We backup our delivery vehicle up, which is a stripped out Honda Odyssey. We crank the air conditioner in that Honda Odyssey and we'll put our items in that Honda Odyssey.
And then off they go to the customer. There's no need to waste this, move, putting the item in the cooler. And then removing it from the cooler to do the delivery vehicle and central harvesting in the morning. It's the cool time of the day. Anyhow, we're not doing any harvest afternoon. It's a cool time.
And, we can keep the field coolness in them before fuel heat is set and get them off to their customers. Okay. So Tuesday, Friday mornings are value adding. That's what we're doing. Okay. And then Wednesday mornings are Moodle mornings and we joke about this. We'll say, Hey, welcome to move to morning. And it's odd.
It's actually more fun sometimes to perform Buddha than it is to add value. It's exciting to add value, but it's also fun to sit on trackers and do bed preparation and to move compost around a, to trust and train tomatoes. These are things we're doing on Wednesday morning, items that we might have to do, but we're not going to get a check after Wednesday morning.
Whereas we are going to get a checks after Tuesday and Friday. So that's how we do on our farm. and, I would encourage the point is to train that muscle of identifying when you're adding, are you, and when you're contributing to muda, and once you do this for a couple of growing seasons, you develop strong muscles, and it becomes, reflects a reflex, that you and your workers, and we use the language, Hey, this is a mood of task and we have a task board that magnetic whiteboard that I mentioned.
we'll divvy up our cask into, Hey, Josh, I want you to do this muda activity. I have a list of mood activities and say, Hey, check the mood up list. And then, Hey, Chelsea, got you on some volume adding task up here. And so we do use that language. We keep training our muscles so that, every growing season becomes easier.
Diego: [01:07:59] You mentioned some things are fine. They're enjoyable moving compost and whatever that is for each person. How do you keep work fun, enjoyable, keep experimentation there and not letting lean, turn it into something that's so sterile that it just becomes robotic and you become an automaton?
Ben Hartman: [01:08:21] that, so the principal will use it.
I use that 15%. Okay. Which is that one in five things we do are cross regrow should be new. And four out of five should be tried and true. And I know in the first growing season, this obviously, it's going to be a harder principle of all, but you can certainly start following it by the end of that season or in your second growing season.
And so for instance, on tomatoes, if we're going to grow five tomato varieties and one of them should be new every season. And same with our technique. I tried to, employ a new tomato technique, a growing technique. I'd say it's maybe a trellising technique or a pollinating technique every growing season.
However, I'm not going to start from scratch every year. Okay. I'm going to take, we usually grow, in the range of 10 tomato varieties. So I'm going to pick two that are new every year, but I'm going to keep eight of them that I know worked, in previous growing seasons. And the same is true for all of our crafts.
And so I just look over the order that I placed in the seed catalog, and make sure that I'm challenging myself. And often times chefs will request new and new items and that takes care of the newness. Part, but the same with technique too. I like to try out a new tractor implement every year.
For instance, I, we generally keep no more than five tractor implements. However, one of those five should be a new one that I'm playing around with it to develop more efficient technique. However, I'm relatively conservative when it comes to innovation and the reasons at all is that all innovation is muda.
Okay, science is muda. Not saying we don't need it. I'm a big believer in science and the importance of facts and having hard science backing up the decisions we're making, whether it's text on the farm, however we need help. We need those land grant institutes. we need, some government funding to support research and development and small farm, because if I spend half of my growing season trying out new seed varieties, new techniques, highly experimental process, these, then that's contributing to Moda from a lean point of view.
And it's time taken away from activities that I know are going to be value adding and that I'll get paid for my customers.
Diego: [01:10:36] Yeah, really the thought process behind that, it's all a well-organized way of thinking. It makes sense, at least to me. So bringing this all home point number four, the fourth principle in lean.
Ben Hartman: [01:10:49] Okay. So the fourth principle, and this is very powerful is kaizen, and which means continuous improvement. A couple of ways to wrap your mind around how Kaizen works on a farm. Okay. Would be to say that I, the simplest way I can describe it is to say that you want to do those first three, with more precision and more efficiently every year.
So that's to say, you want to get yourself organized more efficiently every year. So I think important to separate tools that you're using and tools you're not using. However, you don't want to spend too much time on that process. How can you do that? More efficiently. I can do it faster every growing season.
Okay. And what we do at this point, we have so few tools we use, one thing it's easier, but we walk around the farm and we take our Gator, John Deere Gator around with us, and we'll literally put tools and supplies in the Gator that are not part of the production system. And we'll gather them up. So there's no.
there's very little discussion that happens and there's no kind of secondary or tertiary or third holding places. They just go straight to the Gator and straight off the farm. Okay. So I've tried to do that quickly and efficiently. and then you also want to identify value from your customers more precisely.
More precisely every year. So it's an ongoing relationship you have with your customers. You want to identify more precisely when they want their deliveries. for instance, we, switched to delivery to Monday morning for one of our chefs who found that Friday afternoon, wasn't working most chefs want stuff on Fridays.
However, this one wanted stuff on Mondays picked up another account, that instead of a Friday delivery, they wanted a Tuesday. they went Tuesday morning, pick up. And so we're going to get more precise with them a year and try to better understand their needs and their customers. And they've got changing environments too.
So we want to be, be nimble, be flexible. Bruce Lee used to say that, when it comes to martial arts, you want to be like, why do you like water? water moves, it shape shifts. It's it shifts its shape according to the situation. And so you want to be nimble as a farm and chain, be able to quickly change what you're doing.
And this is Chi span, continuously improving so that you are in better and better alignment every year with your customers. Okay. And then it also means. that's a third point was Muto elimination. It means Kaizen canoes improve. It means every year getting rid of, or more waste from your system. and so my book in, online course, there are basically 10 types, a voice on a farm.
And all we do is keep Alyssa the waste in our processing area or production waste, avoiding waste transportation. Over processing waste that inventory. How can we get rid of, how can we chip away a bit more each of these types of ways, the next growing season? And so we will actually sit down with the list and Josh and Chelsea or I, or whoever is working on the farm.
I will sit down and have a conversation, at the end of the growing season about the waste and say, Hey, we could lean up traffic. Yeah. Wastes a this way or that way. over-processing maybe we can take a label off of something. inventory waste one year we realized we just have too many seeds. On Hannah to the growing season.
And so we started to do was to order seeds. I probably put in 20 or more seed orders throughout the year, this past growing season. And what I do is I have a cooler that I keep all my seeds and like a beer cooler beach cooler. And, and when a seat, when I run out of season, that seed packet, I keep my seed catalogs in that cooler.
And I'll call a seed company. As soon as I'm low. I recognize I'm low in that seed packet and get another small packet delivered. So we have a constant, small inventory of seeds rather than purchasing, five pounds of a romaine at the beginning of the season, and then ending up with coupons at the end of the season.
so it all kinds of things, small ways you chip away at the waste on your farm and add capacity. And if you're. Persistent about doing this. We've been efforts seven growing seasons, but then you will be amazed. Trust me, you will be amazed at how much you will free up of course, a time on your farm.
If you shave just four hours a week from your process on your farm, you can take a whole year off every 10 years. Okay. So the math is behind you here. If you can shave just four hours a week and who couldn't, especially over a period of a couple of growing seasons, figure out a way to improve your process so that you shave four hours a week off your growing system.
You can take an immense amount of time off. And still produce the same amount of value for your customers. And if you get good at it, you shave time and yeah. Increase your profit margin. And that's really been how we that's, how we were able to move our arm and build a new one and start earning a $3,000 a week, within a couple of months because we developed processes, that are full of up.
You. And that have very little Muto within them. And that's the focus of my course. And that's the force of my education is not just the technique, but what's the thinking behind the technique, so that we, and I do show you, I think it's important to learn technique, and I show you the techniques that we've come up with our it's just as important to understand the thinking behind that
Diego: [01:16:20] very well said. And the great thing about a process- based approach is. It works at any scale at any time for any business Toyota can use it. They're a massive company, much larger than any farm listening to this show right now, for people that want to learn more about this system, build off of this episode, they can check out your book or both of your books, the lean farm, and the lean farm guide to growing vegetables.
And they can also learn more and. One of the mini courses or your full course package available at theleanfarmschool.com. There you have it. Farmer Ben Hartman on the four base principles of lean farming and how you can apply them to your farm. If you want to follow along with Ben and everything that he's doing, be sure to follow along with him on Instagram at clay bottom farm, which I've linked to in the show notes.
And if you want to learn more from Ben, check out some of his online course offerings at theleanfarmschool.com, whether you want to take one course or the whole package, Ben's created a whole bunch of courses to help make your farm run leaner.
Diego: [01:17:29] And when it comes to lean thinking, one of the quotes in this episode that really resonated with me.
Was that quote that I started off the episode with by Tai Chi Ono, you don't come to Toyota to work. You come here to think, take that one, quote, think about what you do on your farm. Do you find yourself caught in the grind on the hamster wheel of just working or are you taking some time to step back and think how about the work that you're going to do?
Hopefully this episode, the series of episodes that I do with Ben's book and Ben's online courses can help you start to think about how you're farming and it's during that thinking that you can really try and identify all the sources of Moda or waste and how you can start to get rid of them. And conversely, how you can start to find ways to add value to everything that you do on the farm.
If you enjoyed this episode, let me know what you thought. Send me a message or leave a comment on the post related to this episode on Instagram, you can follow me at Diego footer. I'll put up but post for this episode and all future. And if you want to comment on this or any future episodes, that's going to be the best platform do it on.
So check me out on Instagram at Diego footer. That's all for this one. Thanks for listening. Next week, I'll be back with another episode of farm, small farm smart until then be nice. Be thankful and do the work.
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