You’ve probably heard people complain (or maybe you are this person) about meetings being a waste of time, and that whatever was said could have been put into an email instead.
While that may be the case in some instances, when you are starting a business (yes, market farming is a business if it is your livelihood), weekly meetings are absolutely vital.
There is so much to do when you’re starting from nothing, it’s pretty much impossible to keep your priorities straight if you are not sitting down once a week (at least) and planning that week’s activities.
Sweet Fern Organics Meetings Went Like…
When Jon and I decided to go all-in on starting a market farm, we quickly realized that there was a ton of work to do, and if we didn’t stay organized we would be doing tasks that didn’t need to be done or not doing tasks that needed to be done.
We implemented the weekly meeting so we could review the previous week’s activities, plan the next week’s tasks, and plan for tasks that were coming up in the future.
Honestly, even if you are a one-person show, sit down with yourself at least once a week and put a plan in place for the next week. Organization is the key to success.
We found that weekly meetings helped keep us focused and on task, and by taking it week by week, we felt a little less overwhelmed by the idea of starting a market farm from scratch.
Keep in mind, we started our meetings before we broke any ground, months before actually.
Want to know something?
We started our weekly meetings in August of 2020. We aren’t going to be selling vegetables until June of 2021.
Most of our meetings are held at home on the patio.
Let me tell you, after a meeting you feel pumped and ready to tackle the next week. You also have a sense of direction and where you want to go and how to get there. Believe me, that takes a lot of stress out of the equation.
Initially, we had a few meetings throughout August. Then in September, progress started to slow down.
We were waiting on our field we are renting to become available, and there wasn’t much on our agendas (even though we really could have done so much more in hindsight).
So, we put off one meeting, then another, and another, you get the picture.
Sure we would still talk about the farm and what was going on here and there, but it was not nearly as productive as sitting down and discussing, like say, in a meeting.
Fast forward to DECEMBER and we are now just getting back into weekly meetings.
If you’re counting, that’s 3 months without a meeting. THREE months of lost productivity.
When we resumed our meetings, it was quickly evident that we didn’t do many of the tasks we should have during the fall.
We lost that sense of urgency and became complacent.
DON’T DO THAT!
You can’t become complacent when starting a market farm, there is just too much to do.
So now we are doing things that would have been way easier in the fall. We are fighting the weather right now, trying to beat the frozen ground.
I mean, we will accomplish our goals, we are hell-bent on that, but we could have done them earlier in the season and it would have been easier.
Use our experience as a cautionary tale, keep up your weekly meetings, and don’t become complacent. It’s not a good place to be.
Why Is Farm Planning Important?
Farm planning is important because if you are not organized, you will be lost. There are so many moving parts when it comes to starting a farm. Even when your farm is established, you need to be organized so you perform the tasks when they need to be done.
Here’s what Eliot Coleman has to say about planning:
I soon learned to plan ahead much more efficiently than I ever had – to set out the whole year’s work on paper during the winter months and thus have a good grasp well in advance of what resources I would need, where why would come from, how I would acquire them, and how much time I could allot to each task…There is no way to match the value of organizing and planning beforehand.
-Excerpt from The New Organic Grower
Being a good market farmer takes planning and organization, there is no getting around that. From planning out your farm layout, what veggies to grow, how you’re going to sell them, and so much more, you need a plan and a course of action so you are not left scratching your head.
Every step along the way involves planning. Don’t get overwhelmed thinking about tasks that need to be done, put pen to paper, and make a plan to achieve your goals.
Lay out every single step so you know what to do and when to do it. All that is left is for you to take action.
How Do You Run A Weekly Meeting?
As I have mentioned, our weekly meetings are pretty casual. We schedule them on the same day every week – Saturday. Sometimes we set a time in advance, but usually, we see how the day is going (kids, plans, or whatnot) and set a time in the morning for later that day.
I put together an agenda before we start to keep us on task. We write things down throughout the week on a list we keep on hand so we don’t forget anything come meeting time.
I organize the list and write it down in our Sweet Fern Organics Meeting notebook (I highly recommend you keep a dedicated notebook as well) and that becomes our agenda each week.
We sit down at the table and discuss last week’s activities first.
What got done, what didn’t, what needs to be done.
Then we move on to what tasks need to be accomplished the next week and how we are going to accomplish them.
After those are discussed, we talk about equipment we need in the future, how much money we are going to need to pay for said equipment, and other farm-related tasks that need to be on our radar for the future so we can properly plan for them.
I take notes during our meetings with a pen and paper and type it all up later that day in Google docs and email it to Jon so he can access it anytime and check things off the list.
It’s honestly not very complicated but it is effective.
As well, I always feel pumped after our meetings. Like, “YES! We are getting $h!t done!”
The feeling of productivity is enough to push through those tasks, even if they suck!
There is definitely something to be said about feeling a sense of accomplishment to keep you motivated.
Weekly farm meetings are crucial to your success as market gardeners. Take the time to plan out your farm operation in detail, then break it down into sizeable chunks.
Implementing weekly meetings will help keep you on track with current tasks, as well as help to keep the big picture in mind.
Learn from Jon and I and don’t let up on your meetings. Keep having them even if you don’t think there is anything to do that week, because I assure you, there is!
It’s really easy to let meetings slide, so please do not let that happen. You will be left performing tasks in bad weather, or even worse, having to wait until spring to do something you should have done in fall.
We are still playing catch up on all the tasks we should have completed by now but didn’t because we stopped having meetings for a good chunk of time.
By the way, these activities are taking way longer than they would have otherwise because we are fighting the weather.
Be better than us, start having weekly meetings, and don’t miss any! You will be thankful in the spring when you are ready to go and not running around like a chicken with its head cut off like we will be come spring.
How do you stay organized on your farm? Let us know in the comments below
Kathy & Jon
You Local Neighbourhood Growers