Courtesy of Wally S., Wally's Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK
It's planning season for many, and over the years an increasing number of aspiring/new/hobby farmers have been coming to me to share their thinking. Every year I see that they spend too much time focused on the things that matter least to their success. While it's fun to draw up a growing plan and a garden layout for the new year, what is crucial to having these plans actually work out is logistics. If I had to name one make or break factor to both short and long term success, it is logistics. Logistics simply means how are you going to get the job done?
Right now I am planning out spring work weeks as well as going through the seed catalogues to develop my planting plan. You need both types of planning happening side by side. I'm looking at planting 500 lbs. of onion sets this spring. Fine, how am I going to make it happen? What you need is a plan for your logistical work flow. Building blocks for your plan include work rate, work session, and work flow, and the tool you need for this is a stop watch. You use it to determine the amount of time required to accomplish a specific task, which is your work rate.
Usually work rate is thought of in terms of a unit of time, such as a minute. One minute work rates are easy to track and make notes on. Work rate can also be defined as the total time required to accomplish one task. Whichever approach is used, the point is to figure out how long it takes to accomplish a small unit of work because that will allow you to figure out how long it will take to accomplish a larger amount of work, which is the type of work you will get done in a work session.
A work session is a period of time that you allocate to accomplish a specific task from beginning to end, and involves an hour or multi-hour periods of time. The way you schedule your work sessions in any given farm week is work flow. To get the work done effectively, without burning yourself out, you need to schedule your work sessions, and to do that you need to know your work rate. So this is how all three concepts are interrelated.
"But," you say. "I am just starting out. I have no idea what my work rate is." No problem. Guess. Set your own benchmarks, and adjust them as you get experience. What you will find is that you will get faster and more efficient as the season progresses. These benchmarks will also help you decide if and when to use outside labor. If the people helping you are not achieving work rate benchmarks, then you will know that it is not worth your while to have them help you.
The fun part of SPIN-Farming is being both the brains and the brawn of an operation. Use your brain - and a stopwatch - to figure out how to make the brawn happen.
Here the classic SPIN straddle makes quick and easy work of planting a 4-row standard size bed. According to the stop watch, it took Gail about 15 minutes to plant one 25 foot row. So she knows to schedule about an hour to plant the whole bed.
Find out how to become master of your farming fate by controlling all aspects of your work flow in Dig Deeper # 1.