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Advice on balancing farm tasks?  RSS feed

 
Luke Vaillancourt
Posts: 42
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I'm curious how one prioritizes and optimizes their daily schedule and task flow on a large, diverse, multi-entity, permaculture farming operation.

I know this answer could be a book, so perhaps just some favorite tips?
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1379
Location: northern California
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Thinking back to my years as an ambitious market grower (I've since pulled back to more of a homesteading scale), I recall that one of the most important things is to give yourself time to think. Go off by yourself for a few hours, whether at a task or not, away from helpers......or get up really early and walk the place before anyone else shows up. Many longer term insights came to me this way.
Over a few years and perhaps a bit of recordkeeping, the most productive and profitable sectors of your farm should become obvious. Put more focus on these, but don't abandon everything else, in case one of the money-makers fails. Greenhouse crops produced out of season and anything to do with animals proved to be the key dollar-earners for me. In both cases you're leveraging some other factor in addition to your own labor to produce a yield.....
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
Posts: 2588
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
502
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I do today what has to be done today...

For example: The animals need to be watered every day.

I might can procrastinate the irrigation for a day, but not for three days, unless we have had rain.

Many drying seed crops have to be picked before I can start the irrigation water. If irrigation will ruin a crop, and I have to irrigate, then picking that crop becomes my highest priority. If rain is expected and the rain would ruin a crop, then picking becomes a high priority task.

Then there are seasonal tasks that must be done on schedule... My growing season is so short that even a couple days delay in planting warm weather crops can make a huge difference in yield. So dry beans, squash, and tomatoes have to be planted on June 5th plus or minus a couple days. The first crop of sweet corn needs to be planted between May 5th and 10th. Some crops have critical dates like these, others are considerably more flexible.

The green beans have to be picked twice a week while in season. No exceptions. They are a high dollar crop because they take lots of labor to pick. They are very popular so they move to near the top of the priority list. Delicate fruits and vegetables with short harvest windows are high on the priority list: For example strawberries and raspberries are only in their prime for a day or two. Harvesting them is a high priority task.

Root crops can stay good in the ground for weeks or months, so harvesting them is done on an ad-hoc basis during slow times.

Some tasks can be done just as easily next week as this. Doing them is a 'whatever'... Weeding comes to mind.

The fall 'frost emergency harvest' is my highest priority task of the entire growing season. It gets all of my attention from before dawn to after dusk until it is finished.

I devote one day a week to what I think of as 'observation day'. On that day I tell people that I am puttering... That's when I go into the garden, and just look at things... What are the crops doing? How soon do they need to be picked? What should I do again next year? What should I do differently? Do I see any plants that I need to put a flag on so that I can save seeds from it and possibly get more like it next year or the year after? How's the fertility levels look? What diseases, weeds, mammals, and bugs are present? How's the weed situation? What really has to be taken care of this week? What can slide for a while? Will I need help picking during the next week? It's a planning day. I might pull a stray weed, or make some hybrid crosses, or taste a fruit from every tomato plant in the patch, or take photographs. Or I might just walk through the garden and enjoy the sights and smells, or take a nap in the corn patch, or watch the bees and animals, or whatever. It's the day I get to enjoy being a farmer. There will be plenty of time for hard physical labor when observation day is finished.
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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Alder Burns wrote:
Over a few years and perhaps a bit of recordkeeping, the most productive and profitable sectors of your farm should become obvious. Put more focus on these, but don't abandon everything else, in case one of the money-makers fails. Greenhouse crops produced out of season and anything to do with animals proved to be the key dollar-earners for me. In both cases you're leveraging some other factor in addition to your own labor to produce a yield.....


I second that. Highest profitability is leveraging non-input synergies. e.g. you're in town dropping off produce and chickens and return with restaurant compost and all the other growers discards to feed to your chickens. Hidden waste streams, blatantly obvious synergies, etc.
 
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