Planning your week, structuring tasks and watching the weather

by: Sara on 03/07/2016

It's time to dig in and get dirty! Today is the first day of our Spring Garden Books Sale! From March 7-18th receive a 35% discount on your New Society garden titles when you order online using the coupon code Garden16 at check out.

And to help you get in the mood, we are posting blogs from some of our most popular garden writers, learning form their mistakes and successes and their hard-earned expertise!

To kick off the week, we’re starting with a blog from Curtis Stone, author of The Urban Farmer: Growing Food for Profit on Leased and Borrowed Land, and owner-operator of Green City Acres, a multi-locational urban farm operating on less than an acre of land.

In this post he invites us in to a week on the farm and the strategies he employs to maximize output while minimizing labour.


In order to keep our weekly revenues consistent and our overall season profitable on the farm, I follow one simple strategy: Focus on the tasks that pay, and minimize or eliminate the tasks that don’t. This means 80% of the work we do has a measurable outcome; tasks such as planting, bed preparation, harvesting, portioning, packing, and marketing are the places we concentrate most of our efforts. The other 20% are tasks such as irrigation, weeding, moving tunnels, and sharpening tools, and those tasks are mitigated or eliminated through automation, appropriate technology, and quick execution. Basically, we need to minimize the amount of work we do and maximize the output. Simple in theory, not so simple in practice. This is applied to every task that we do on the farm, and today I’m going to talk about one of the ways we use this approach on a day-to-day basis. 

Part of how we accomplish this from a logistical standpoint is to organize our weekly tasks into a simple calendar and decide what needs to be done day to day, prioritizing the critical tasks for optimal conditions such as weather.

The first thing I do when I start my week early Monday morning is step outside, look at the current weather, then come inside and check the seven-day forecast online. How the weather looks for the next seven days is critical to how I decide what will be done and when. If the weather is not going to be ideal for the scheduled tasks, I’ll need to modify my week’s plan.

In an ideal week, if the weather is perfect from Monday to Friday, we can run our weekly workflow as follows; Monday, bed


preparation and planting. Tuesday, planting, other tasks. Wednesday, harvesting, washing, other tasks. Thursday, full harvest and washing day. Friday, restaurant deliveries, portioning for market. Saturday, farmers market. Sunday, off. This is what a typical forty-hour week would look like for two people working during the high season. 

If the weather forecast on Monday looks less than ideal, I will restructure my week to try and avoid harvesting in the rain. This
can add four to ten hours to our week, as the mud slows us down. We also need to keep some tools, seeds, and fertilizers out of the rain, and thereby spend extra time on this. Harvesting carrots in the rain, for example, can be really slow because as you’re forking them out of the ground, they are bringing clumps of mud with them, adding considerable time to the harvest.

There are some crops we don’t mind harvesting in the rain, for example radishes, turnips, beets, greenhouse tomatoes, and some bunched herbs. If it’s going to be very rainy, we may decide to harvest these crops when it’s raining, then saving something like greens for absolute weather priority. Cutting greens in the rain will slow you down a lot because they will have a tendency to lay down, which can make cutting them more challenging, but it also adds a lot of time to wash, spin, sort, and dry. On a week where we’re going to have bad weather on our main harvesting days, I might start harvesting on Monday and Tuesday, to get everything off the field with minimal prep. This means you must have commercial refrigeration; we have two walk-in coolers on the farm to keep our produce fresh. I’d rather do my bed preparation and planting in less than ideal weather; even though it might be less enjoyable, it won’t take as long as harvesting and prepping in bad weather.

What has made us successful over the years is always being prepared to think on our feet and make quick decisions. The best way to do this is to have a clear understanding of what the weekly tasks are and what circumstances will be ideal or are best avoided for particular tasks. It boils down to staying organized in order to stay on top of consistent tasks, which enables us to keep an eye out for what’s coming. In doing so, we work less, make more money, and have a much more balanced and enjoyable quality of life. 
-- Curtis Stone Urban Farmer, Author, Speaker & Consultant









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