Making micro farms work through lean planning, with Ben Hartman
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I’ve been observing an interesting trend in the regen ag space. The concept and awareness of regen ag has been growing exponentially with many people exploring ways to start their own farms and to participate in and support those who are already involved. At the same time the current economic situation and the complexity of regulations, paired with skill worker shortages, and other challenges are leading people to burn out or quit altogether.  It’s no joke how complex and difficult it can be to run a lean and profitable farm in modern times. Luckily there are some successful and experienced farmers out there who are helping to train and inform the new generation in order to support them in getting established.  One voice in particular who I’ve admired since the release of his first book, The Lean Farm, is Ben Hartman. Though they both have a lot of experience from running their previous large scale operation, Ben along with his wife Rachel started their new venture, Clay Bottom Farm which is an urban farm, set on the north edge of Goshen, IN, in 2006. One of their key features is that all of their food is sold within 1.5 miles of the farm.  Ben is best known for bringing the Lean methodology pioneered in factory manufacturing, to the management and process on small farms. He now has a new book out titled The Lean Micro Farm: How to Get Small, Embrace Local, Live Better, and Work Less.  In this interview Ben shares his story of his initial passion for farming and the journey to creating a simplified and efficient operation that allowed him to enjoy a life with his family and still have hobbies while running a profitable farm.  We discuss the criteria he uses from the Lean system to design workflows, focus energy on the tasks of highest return, and eliminate unnecessary work.  We also go into the practical details of this ⅓ of an acre operation such as the tools he uses, his method for bed flipping in the market garden, the marketing and sales system he has, and the infrastructure that makes it all flow smoothly.  This episode is packed with advice for growers who are looking to get small by reducing complexity and waste without compromising profitability or losing their customer base.
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