week 50 - what will i be doing? state of the life.

What am I doing right now?

  • status: this is the only 1 full week of recent days spent at home. i will be travelling for a month starting monday next week.

today:

  • Assess planning tools

  • Assess commitments

As in, slow your roll. In the flurry of pleasure at letting go of the grind of intense weekly commitments, you (I) threw dozens of irons in the fires. The fires of community, passion, friendship, growth, etc.


What planning tools am I currently using?

  • For daily personal habit: Naturally Empowered planner. There’s only room for 3 goals per day, plus gratitude plus intention. I don’t use this planner actively during the growing season, but it absolutely helps keep me grounded and positive, and having a positive self image despite the fact that I’m not constantly ‘proving myself’ (to myself) by the frenetic pace of accomplishment I’m keeping.

  • For interpersonal habit: Google Calendar. Definitely. My life partner co-parent and I share one. Or rather, he looks at mine (I suppose when you put it like that I’m being rather selfish by refusing to download his). I guess the rhythm is that (mostly) I fill it up and we knock ‘em down together.

    • I also use this for my own daily commitments, especially to keep track of TIMES.

    • I use alarms constantly. Though maybe I should download something where I can write notes per each alarm, because just yesterday an alarm went off at 3:50 and I had no idea that it was supposed to remind me to call someone at 4. Did I put that call in my calendar? I think I forgot to because it was ‘casual.’ But at least I remembered to place the call within the agreed upon time window.

  • Big boring office max type planner 8.5x11”. This is my Almighty Book in the heat of the season. Each day has about 3x5” so if I can’t fit it in that space, I’m probably not really going to get it done that day. It also has a monthly view, and an additional 2 pages for each month’s goals. I really like that feature too, and that it’s blocked up so there’s only about 8 distinct goals per month or so. This also helps me set reasonable chunks of things that I can think about. I use that monthly goal page for big picture projects that are moving along, or I’m researching, but which have few specific time commitments.

  • wall whiteboard monthly calendars. These are on hold for the winter, thankfully. I fill them up as a visual reference point, and as an exercise in shaking down each of my other calendars at monthly intervals, to try to minimize lost commitments.

    • These calendars should also serve the purpose of inviting my crew members into present and future commitments and events. I think it accomplishes this to a small degree, but it’s role could be heightened in 2019 and beyond.

  • google docs. I’ve got a to do list created for each week. During the season, this is an active tool and gets printed each week. Nowintimes, it’s just a repository for random thoughts and quotes. I like this duality.

    • Also though, I’ve got some long-range planning docs in various formats that I drafted during the season. These are valuable docs that often have nuggets of excellent insights. They are gifts from my summer self to my winter self. Reviewing my own drive and sifting through these docs helps give purpose, clarity, and success to my winter reflections & planning.

    • omg I have such a crush on myself right now. Some months ago I drafted a week by week spreadsheet with commitments, also capturing potential costs, revenues, and gains.

    • This is a great tool because I recently jumped into a whole bunch of new COMMITMENTS.

State of my commitments:

  • Family. They cool, I love em. Right now I’m primary parent 2 weekdays/week and it’s fun. Thank goodness the kid loves to nap. Next season instead of back to full-time daycare we seem likely to do a 3 day/week that has me & and a friend trading off kids the other 2 days. I think this’ll be fun, and also I need to work in that I will be working 1 less day per week (!)

  • Farm. It’s pretty much locked in, just hanging out. Water-related things are taken care of. Best case scenario, I’d spend 3 more hours tidying up, but whatever.

  • Customers. All accounts are settled for 2018. I’m beginning to receive payments ahead for 2019 work. This is a time to prioritize communication with past & potential customers. I might do some calls this winter, because I enjoy making them, and I enjoy the opportunity to build connections, and it is good for my heart to hear from people who care about the farm, and have spent their time and money supporting it. I also need to elicit honest feedback and opinions to influence 2019 choices.

  • Crew. Regular employment has ended until the spring, so the ongoing commitment is done. I need to make sure that all paperwork is provided as needed for 2018 taxes. By January I’ll be drafting employment goals/expectations for 2019, and I’ll start reaching out to gather peoples’ interests, intentions, and goals for 2019, and draft and share job descriptions.

  • Other:

    • I joined the board of the Michigan Flower Grower’s Cooperative! I have been spending quite a lot of active working time on it in the past month. I expect to continue to do so through March. This will be a significant ongoing commitment for 2019 & most of 2010. I need to leave room for it.

    • I will be spending some time doing farmer mentoring work with a local organization. I’m quite excited, and this will also take a certain amount of time. I must leave room for these commitments (this was my impetus to create that week by week spreadsheet, in fact). I’ll get to know an area organization that I really respect, ACCESS, and meet other Arab American growers. I’m quite excited.

    • Personal growth & education.

      • practicing old skills like piano, sewing, reading, puzzles…

      • reading up on the hemp & marijuana industries

      • strengthening regional & state ties by opening myself up to attend more agricultural/networking events

      • quiet reflection, writing, and physical activity

      • having fun

      • listening to & learning from other people

      • watching democracy now

      • following young activists’ work like @vicbarrett_, #youthvgov plaintiff

        • They are kids suing the government demanding a climate recovery plan and they’re amazing. Get into them.

  • Cleaning

    • Yes, yes, yes. I am in love with my new robot vacuum. It was my reward for cleaning up my closet, which yielded an ancient best buy gift card with quite a lot of $ on it.

    • It actually feels kind of good when you have time for it. I have an ingrained aversion to it from childhood (a childhood spent avoiding cleaning) that I’m struggling to overcome. Sometimes it seems like my kid prefers clean spaces and we’re pretty good at cleaning up together so I’m trying to keep all that positive so it’s just another cool thing we all do.

2018 roundup

5 things I’m proud of from the 2018 season:

  1. Investment in fertility! We’ve been skating by for a couple years without giving our plants the deluxe treatment they deserve. This year we instituted a regiment of supplemental liquid feeding from a gorgeous blend of seaweed-based fertilizer, and this fall we spread approximately 3 big dumptruck loads of compost across most of the farm… 6” deep in some beds! We saw big improvements in health and resilience this year, and the benefits will keep coming next year.

  2. We were resilient in the face of troubles. Our beloved tiller was stolen, and meagerly compensated by insurance. We adjusted our tillage and bed preparation plans, and did we needed to be done to get the babies into beautiful, well prepared land. We hired local contractors where necessary to till new land, and paid for more staff time to double dig existing beds by hand. Additionally, Farmer Sarah faced a personal loss in July that made this busy time of the season even more difficult than usual. However, the staff rose to the occasion to fill in the gaps, and we made it through the tough time without significant upset to the business.

  3. Farmer Sarah worked less on evenings and weekends! The addition of the refrigerated cooler not only meant that we could sell more flowers of a better quality, it meant that some orders could be prepared ahead by a day or two. This meant less overtime to prepare weekend orders, and more time spent with the family, enjoying life and Saturday Eastern Market (as a customer, not a vendor)!

  4. Many returning crew members. This season we had returning crew members for both the regular season and the extended end-of-season. Staff increased their skills, pursued learning goals, and received raises. Cultivating the farming skills of newer growers is one of Farmer Sarah’s favorite pursuits, and this season was a wonderful example of it.

  5. Increased participation in regional farming activities. This year Fresh Cut continued to sell as a grower in the Michigan Flower Grower’s Cooperative. Farmer Sarah was elected to their board. Connecting with farmers statewide, and encouraging exchange between urban and rural growers is a great passion for Farmer Sarah, and she was pleased to lay the groundwork to continue this wonderful work into the 2019 season.

5 things I’d like to improve for the 2019 season:

  1. Something from the 2017 list that still needs to be improved: customer database. My customers are my biggest strength, and I need to know them more, and make it easier for them to buy from me when they need it.

  2. Profitability! My employees deserve a better financial future, and our business needs to stay viable. I am committed to increasing efficiencies, and making sure prices accurately reflect costs.

  3. Improved quality of product. The fertility improvements made in 2018 will continue into 2019 and we will improve the quality of our product. Our flowers will be bigger, more vibrant, and longer lasting. We will document and prove their superiority over imported flowers!

  4. Public engagement. Our end of season party this year was a BLAST! Let’s do more of that. More planned ahead public events (maybe a u-pick opportunity?) a well as a few on-farm workshops will let more people enjoy the beautiful wonderland of our farm. And truth be told, Farmer Sarah lovers talking to a crowd!

  5. Smarter communication with our audience. This is related to the customer database, but not quite the same. It’s helped to have a more formulaic approach to instagram (alternating shots of just flowers with shots of people on the farm, approx 3x/week), but we need to be smarter and more consistent about our communiques. When do we tell people what to buy, and how? When are we building loyalty and engagement? What do people actually want to hear? How are we using our platform to hold up other equity-focused farming work?

2017 roundup

5 things I'm proud of from 2017

  • We had a larger staff than ever before, and I made payroll each time! I adapted payroll to a more frequent schedule in response to staff desire. I paid above minimum wage.
  • We got the new tiller going! I overcame nervousness and setbacks in learning to use it, and it rocketed bed prep & turnover more quickly than ever before, increasing productivity on the farm overall, and incorporating cover crops for the first time! Less labor, more flowers, and more soil health!
  • We improved post-harvest handling & bouquet life. In response to customer feedback, this was a priority for 2017. Staff training, cooperative oversight, and honest check-ins on bouquets improved our quality.
  • I continued to forage! Some weeks were so busy that it seemed impossible to get out and forage for wildflowers, but I did so, with the encouragement of my staff. It not only strengthens the individuality and place-based originality of our work, but I enjoy it enormously, and it improves my mental health.
  • I made room for Shelbie & Sherry to take on individual responsibilities in farm management & design, respectively. I helped support them to build the necessary foundations, then got out of the way (I think) to enable them to act according to their prerogatives and growing expertise.

5 things I want to do better in 2018

  • I improved my financial bookkeeping, but it is still not where I want it to be. I need to hold myself accountable on a weekly basis, not just catch-up over the months. Imperfect is better than not at all. I am taking an online course in accounting right now in order to build my confidence and knowledge to accomplish this goal. 
  • Ambiguity about other employees' role as public faces, or not, for the business, caused some pain and confusion this season. I want to preemptively discuss this with crew and together come to understanding about public facing roles.
  • We will apply crop amendments beyond just compost this year. It is time for us to begin to improve soil & crop health in more sophisticated ways. We will move forward with it, even if it's not perfect, and improve from there. The improvement for this year is to do it at all, and the improvements thereafter can be more nuanced.
  • We will improve customer recordkeeping with a more comprehensive database. We will know our past customers and their buying habits better, and strive to offer them more & better opportunities to purchase, especially past wedding customers!
  • The season started strong with staff training & engagement. I let it drift away partly due to busyness, but also partly because I didn't perceive 'enough' enthusiasm. This was not true enough to trust. I will trust & continue structures we set up including farm walks, check-ins, and weekly goals.