We’ve been fortunate to have two interns working at our farm for the past month. Alex and Luke have worked on several projects during their time with us and have regular responsibilities as well. Within a few days of starting at Purdon Groves, they were handling all of the morning chores. This includes daily and weekly maintenance on the hydroponic towers, feeding all of the animals and moving the pigs every morning into their grazing pens. They’ve helped Houston put up a shade structure next to the hydroponics, where we can now sort and clean produce and towers. They’ve cleaned glamping tents, worked on the bathhouse renovation and mowed the pastures. One of the biggest projects they participated in was trenching and laying 1400 feet of pipe for running water from the main road back to the bathhouse.
A week or so ago, when the afternoons became so hot that it was near impossible to work, I began considering what they could do when we need to get out of the heat. I was reminded of a book Houston, Emilie and I went through in our weekly staff meetings almost three years ago. We were just getting started on some projects at the farm, and were reading a chapter a week in The Lean Farm, by Ben Hartman (Hartman 2015). In the book, the author shares how he implemented practices used by Toyota to minimize waste, be more efficient and be more profitable at his Clay Bottom Farm.
So I pulled out Hartman’s book and gave the guys a reading assignment.
I thought reading a portion of the book would be insightful for them and a good reminder for us of practices we consistently employed a few years ago, but have grown somewhat slack on as we’ve gotten busier.
First off, let me say that it’s a little humbling to ask two young men, 16 and 19, where we could improve and what we could do differently. They were gracious though as they shared some of the key concepts they took away from the first 30 or so pages of the book:
It’s important to organize and sort tools to determine what’s needed and what’s not. Preparing a cart each day with tools for a particular project keeps employees and volunteers from making unnecessary trips.
Having a photo of what a certain finished task looks like takes away the guesswork. This is especially true when looking at how the tent is set up before each guest.
Having an itinerary before coming into work for the day allows those working to keep momentum, alleviating waiting around to be told the next task.
As Alex and Luke shared, I was thinking of how important it is to have people in our lives who can look at our situations - whether that’s in work or in our personal lives - and give us objective feedback. Houston and I both hope Alex and Luke leave our farm next Friday having learned and grown. I know we have benefited greatly from their time with us.
This piece first appeared in Sherry’s column “Finding Myself in a Small Town,” in the August 7, 2021 edition of the Corsicana Daily Sun.