Farmers work a lot during the season, but we’re also actually pretty good at the resting part. Good rest sets you up for productive activity and action, clears your mind, and recharges your body and spirit. It’s also a great opportunity to reflect on the season you just had and how to improve for the next one.
Many people think we farmers do nothing during the winter, as though we’re hibernating like the bears. But we actually still do a lot. Since we know the growing season gets so busy, and that we’ll be pushed to our limits, we take the slower months of winter to prepare everything beforehand. That sets us up for smooth sailing during the season.
It’s like being a firefighter. You know the fire’s coming, so you get ready for it. Because once it starts, it doesn’t stop! Sometimes you’ll notice it when you’re in the middle of the season and have to solve a problem that comes up – you’re so tired that your brain won’t turn on.
We all have these periods where we’re taken to our limit. So being prepared is key to carry us through those challenging times. That means doing some of the work beforehand, putting systems in place, and having a plan ready.
So what did we do this winter on the farm? We share it all in this blog post. Check out our 5 steps below to learn how you can rejuvenate, plan, and prepare to have a focused, productive growing season ahead!
5 steps for preparing for your best growing season over the winter
1. Rest and reflect
At the end of the season, we try to do nothing for a few weeks. No to-do lists, no big action plans. Just rest and reflection. Journaling is a good thing to do at this time, because everything that happened during the season will come out.
So take a real break and journal freely without trying to achieve anything. Some reflection questions you can ask yourself are:
- How did you feel about the past season?
- What were the ups and downs?
- What were the things you didn’t like to do or that felt really hard?
- What felt fun and easy?
- What was unexpected or surprising about the work?
- What did you learn?
It feels like a cleansing: clearing the old to make way for the new. Think of it as having a messy closet and trying to put more stuff in there before you’ve gotten rid of the junk, or before you’ve organized what you’re keeping. Don’t fall into the trap!
2. Ask yourself “Why?”
Question why you’re doing it – whether “it” is your business, a project, or your daily routine. More specifically, you can ask yourself:
- Is it moving you toward your goals?
- Are these the kind of activities you want to be doing?
- Is it reinforcing the kind of relationships you want to have?
Over the winter, I’ve asked myself a lot of why’s. Whether the food we grew was the right kind of food – i.e., why are we growing these? Was the way we distributed the food a good strategy, and why? Why am I doing these marketing activities, like making videos?
3. Think about the big picture
Next, we look at our big-picture strategy for the farm and our business. That meant reviewing our strategic plan and looking at which goals should be our priorities this coming year, given that we always want to do more than we actually can!
As you go through this step, ask yourself:
- Are there any big changes I can make that will help me work toward my goals faster?
- Are there new partners I can work with?
- Are there activities I should stop doing that aren’t really creating value?
- Which activities are more valuable and top priority?
- Should I do more of those activities? Can I find ways to do them more efficiently?
We also like to have discussions with our peers while we think about the big picture. We talk through potential strategies and get feedback before we start digging in and doing the work.
4. Plan for action
Here’s where we lay out the actual details of how we’re going to achieve our goals. That includes day-to-day activities, timelines, what we need to have in place, which people are responsible for which tasks, and so on.
Important questions to ask yourself as you plan out your next few months of work include:
- Do I have the skills and resources to do it?
- Am I trying to cram in way too much stuff in the time I have?
- Is my plan realistic and reasonable?
On our farm, we’ve been working on our marketing and communications plans, as well as our crop plan for what/how we’re going to grow this coming season. We’ve been looking at what kind of people we need to bring on board to help reach our goals. And how we can best use the team members we do have and their valuable skills.
5. Prepare your arsenal
Finally, prepare everything you need to execute your action plan. Physically prepare your body, get your tools, and collect your seeds for the season. Share your plans with people – it formalizes them and makes you more accountable. This is the time to get ahead before spring comes in fast and furious.
Part of preparing for our farm has included applying for grants to boost our resources. We’ve also been doing training and learning new skills. For example, we’re always learning more advanced ways to use a crop plan so we can grow more food. Another example is taking a marketing course to upgrade our skills on how to use Facebook ads to increase our vegetable box sales.
Get ahead and set yourself up for success
Although there isn’t much to do on the farm during the winter, there’s still a lot of work to do on the farm business. But you can’t just come out of a season and roll right into working on the next one. You do need to rest, take care of yourself, and heal so that as you ramp up, you have a good foundation to lean on.
So although the farm isn’t busy now, the opportunity is to get ahead of what you know will happen anyway a few weeks or months down the line – which is the busyness, unexpected challenges, and the unpredictable weather! But they’re the unknowns that you know are unknowns, so you can take advantage and give yourself the best chance to deal with what’s to come.