Managing Costs On a New Farm

Minimize waste, increase efficiency, and maximize profits on a new farm.

| January 2016

To many people today, using the words “factory” and “farm” in the same sentence is nothing short of sacrilege. In many cases, though, the same sound business practices apply whether you are producing cars or carrots. In The Lean Farm (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2015), author Ben Hartman relates how he and other young farmers are increasingly finding that incorporating the best new ideas from business into their farming can drastically cut their wastes and increase their profits, making their farms more environmentally and economically sustainable. The following excerpt is from Chapter 11, "The Lean Farm Start-Up."

Buy this book from the Capper's Farmer store: The Lean Farm.

On older and more established farms, once wasteful habits have created inroads and taken hold they require a lot of work to root out. A new farmer has a special opportunity to establish lean habits from the beginning and avoid years of lost effort.

Our own start-up was not perfect. We made our share of mistakes. I could fill pages describing crop failures and construction fiascos, overambitious schemes and missed opportunities. Yet we did stick to a set of start-up rules, which I describe below, that helped us avert disaster and turn profits early. The rules are common in lean enterprises, though we were unfamiliar with lean ideas at the time. If we had had a list like this one, we might have adhered to the rules even more closely and avoided a few more hiccups. Other thriving small farms I have visited followed these rules, too. Those aspiring to farm on a larger scale with more capital investment will also find useful information below, though the ideas are aimed at first-time farmers starting out with little cash and hoping to make a living on just a few acres.

Principle 1: Put in your 10,000 hours (develop personal capacity first).

Principle 2: Test in small batches.

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