GFP082: Managing Employees
Growing Farms Podcast · 56 minutes ·

GFP082: Managing Employees

I am super pleased to bring Curtis Stone back on the show for another episode to talk all about managing the farm, employees, and growing more farmers for the future. We cover the nitty-gritty of harvesting information on farm and what to do with that information once you have it.

Managing employees can be one of the most emotional and difficult things you can do farming. Forget crop losses, acts of God, and poor markets, other humans have the potential to drive you insane like nothing else. I am finding however that there is a way to mitigate and even eliminate that stress. Data.

Data is the key to most things. Knowing where you’ve been, where you are at, and where you are going using cold hard data to drive your decision making.

Alright, so I have fun writing “cold hard data” because I’m sure I saw it in a movie once. I’m not a cold hard person. Far from it. I mean, have you seen my daughter Mabel? She turns me to mush every time I think of her. The problem I run into as a manager is that at times I need to be cold and hard and without concrete facts that can be very difficult to do.

However you do it, and for whatever reason, tracking things on your farm is critical to growing your business. I get asked all the time, “John, I want to start farming, where do I begin?” Begin by tracking your personal finances, budgeting for yourself, using a calendar to keep organized, and if you do all that go out and try to grow some stuff.

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • Spreadsheets don’t have to be scary
  • Curtis’s three most used spreadsheets on farm
  • It’s good to dork out about data management
  • Using data to:
  • discovery market trends
  • sort out best practices
  • maintain a financial picture of your farm


Interview with Curtis Stone of Green City Acres

Before starting his urban farm in the fall of 2009, Curtis had absolutely no previous experience in farming or even gardening. Up until 2008, he had been living in Montreal, trying to make a go at being a working musician. It was many years ago, when he heard the old cliche, “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”. That was a turning point for him in that he knew that it was important for us to be active participants in our society, rather than just being by-standers.

But it wasn’t until Curtis discovered Permaculture, while searching around on the internet for sustainable building methods, that it opened up a pandora’s box of information and inspiration for him. From there, he knew that he wanted to live in a way that was life affirming, not destructive. He left Montreal in March of 2008 to return to his home town of Kelowna, BC, to try and pursue this kind of life style. It was a bike tour down the west coast from Kelowna to San Diego in fall 2008 where he visited off-grid homesteads, eco villages, and urban farms, that inspired him to try to make a difference through his own actions.

Upon returning from the trip totally inspired and ready to do something involved in sustainable ag, but not exactly sure what yet, a friend of his directed him towards SPIN farming. The stars must have aligned at that movement because once Curtis discovered that there was a way to farm that required very little investment, no need to own land or heavy machinery, he was confident that he could do it. He spent the rest of the fall and winter of 2009 studying SPIN farming and various other gardening and farming books, and then decided to go for it. With a little bit of money saved from a 6 month season of tree-planting, he had everything he needed to start a farm.

After completing a successful and profitable first season in 2010, Curtis is a case study example that the methods taught in the SPIN farming models, are simple and easily transferable to anyone, including those who have no experience.

Through the off-season, Curtis works as public speaker on food related issues, and is a consultant for multiple community food projects throughout Kelowna. In September 2010 he was awarded ‘gardener of the year’ from the city of Kelowna’s Communities in Bloom.


Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

Can you think of at least one stressor in your life that could have been solved by having better information?

Ever want to strangle an employee? Think about it. Was it actually your fault as a manager or theirs as a worker?


Farm quote of the episode:

“Efficiency is intelligent laziness.” – David Dunham

Thanks for taking the time to listen in, and let me know what you think. You can leave a comment below, send me an e-mail, reach me on Facebook , or leave a 5 star rating in iTunes if you liked the show.

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