Tag Archives: Kilpatrick Family Farm

Can the boss work the hardest? PT 2 Tips to increasing worker effectiveness

In the last post, I talked about some of the reasons I feel that farm crews have a hard time operating at peak effectiveness. My main point was that good crew members, while wanting to work their hardest, don’t work as quickly as the boss because many times they are not sure exactly what is expected or required of them.

Cleaning beets with a Fells bunch washer

Cleaning beets with a Fells bunch washer

Here are just a few tips to building a great, more effective team, motivating them, and increasing their productivity.

  • Have clear expectations and instructions. Having and understanding a field map, knowing where the label goes on the kale bunch, etc. can save more money than you think possible. After I give instruction on a task for the day, I have employees repeat them back to me. It’s amazing what can be lost in translation, especially in under 5 minutes.

  • Have a clean, concise farm/crew handbook. There are so many reasons for a crew handbook, it deserves it’s own blog post. A handbook puts everyone on the same page and eliminates many mistakes by informing your crew before things come up.

  • Make them feel that you are all on the same team, because you are. Have a “we” mentality, not a “me vs them.”  If you complain about your crew, it will get back to them, and that is not winning with people.

  • Be organized in thought and space. Walking in and being able to go over how we want the day to go, what we wish to accomplish, and what tools and supplies need to be readied changes the game. Also, having supplies, tools, and equipment laid out clearly decreases worker frustration immensely.

  • Never ask them to do something you are not willing to do. When the weather is nice, the work load steady, and the crop clean, I rarely work with the crew. But when the weather is 34 degrees, sleeting and windy, the fields muddy and the orders huge and ominous, I am out there with them, encouraging them, working alongside, and feeling their pain.

  • Cull the bad apples. Once we had a crew member, who, when challenged to keep up with the rest of the crew in weeding, said, “we’re all winners, no matter our speed.” These need culled, for their sake as well as the crews moral. If a great crew member sees another getting away with shoddy, slow work, all sorts of problems will develop.

Work with them, sweat with them, bleed with them, laugh, and cry with your crew. It will go a long way to building an efficient team that can change the way your farm operates for the better.

What tips or thoughts do you have on helping your team operate well together?

Pennsylvania Conference Recap

I was recently in PA for an all day conference on winter growing, season extension, wholesale, and food safety. I presented three times and we also heard from Cathie, a local grower and a Bill, representative from Wegmans supermarket who was talking about the great oportunities for growers of all sizes to sell to the wegmans family of stores.

My first talk was a standard winter growing and greens production.

Second talk was on Field systems and season extension. I have fun doing this talk as I get to discuss equipment, and show beautiful pictures of vegetables.

The last talk for the day was on Farm Planning, Wholesale markets, Food safety, and washing and packing. This was a lot of new material for me, and is the talk which took the most work. It went very well though.

There was signifigant interest in our annual bed strawberry system. Here’s the link to the slideshow that I have done on this.

Another question was the source of our supplies. Here’s the link to our resources page.

http://michael-kilpatrick.com/resources/

A grower also had a question on the bags that we use for our wholesale lettuce mix. They are from Uline, link here.

If you are a grower near a Wegmans, and they have stores in Western NY, PA, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and the Carolinas, you should look into sales oportunites through them. They are a very farm friendly company, and have employees whose sole job is to travel seek out new farms to sell to them. Definately worth a call or email.

Many thanks to Beth at the Blair Conservation District for organizing this event!

 

 

Speaking Engagement: Maximizing Profits through Year-round Wholesale Production

_MG_74701I will be speaking in East Freedom, PA on April 9th. The event is sponsored by several Pennsylvanian agricultural organizations and is FREE!  It will be a full day event with me covering several topics.

  • Winter vegetable production- I will cover what we have learned in 10 years of winter production. From varieties, to tunnel management, to seeding dates, you will leave this workshop knowing how to grow during the winter months.
  • Season Extension- In this workshop, I will cover how we s-t-r-e-t-c-h the season to provide greater product diversity in the spring and fall, as well as cool season crops during the mid-summer heat like spinach and lettuce. The emphasis will be on larger-scale wholesale quantities. Yes you can have spinach from April to December from the field!
  • Wholesale marketing and food safety- In the last couple years our farm has scaled up, received certified organic status, and focused heavily on food safety so that we could sell to larger, wholesale buyers. We’ll talk about our journey and demystify wholesale markets, GAPS, and food safety!

This is my main speaking engagement of the spring, don’t miss it! Attached is a flyer of the event. April9_Flyer

Small Farm Central CSA Conference

I was privileged to be asked to speak at the 2014 CSA Expert Exchange. I talked about Customizable Share options for members. Unfortunately, the talk I used had a few slides that didn’t work so here’s the full Slide deck. It was a lot of fun- there are lots of different systems that farmers are using to get vegetables into the bellies of eaters and I was excited to be able to talk about a few of them.

You can also see the video of the harvester that we use for carrots and beets here.

Yes, dreams do come true …

Jessica Reihl Photography

Big news in my life!! I applied for, and was accepted for, an 2012 internship at Polyface Farms, down in Virginia. It runs from June 1 through the end of September. I’ll be gone, but the farm will still run just as strong as ever. We’ve been working very hard over the last couple of months to train the crew, buy machinery, and implement procedures to make things easier while I’m gone.

Let me tell you the story …

Many of you remember last fall when Joel Salatin, co-owner, of Polyface farms, visited the farm. He’s a pretty big deal in the sustainable ag community, author of several books, subject of several films (“FRESH”  and “Food, Inc.”), and speaks worldwide on food and agricultural issues. A short video of his farm is here.  He’s been one of my heroes (and inspiration to start farming) ever since I read about him in Smithsonian magazine, back in 2000. His farm down in Virginia raises pastured beef, pigs, turkeys, broilers, layers and rabbits on more than 1,200 acres.

Last August, I applied for an internship at Polyface. I was accepted earlier this spring after a rigorous (tougher than Harvard) acceptance process. I’ll be blogging about the experience at my new blog, Michael-kilpatrick.com.

I did this for several reasons.

One of my dreams in life has been to internship there and I realized I’m not getting any younger. As the business grows in the next couple of years it’s not going to get any easier for me to do something like this.

Joel is an incredible innovator, speaker, communicator, and change agent. As one who wishes to change the direction of American agriculture I feel he would have an incredible amount to teach and share.

Polyface is a holistic, very integrated, animal, pasture-based farm. Their marketing channels are different than ours: buying clubs, wholesale, restaurants  and an on-farm store. The past two years or so, we have been looking to integrate much more closely with animals and expand our marketing channels, thus us raising broilers, hens, turkeys and pigs over the last couple of years. There’s nothing better than learning from the best.

Of course, the question everyone’s thinking is: How will the farm run while you’re gone?

We have a great team. I am no longer the only farmer at Kilpatrick Family Farm. I’m completely confident that our amazing team will manage splendidly while I’m gone. My brother Jonathan, has stepped back on board to run the fields, Keith will be making sure our amazing produce gets to market, and the rest of the crew (which we’ve supplemented with a few great hires) will be stepping up to make sure everything else gets done. We’ve got a great crew manning the markets and running the office. I’ve spoken to several grower friends of mine and they have agreed to drop by periodically and glance an experienced eye over things. We’ve invested heavily in some equipment this year to simplify and speed up weed control, harvesting and processing, and spraying. We’ve spent the last 3 months training people, writing things down, and simplifying tasks.

I’ll keep you updated on how the summer goes!!