Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Grass isn't Always Greener

Here is a view from another seat I occupy here at the farm. As the farm grows, so does the burden of office work. Unlike our agricultural brothers and sisters in the commodities business who sign contracts in winter then get to the business of growing, have their fields harvested by the contract holders, then receive a check in fall, we do all of our own marketing. That means we have a "sales team" albeit an informal one, and are also responsible for the development and distribution of our own advertising. We also are responsible for all the fun stuff like paying bills, and keeping track of our customers concerns and payments. Boistfort Valley Farm employs 18 people in the summer. We grow , harvest , pack, and deliver our own product. Each of these areas has someone in an oversight position and a team of people on the ground getting things done. they all need a paycheck, not to mention a place to have lunch. And just between you and me, things don't always go smoothly.

In an effort to grow up and create a work environment based on harmony rather than chaos I spent a lot of time this winter developing a business organization chart and creating job descriptions and performance contracts in an effort to educate everyone here of the expectations of their positions and create a working model for the farm and its business structure. Here is my magnus opus, drawn in sharpee on a piece of cardboard and displayed prominently above my Orange County Choppers Pez dispensers and lava lamp.

I sometimes imagine our customers, especially those in urban areas, sitting at their desks, or in a board meeting, and imagining the ideal farming life; rising at dawn and spending the day communing with nature and growing good food for good people while the birds chirp in the background. Or maybe you picture me sitting at the breakfast table eating bacon and eggs and reading the farm report with my daughter bouncing and smiling on my lap, Heidi standing behind us in a floral print apron asking if anyone would like another pancake. We do experience those moments, but in fairness I wanted you all to know that we also spend our share of time meeting with staff, on the phone, at the computer, and doing all those things that a business requires to function smoothly.

We also have a secret weapon. Pictured here is "Marci" (her name has been changed to protect our asset, as she moonlights here at the farm). She comes in once or twice a week and does in a few hours what used to take me all day. She enters all the CSA member information, and creates invoices and enters payments. She balances our check books, reconciles accounts, makes payroll, and pays the bills. She is awesome. At the end of each session I answer a few questions, put my signature on checks and ask sheepishly, "is there any money left?". "Marci" also introduced me to Pandora radio, for which I am eternally grateful. So next time you imagine the farm try picturing me on the phone while my cell phone rings and someone comes in the office with the disaster du jour. I am happy to be a link in this chain of events, and though I clearly prefer being out there in the field I am proud of everyone here for adjusting to the changing environment at the farm and for putting their best foot forward in making it a success.