It’s important to set goals.
When it comes to our market garden, I try to have a few clear objectives to work toward each season.
We grow on 3 acres, partially for profit as well as for our own consumption. Every year, our desire is to get better at what we do. Better systems. Better soil. Better yield. We experiment to see what works and what doesn’t work. We learn. We grow.
We make mistakes. A lot of mistakes. But we’re not afraid to take risks, and learn from the results. As long as those risks are somewhat calculated.
As with anything, growing food is a skill that is developed over time. Honestly, the best lessons come by getting our hands dirty. But in order to keep growing (yep, pun absolutely intended), we should set goals that will allow us to keep moving closer to where we want to be each season.
What is the best way to establish goals? I’m glad you asked.
We like to use the SMART goal system. A lot of people refuse to use goals in their life because they seem complicated or unattainable. Creating SMART goals makes the process simple to follow, and one of the biggest rules we have on our farm is to keep it stupid simple. That’s why I like this method.
Here’s what I mean by a SMART goal…
Make sure each goal is SPECIFIC enough that you can accomplish it with a few steps, or tactics.
Each goal should be MEASURABLE so that you can track your progress along the way.
Your goals should be ACHIEVABLE – set the bar too high and you’ll likely quit along the way.
Goals should be REALISTIC and not beyond your capability.
And finally, each goal should be TIME-BOUND so that you set the framework for when it should be accomplished.
Using this process is a proven way to set goals for yourself that are attainable and within reach. There’s no point in setting a goal that will never be completed. That’s a surefire way to set yourself up for disappointment. Think New Year’s resolutions…
When we set goals on the farm, we use a template I created based on a SIM (strategies, initiatives & metrics) Plan. It’s a simple tool created in Excel that helps us define tactics for each goal and track our progress.
On our SIM, we’ve defined three strategic categories that are important to our operation. This helps us narrow down specific goals under each category. The current categories we’re working with on the farm are –
- Telling our Story (marketing)
- Sharpen the Business
- Narrow the Focus.
I’ll share more on our 2019 SIM in a later post, but here’s a sample…
Ok, so we understand why it’s good to set goals (and the best way to do it). Now let’s talk about five SMART goals that you can implement in the garden next season. Each one of these goals can be adapted to increase profitability or efficiency in your operation, no matter the size.
In the first example, I’ve given a few tactics you can use or adapt to your own need. This is how we would build out a SMART goal.
Goal #1: Keep a record of each crop variety, from planting through harvest.
- Buy a comp notebook to dedicate to one gardening season (or use Excel to build a record system)
- Track seed purchases, planting dates, weather, pest issues, soil amendments made, harvest dates and yield.
- Highlight seed varieties that you like and want to use again next season.
Goal #2: Have a soil test done for each garden plot.
Goal #3: Implement one system to increase growing season.
Goal #4: Choose one thing on the farm or garden to stop doing.
Goal #5: Start a strawberry, raspberry or blueberry patch for U-Pick or fresh market.
It doesn’t matter whether your grow food on a larger scale for profit or are just getting started in gardening, setting realistic goals is imperative to sustainable growth. Too many of us have rushed head first into the season without a clear plan, only to burn out before summer is even half way over. Slow down, think proactively about what you want your operation to look like, and then lay out a framework for how to make it happen.
What else are you going to do this winter?
Here’s to next season!