Lean Farming

In this post it will be an ongoing discussion of this book I am studying. For those that are not familiar with the “Lean” philosophy, it was developed by Taiichi Ohno of Toyota for improving production using 5 principles he developed to increase “Value” which he defines as the product or service wanted by the customer. Now that seems obvious except that he will use this term throughout the book in different ways. Like the term “value stream” refers to the line between, the moment you have a concept of a product to the completion of the sale to the customer. 

 The Tightening the Bolt Thing ; 
“..It is only the last turn of a wrench that tightens a bolt and gives value to the product.”
This sounds a bit strange at first but it causes you to think about the steps in your production in different ways. 

So if you are picking lettuce and walking 20 steps to put it in a bin dirt and all, then washing it, drying it then let it sit in a refrigerator before you package and bring it to market where you sold it took the money and then went to the bank.
There are a lot of wasted steps here…….
What if the customer bought your head of lettuce online, stopped by on his way home from work  you cut a head of lettuce, packaged it and let him go home and wash it. 

The Hardest Part of Lean is to See the Waste

Ben will talk about the 5 “S” of Lean 

5S represents Japanese words that describe the steps of a workplace organization process. English equivalent words are shown in parenthesis

thank you to Lean Six Sigma

  1. Seiri (Sort)
  2. Seiton (Straighten, Set)
  3. Seiso (Shine, Sweep)
  4. Seiketsu (Standardize)
  5. Shitsuke (Sustain)

Seri Sort 
The sorting principle that Ben talks about with your farm is to get rid of anything that doesn’t add value. There goes that value word again. He talks about getting rid of anything on the farm that doesn’t directly add to the value of your product. If you just like some process or tool that isn’t necessary it will impede your progress, slow you down, distract and work against you. For instance a pile of scrap metal or wood. Extra garden tools that you haven’t used in years that clutter up your storage. Perhaps you have products that you sell only a few a year that don’t add much to your income.
Ben says that this is an ongoing process, they are always on the lookout for ideas to lean up their farm. I always thought several spares of tools was a good thing but the Hartman family farm feels that the hardware store is a better place to store most spare parts. If it doesn’t take that much to replace it then get rid of it. Realize the space it takes and the time to manage it also costs you money, probably more than what you save by keeping it. 

The Kainexus Blog 


The Kainexus Blog describes well what Ben is talking about in overall principles, in this post on “The 7 Wastes of Lean”.

1.Overproduction; is a form of waste. If you produce too much you have to find a way to discount and sell it, give it to a food bank, or dry it. All things that are couter productive to your basic product that is bringing in the dough. 

2. Waiting; refers to breaks in the production cycle from beginning to when the customer gets the product. On the farm this could be walking to far to get a hoe, or a process that causes a mess. Ben says that when they processed tomatoes too many fell on the floor and got stomped causing a mess. 

3. Transport; This is similar in ways to waiting but particularly deals with transporting the product. Ben says  that the experts of “Lean” teach to ask Why you do anything 5 times to really get to the reason and see if it is important. Ben said they found a more efficient way to deliver there CSA’s using a lock box in a convenient storage area in town where the customer could pick it up anytime. 

More tomorrow on this continuing post. 

Last Modified on December 14, 2018
this article Lean Farming