When I first spoke to Noam Kostucki, my coach, in November 2015, I told him about my long hours and that I didn’t have time for myself or my family. He suggested I think differently. In order to make sure I had happy customers, I had to make sure I was happy first. In fact, he said the customer was last in the equation – blasphemy! But it absolutely made sense to me. That concept has really helped me rethink my happiness rather than just the bottom line.
Noam's focus is to help us create a masterpiece. I originally felt that my masterpiece was Stone Coop Farm, but I am now thinking my masterpiece is myself. One of our goals with Abundance Cubed is to also focus on our happiness using Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project as a guide. I thought my topics to work on each month would be similar: energy, relationships, physical health, etc. But as I have been trying to define what I need to be happier, these topics don’t feel like I am addressing the major issue. The one that sits in the back of my brain all the time – the sustainability of the farm and my long term role here. I need some clarity from my business partners and a contingency plan if their involvement ends. I don’t want to continue to speculate worst case scenarios. I have placed my destiny with the farm into someone else’s hands, and I need to take it back, own it, define it and live it. I am afraid of these conversations, but I am more concerned about continuing to worry about the uncertainty I have given myself to the farm wholeheartedly with an unresolved outcome. I am tired of being afraid and worried. I need to stop being afraid of the unknown and tackle it head on. I accept the challenge of defining it – I will Rise and Shine.
Goals for Joannée’s Happiness Project
January: Create! Make something every month for the joy of it. January was a fruitful month. I refurbished several shirts and made them into undershirts. I designed and made a new sweatshirt out of two old pairs of sweat pants. I learned how to do stained glass and sculpted a sunflower out of clay.
February: Clarify what I want from the farm – through meditation, listening, journaling, and insight.
March: Clarify what my business partners want from the farm and come to an agreement on the farm’s long term future and my role in it. What is the succession plan?
April: Work on my core – start a non-exercise/exercise program. I really prefer the twofer – accomplish work or just have fun and get exercise. Examples – shovel snow, load produce into the truck, walk in the woods, be a dancing fiend, go kayaking or swimming.
May: Define a BIG adventure!! My husband and I have agreed to choose a big adventure on our anniversary this year. We are focusing on paying off all our debts before May so we can GO EXPLORE! We have some grand plans. In the meantime, we have agreed to have adventures each weekend. These are defined as the both of us leaving the farm for more than 1 hour (and grocery shopping doesn’t count!).
June: Learn how to quiet my mind. I know myself and to accomplish this quieting the mind, I need to start with baby steps. In January I committed to sitting in smiling silence every morning for at least 15 minutes. So far I have accomplished this for the last 4 weeks. It is a lovely way to start the day. In February I will add deep breathing to my smiling silence and do more research on meditation. My plan is that by the end of June, before the insane harvest season starts, I can quiet my mind and relax.
July: Delegate! Get someone else to do the things I don’t enjoy, so I can focus on the things that make me happy. Number one on the list – Hire a maid to clean my bathroom.
August through December – To be determined. My February and March goals will probably help me clarify what others things I need to increase my happiness.
Recommended Viewing: Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are
It is surprising how changing your body language can impact how you feel about yourself. I will need to use my Wonder Woman pose when clarifying my role with the farm and before my conversations with my business partners.
Did You Know that in Victorian Times, the language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions? Vanessa Diffenbaugh wrote a lovely novel called The Language of Flowers and there is a dictionary about the meanings of specific flowers in the back of the book.
I love change. I love a challenge. Both of these things have motivated me to have many jobs and to move many times. I wasn't sure I would find any job that could keep my attention for more than 2 years. Yet here I am, starting my 6th year as a farmer at Stone Coop. What is it that keeps me inspired, challenged, and located in the same place? Being my own boss is tops on the list. Being accountable for my decisions and watching them germinate, grow and bear fruit. Taking risks and realizing that many of my mistakes opened new possibilities and made me think differently.
Having to let go of control is another wonderful thing that farming does for me. I can't control the weather, but I can use what I know about it to grow crops that love the cold in the winter and crops that love the heat in the summer. I am much better at letting go and observing what happens when I do.
Creativity is also crucial to me. Farming allows me to use my engineering skills with my creative side to design fields that benefit our ecosystem and that are also pleasing to the eye. I now see a spider and am not afraid, but love the fact that there are so many and that they thrive in the places we provide for them. I change the design each season with the rotation of my crop plan. Excel meets Monet.
I get to use every part of me when I farm; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And best of all - I GET TO EAT IT! There is no way I can deny the abundance that surrounds me.
The focus on Branding this month with Abundance Cubed has really reminded me why I love farming, what I believe is important and how I can translate that into my brand and my product.
Recommended Viewing: Brandon Semenuk's Mountain Bike Ride looks so effortless, yet it is obvious he has done this ride and taken these risks MANY times. It's a reminder, if you do something you love enough times, even when it's risky, it will become effortless.
Did You Know? Stone Coop Farm grows a beautiful heirloom variety of kale called Curly Roja. The purple color intensifies in cold weather. In order to survive our cold winters in Michigan, kale produces extra sugars in its cells to act like an antifreeze. Therefore winter kale grown in freezing climates tastes sweet instead of bitter.
According to Jo Robinson's book, Eating on the Wild Side, "Kale is one of the few vegetables that meets or exceeds the nutritional value of some wild greens.... Kale is also high in antioxidant value, with red-leaved varieties being higher than green-leaf varieties."(169)
Many businesses die because of a lack of cash flow (not enough money coming in to pay the bills). Farms are especially susceptible to this because most of our income is from crops that are sold in the summer. That is why many farms, including ours, offer CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). A CSA is a way to support your local farm by providing them with cash when they need it – in January, Feb and March when they have to pay for seeds and salaries to start their plants. Then you can reap the rewards in the summer with incredible produce. If you believe in what we are doing at Stone Coop Farm and want to support one of your local farmers, please become a member today. We offer shares that fit any size household: Market Share, Spring Share, Summer Share, Fall Share. Or you can Make a Difference, through a donation to Stone Coop to support our community based certified organic farm.
So what does this have to do with the Abundance Cubed Program? Our first coaching session was on Tuesday with Noam Kostucki. Each of us outlined where our business was currently along with struggles and challenges. My biggest challenge is my fear that we will not have enough funds to pay for all our expenses each month. Noam asked me for worst case scenario - I said I could loose the farm. He asked what would you do then - I said I would teach people and farmers how to grow food. He then proposed that I focus on what I love to do (teach) rather than what I fear (not having enough money). What if I focus on addressing the financial concerns of the farm from a teaching viewpoint? - Huh, that sounds kind of fun and a lot less stressful!
He also challenged us to be fearlessly honest in our blogs. I DREAD asking for money. I want people to think we have it all together and it's all smooth sailing. Financing a farm is a challenging, stressful, and exhausting problem that I worry about all the time. Thus my lead in to this blog - a call for cash! I am going to use a tool I love, teaching, to address something I fear.
Here's my progress on some of my January A3 goals - topic BRANDING:
Recommended Viewing: Brene Brown on "The Anatomy of Trust"
TED Talk by Simon Sinek on "How Great Leaders Inspire Action"
Did you know that Common Chickweed (Stellaria media) is often considered a farmer's bane because of its invasive nature. It loves cold weather and our hoop houses are a perfect place for this weed to thrive. At Stone Coop Farm we try to work with nature and luckily for us common chickweed is an edible, delicious and highly nutritious wild green. We use a lot of it in our salad mix. Other uses: a replacement for lettuce on tacos or sandwiches or add to smoothies.
The Abundance Cubed Program (A3) is an amazing concept, Abundance in the triple bottom line – People, Planet and Profit. Preparing for this year long journey is exciting and a little overwhelming. Stone Coop Farm is an amazing place that has a LONG life ahead of it. I am the current steward, but I must figure out how to make the farm profitable, sustainable, and transferrable to the next steward so it is still here for the next 200+ years. That means Stone Coop Farm’s abundance must be achieved in all three areas of people, planet and profit. Part of preparing the soil for the A3 project was to accept the terms and come to an agreement about commitments from my coaches and myself. Our monthly topic will bring its own challenges. So here’s my plan for January 2016 - BRANDING.
Recommended Listening: I listened to a fantastic podcast from Steve Chandler on Expectations vs. Agreements that was recommended before I committed to A3. It was so powerful that I shared it with my family and my entire staff. It is an excellent way to deal with ALL relationships.
Did you know that new farms take between 5-7 years to make a profit?