330: Ben Hartman on Growing Lean Vegetables.

Finding efficient processes to help make farming productive.

Ben is the author of The Lean Farm (winner of the prestigious Shingo Award), and The Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables, both published in 2017 by our friends at Chelsea Green.  In that same year he was appointed to the 2017 Grist 50, a list of emerging green leaders in the United States.

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He and his wife Rachel Hershberger own and operate Clay Bottom Farm in Goshen, Indiana, where they make their living on less than one acre by growing and selling specialty produce to restaurants, at a farmers market, and through cooperative CSAs.

In This Podcast:

It takes a dedicated minimalist to try living without adding new items to the property, and Ben Hartman took this simplistic mindset to most areas of his early adult life. Then when he too a look at his 5-acre farm he realized he could do with less unnecessary stuff and he found it improved his productivity.  The lessons he learned have helped many others become more efficient and he shares some of them here with us.

Listen in and learn about:

  • His proclivity to ‘radical simplicity’ and why emptying the pee bucket was a chore that he liked
  • His “one item in- one item out” dorm room experiment during his first semester
  • The mindset with which he started vegetable farming
  • Why his greenhouse ended up on the roof of the barn
  • How they started to get lean and what happened as a result
  • The right thing to do that is also the most profitable
  • The trick he learned from one of his CSA customers
  • A question he asks of all his tools every year
  • Some techniques he has learned from Toyota and Japanese rice farmers
  • The crops they grow on the farm
  • Some lean processing concepts that help boost production
  • Some history and ancient wisdom that shapes agriculture
  • Why he stalks Japanese farmers on Instagram

As well as:

  • His failure – The four greenhouses that would not stay put and ended up in other places
  • His success – Knowing that their food is ending up on thousands of plates
  • His drive – To waste less every year, and to produce more value for his customers
  • His advice – Maintain a garden, even if it is only one plant

Books written by Ben:

The Lean Farm: How to Minimize Waste, Increase Efficiency, and Maximize Value and Profits with Less Work

The Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables: More In-Depth Lean Techniques for Efficient Organic Production

Ben’s Book recommendations:     

Taiichi Ohnos Workplace Management: Special 100th Birthday Edition by Taiichi Ohnos

How to reach Ben:  

Website: Claybottomfarm.com

Email: claybottomfarm@gmail.com


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