Lean thinking has quickly found its way across multitudes of businesses in recent years. It is no longer in the exclusive realm of manufacturing.
“It’s getting hard to find an industry where people aren’t using lean methodologies”
Mark Graban, Lean Consultant and Author
Over the years, we have modeled farms after our factory production. This has resulted in a shift to feedlots, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) and monocultures. We have taken a sensitive industry and converted it into a business focused on volume, without consideration of customer needs or health. Can we now change that dynamic back to the ways of the original farming model, where the focus is on customer needs and health?
Applying the Practices to Lean Farming
Recently, small farmers have started to change their ways. They can no longer operate and compete with large scale farming operations, even though the demand of the consumer is changing to a more healthy approach to our food chain. Small farmers are quickly going out of business and generations of farm families are lost in rural America.
On a small farm in rural Indiana, a farmer and a lean manufacturing expert from a nearby manufacturing operation joined forces to try a different approach. They applied lean manufacturing to farming. The results have been phenomenal. Every aspect of the farm operation was scrutinized, then optimized to create a lean farming model that has produced results! They have changed the focus of the farmer from growing the same specific crops year after year, to growing what the consumer in their regional actually wanted. No longer did they have to go to great lengths to seek out buyers for their crops. With a little marketing effort and word of mouth, the consumers were drawn to this lean farming operation, because they had the produce that they wanted. It all began with understanding the needs of the customer and producing to those needs. They have reduced waste in the lean farming operation and significantly increased profits. The operation continues to grow and build their operation with a renewed customer focus.
The Future of Lean Farming
For decades, farmers have operated under basic practices. They have been told that to succeed they must ‘Get Big’ or ‘Get Out’ because of the competition from the corporate farming operations. It drove them out. Now, with a focus on lean farming, farmers have found a better way … which is sustainable and tailored to the needs of their consumers.
If you want to learn more about Lean Farming and the work by Ben Hartman, check out the book, “The Lean Farm: How to Minimize Waste, Increase Efficiency, and Maximize Value and Profits with Less Work” or watch the video below