Orienting Apprentices to Your Farm & Creating Task Lists – 10 mins

Orienting Apprentices to Your Systems

Your apprentice will want to get their head around what makes your farm tick! There are 3 systems that are built into your farm business, no matter its scale: production, financial, and relational. Essentially WHAT you do, HOW you do those things, with WHAT resources, and with and for WHOM?

  • Production: What you raise, how you raise it, and why you chose these enterprises
    • Whether that’s livestock, vegetables, flowers, or if you’re just raising the roof all the time
  • Financial: accountants, bookkeeping systems and personnel, budgets, planning large projects as related to financial needs
    • You could choose to share your bookkeeping systems or your actual books with your apprentice and delve into the business side of the farm. Some apprentices are really interested in how the farm is viable and why it works financially or if the farm is not profitable that year financially then they can know the risks, why that may happen and the plan. It will also help them understand what financial resources they may need to start their own business.
  • Relational: Who do you rely upon? Customers, feed or seed sales people, the tire store, the parts store, employees, neighbors, family, butcher, & all the people and business that you rely on to keep your farm flowing and why they are important pieces.

For those that use Holistic Management, share your Holistic Goal & Context with the apprentice. 

Orienting Apprentices to Daily Work

Empower your apprentice with a basic understanding of the way you organize your work days and plan in advance of big projects.

One idea is to lay out your seasonal work flow in a calendar. Whether you use an online calendar like Google Calendar, or a white board or wall calendar, find something that you the mentor WILL use, and make it a habit to use it weekly.

Try and schedule a month at at time. This helps the apprentice grasp how what you do today feeds into what happens 2 weeks from now, and together you can strategize teaching opportunities and move the apprentice towards autonomy with more and more tasks. (This can help them figure out where they can take something off your shoulders!)

Mentors sometimes lament that apprentices don’t know how to be useful, don’t know what to do when one task is complete so they are on their phones with social media, or just stand around looking perplexed. This isn’t because they are lazy; they just don’t have the life-long experience to know what task is next or the magical ability to read their mentor’s mind. 

Photo Credit:  Mich Lam

Weekly Team Meetings

It is necessary to verbalize the week’s priorities.  A weekly team meeting is a great way to help your apprentice become more adept at juggling tasks and taking over responsibilities. 

Create a list of topic areas to cover each week, such as pasture planning; cattle moves; infrastructure needs; garden harvest schedules, vehicle checks; days off/staff needs; etc. 

Time Management Matrix

Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Successful People shared the Eisenhower Box  to help prioritize tasks.  We have an adapted example from San Juan ranch, these folks are well organized. 

To Do Lists, or “What to do when mentor is busy”/rainy day/wish list

Create a Task List that your apprentice can already do, or can learn independent of you. These may be things like inventorying fence supplies, vehicle maintenance checks, changing the oil in vehicles.